A superb five wicket haul by Berkswell’s Tom Milnes wasn’t quite enough to prevent defeat for Warwickshire’s second eleven on Tuesday as they lost a close game by two wickets to Nottinghamshire at Berkswell’s Meeting House Lane Ground. Warwickshire lost the toss and were invited to bat on a slow paced and lost early wickets to find themselves in trouble at 9-3, before fourth wicket pairing Richard Johnson (51) and Usman Shabir (59) began rebuilding the innings.
the forbears of William Shakespeare had their origin here
Few people residing within the parish of Balsall realise that the forebears of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), the poet and dramatist, had their origin here.
Within 20 miles of Stratford-upon-Avon lies the cluster of 4 villages – Balsall, Beddesley Clinton, Wroxall and Rowington. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Balsall was the site of a Commandery or estate of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Baddesley (where the moated manor house still stands) was the seat of James de Clinton and his heirs; Wroxall belonged to the nuns of Wroxall Abber and Rowington cam under the Pinley Priory and Reading Abbey. With the exception of Coventry, all the recorded Shakespeares in Warwickshire until 1500 came from these 4 villages.
William Shakespeare’s grandfather, Richard, probably came from one of these places, to live in Snitterfield (before 1529(, and it is known that at least one branch of the Shakespeare family lived in Balsall. In the reign on Richard II, Adam and William lived at “Oldiche” in the southern part of Balsall, bordering on Baddesley Clinton, The register of the Guild of Knowle for 1457 contains several entries from “Oldiche” = one for the prayers for the souls of Richard and ALice Shakespeare; another of Ralph and his wife are mentioned in 1486, their lands at “Oldiche” and elsewhere in Balsall were later held by their son and heir, William. Another Thomas bought more land at “Oldiche” in 1540. It is recorded that John Shakespeare hanged himself there in 1579,
In 1596, during William Shakespeare the poet’s lifetime, a John Shakespeare who was a shoemaker or cordonnier by trade, sold his house at Oldiche and Dopkins Orchard (could the latter be the present=day “Dadkins”?) and other lands at Balsall, much of which had been in the family since the reign of Richard II.
there is little doubt that the ancestors of William Shakespeare came from Balsall – or one of the surrounding villages. Maybe it is with some pride we can feel that this small parcel of rural Warwickshire contributed to the making of him who has been called “the supreme genius of the English race”.
In “Shakespeare’s Homeland” (published by Dent 1903 and reprinted bu AMS Pressm New York, 1972) Oldeiche, Olditch or Woldiche is described as a “remote farmhouse in the parish of Temple Balsall, the house must have been repaired mant times since the 14th century, but it still retains mant of its ancient features – especially in the pre-reformation plan”,
the house has a late 16th century projecting chimney-stack of brick with stone groins and 2 diagonal shafts. It contains a room with an early 16th century open-timbered ceiling with moulded beams and joints.
Lest we forget – Berkswell & Balsall remember the fallen
The first world war took a terrible toll of lives of the men on active service. When it was over, people all over the country erected memorials to ensure that the men who had died would never be forgotten. Some take the form of a plaque on the wall of a church or chapel but many, especially in villages, are a focal point for the annual act of rememberance which, until 1939, took place on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the exact day of the signing of Armistice.
Berkswell War Memorial
Berkswell War Memorial stands in the churchyard. It was consecrated in 1920. It is a square building of red sandstone with arches on 3 sides. Inside are engraved the names of 38 men who lost their lives in the 1st world war and 10 from the 2nd.
Berkswell War Memorial
Temple Balsall War Memorial – the lych-gate
The Balsall memorial is the lych-gate at the east side of the cemetry at Temple Balsall, in Rabbit Lane. Building of the lych-gate was started in Autumn 1920 and it was completed just in time for the consecration ceremony in the spring of 1921 which was performed by the Bishop of Coventry. On the lintel over the gates ae the words “In Memory of the Fallen”; on the pillar to the left is engraved the dates “1914-1918” and on the pillar to the right the dates “1939-1945”. Inside the gates to the left are the names of 19 men who died in the first world was and to the right are 9 names from the second.
