The Nave

Commandment Board

In 1561 Elizabeth I decreed that all churches should display the Ten Commandments. This board, which has the Ten Commandments, the Lords Prayer and The Creed, was probably made in the 18th century and very likely replaced another such board. They were part of the changes made to the church furniture during the reformation when images and paintings were replaced by texts in the English language.

The reformers made these changes because they felt the medieval images and paintings which had instructed the congregations on the people and stories of the bible had become objects of idolatry. One of these wall paintings depicting St Christopher carrying the infant Jesus over the water was discovered in 1852 when plaster was removed. Unfortunately, along with some other decorations found at this time, it was destroyed

Font

It is unusual to have a wooden font but this one was to match the pulpit and the lectern which had been carved by Thompsons of Kilburn in Yorkshire. It was given in memory of Third Officer Peter L. Whitaker, only son of the Rev and Mrs A L Whitaker, who was killed in a naval action in the Indian ocean in November 1940.

Funeral Hatchments

The five funeral hatchments belonged to the Marow and Eardley Wilmot families who were Lords of the Berkswell Manor from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Hatchments displaying the deceased's coat of arms were carried in the funeral procession and hung outside the house during the period of mourning and then were often brought to the Parish Church to be hung up as a memorial.

Monument to Lieutenant Frederick Eardley Wilmott RA

Lieutenant Eardley Wilmott died on November 3rd 1873 in the 3rd Ashanti war in what is now modern day Ghana. This was a colonial war against the native people. The British deployed a significant force under the command of General Garnet Wolsely. The campaign was reported on as having significantly hard fighting.

The badge is the Regimental Symbol of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, which is a canon with the Latin motto ‘Ubique’ meaning everywhere. This is in recognition of the Artillery being used worldwide.

Monument to Captain Henry Robert Eardley Wilmott RA & Major General Frederick Marow Eardley Wilmott RA FRS

Captain Henry Robert Eardley Wilmott RA, died 01 January 1852, & Major General Frederick Marow Eardley Wilmott RA FRS, died 30 September 1877, were both officers in the Royal Regiment of Artillery and obviously members of the same of the family. Looking at the dates it is likely that they knew Lieutenant Frederick Eardley Wilmott RA.

Captain Eardley Wilmott RA died in battle in 1852. Major General Eardley Wilmott RA had a long career in the Artillery reaching the relatively high rank of Major General. Again the Royal Artillery regimental badge is shown on the monument.

The Organ

The organ was installed in 1897 on the instructions of the Rector, Dr Henry Watson. It was built by the firm of Henry Willis and Sons of London. John Feeney, a Birmingham newspaper proprietor then resident of the Moat House on the Coventry Road in Berkswell, paid the cost of £458. The organ was placed on the ground floor of the Tower in the Bell Ringing chamber, thus reducing by half the space for the campanologists.

The music in St John Baptist has always come from the rear of the church - in earlier times there had been a gallery encircling the west end and we know instruments such as bassoons and violoncellos were used as there are references to their maintenance in 18th century church warden accounts.

The organ has two manuals (or keyboards) and pedals with tracker (mechanical) action to the pipes. The “Swell” pipes are enclosed in a louvred box. There are two special foot pedals to provide instant loud or soft selections of pipes. Originally it was designed to be hand-pumped, the handle used to pump wind in to the pipes is still there – small boys would earn 6d a service pumping this handle. The electric motor which now provides the wind was installed in 1939.

A technical specification of the organ can be found on the National Pipe Organ Register.

The organist prior to 2005 was Jonathan Kirk, then Mark Edwin Arstall to 2015.

The Pulpit

In 1926 the first piece of woodwork by Robert Thompson (born 1876) of Yorkshire arrived in St John Baptist. It was given in memory of Mr and Mrs J H Wheatley who had bought Berkswell Manor in 1888. On this and on later pieces Thompson used the vine leaf motif which he copied from the ancient screens on either side of the nave.

The pulpit has a carved mouse on it, the trademark of Robert Thompson. It was said that a workman in Robert Thompson's workshop mentioned that “they were all as poor as church mice” after which the mouse appeared on most (though not all) of their work. Each piece was hand made from mature English oak by a single craftsman.

The pulpit also has a lizard beside the mouse, said to be the sign of an architect who worked with Thompson.

This pulpit replaced one of Caen stone which had been given in memory of the rector, Thomas Cattell, who died in 1836. It in turn had replaced one described by Jethro Cossins in 1881 “…a good oak pulpit of the 15th century”.

Royal Coat of Arms

The Royal Arms of George III hang above the Tower arch on the west wall of the Nave.

Royal Arms were first displayed in churches when Henry VIII became the Supreme Head of the Church of England. They were often placed above the chancel arch to show loyalty to the Crown. However, they were removed during the reign of Mary Tudor then restored again when Elizabeth I became Queen. Many were destroyed or removed and replaced by State Arms during the Commonwealth period. While the displaying of arms does not appear to have been compulsory after 1660 it does seem to have been accepted practise.1

In 1791 the church warden accounts show £10.5.2d were spent on the restoration and fixing in position of the Royal Arms of George III. At some time later they were removed and stored in the Tower - many churches “lost” their coat of arms but St John's were found and restored at the time of the Coventry Cathedral Festival in 1962.2

1. See Churches Conservation Trust website.
2. From church guide written 1972

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