The Lych-gate at the Cemetry at Temple Balsall is the Balsall War Memorial.
[Adapted from Original Article 1989 by C.M.Fell which can be found in the local history section at Balsall Common Library]
The name “Balsall” comes from the Anglo Saxon word “Baelle” meaning corner (or angle) of land, and “heale” meaning a sheltered place. Balsall Common itself lies on a flat site in gently undulating country on the watershed between the streams draining to the Tame and the Trent in the north and to the Avon and the Severn in the south. The soils are clay and sandy loam, which are suitable for agriculture. The name Balsall dates back to Saxon times and there have been many different spellings of the name since: for example in the 18th century it was recorded as “Balshall”, as it was in Christopher Saxon’s map of Warwickshire in 1575. “Balshall” was, of course, referring to Temple Balsall, which has an older history than Balsall Common, for at the time Saxon drew his map Balsall Common was heathland without any roads as we know them today.
Balsall was, up until 1863, part of the parish of Hampton-in-Arden. It describes the parish as being the shape of an eqilateral triangle some 3.5 miles its base to its northern apex, with Berkswell on the east and Knowle and Barston on the west. There was very little woodland and many small streams and ponds, rising from 300ft in the north to about 400ft in the south. The older roads are mostly lanes, but in the south-east, on what was Balsall Heath, a number of striaght roads have been laid out since the Enclosure Acts of 1802.
From the top of the turnpike roads of Warwickshire the road from Kenilworth to Stonebridge (through Balsall) was a turnpike road, as was the Balsall to Solihull road via Barston, but not Knowle. This road is now Balsall Street East, which runs on past the Saracen’s Head, the oldest inn in the parish.
Another map of plan of turnpike roads in 1813 shows the toll gates that controlled the traffic along the Kenilworth Road. One was sited on the Kenilworth/Balsall boundary, just beyond the Tolgate garage, and the other was marked at Stonebridge on the Birmingham side of the island.
In the early part of the 19th century stage coaches between Stratford-on-Avon and Coleshill raced through Balsall Common along what is now the Kenilworth Road. Horses were changed at the “Shay House”, an old brick dwelling on the left before one reaches the George in the Tree public house.
Before the roads were turnpiked, and even afterwards drovers from the Hills and mountains of North Wales drove their Cattle and sheep along the tracks through the village, stopping overnight at the George in the Tree. The animals would be kept safe during darkness in the large enclosures behind the George, while the drovers were comfortable inside the inn. The Kenilworth Road was not so named then, but was known as the Welsh Road. The drovers were taking their cattle and sheep to Kenilworth, Southam and Banbury, and finally to London, where they hoped to make a good sale.
Today, the centre of the village is the shopping centre near the roundabout, where Station Road crosses Kenilworth Road, A hundred years ago the village centre was the Blacksmith’s shop, where station Road meets Balsall Street East. The Blacksmith’s shop has since been a Marine Boat shop and is now a commercial retailer. Station Road was then known as Riley’s Lane. Riley was the Blacksmith, and in front of his shop was a triangle of green on which stood a large ash tree, Nearly adjacent to the blacksmith’s shop was the foundary, the sawpit and the wheelwright’s shop.
In 1838 the London to Birmingham railway line was opened and trains passed through where Berkswell Station now is. the station was not built until 1853 and Balsall Common does not appear to have grown because of the railway line being built, for it was not until the 1950’s that Balsall Common really began to expand and grow into the very large village it is today.
The Village of Balsall Common is of recent origin – most of the houses and shops were built in the 20th century. 200 years ago the village consisted of a couple of hamlets of about 6 to 12 houses each and a few scattered cottages. In the 1930’s there began the development which linked these isolated buildings, but it was not until after the second world war (1939-1945) that the village really began to grow. The village is expanding rapidly – Today the population is 12,000. In 1976, the estimated population was 5,000. The village it seems is on its way to becoming a small town.
Old village centre (Balsall Street East/Station road)
New village centre (Station Road/Kenilworth Road)