Blakemere is a small hamlet, of approximately thirty five houses and about seventy five residents, in the county of Herefordshire, England. It is located in the River Wye valley midway between Hereford and Hay-on-Wye on the B4352 road.
Predating the Doomsday book, in common with many other ancient parishes, the parish of Blakemere is in the Webtree hundred and primarily existed for ecclesiastical functions until the late fifteen hundreds when it began performing both civil and ecclesiastical roles until the adoption of the parishes by the government as administrative units. Subsequently authority was gradually ceded by all rural parishes to urban districts and boroughs as they developed until the present day when the primary authority for local government of rural areas lies with the county councils, and parishes like Blakemere, retain only very limited authority in the form of a parish council
The ancient parish and village of Blakemere encompasses some one thousand, one hundred and twenty one acres of the surrounding countryside of which some six acres are water. The soil is chiefly light loam, subsoil and sandstone and supports an excellent range of crops, fruits and animals with agriculture being the principal occupation until comparatively recently.
The focal point of the village is the church, which is dedicated to St Leonard, the patron saint of prisoners, the sick, and women in labour. It is built in an excellent position by the village green, with views from the church across the adjacent countryside and, in particular, towards Blakemere hill.
Records show that the building of the original church commenced in the year 1180 and was completed by approximately 1200 A.D but owing to significant damage by fire it was rebuilt in 1877, at a cost of £1000, as nearly as possible to the same lines as the old church. The stone built church is in the transitional style and consists of a chancel, nave, south porch and a western turret containing three bells. There are stained glass windows, a fine Norman arch and a brass dated 1760: there are 120 sittings. The graveyard has been active since very early times and the church register dates from 1600. A number of grave markers can still be seen dating from the 1600’s.
In the churchyard to the south east of the church, is a preaching cross, the head of which is Victorian while the single stone shaft, rare in Herefordshire, is recorded in the 14th century, but tradition suggests it is much earlier and possibly Saxon and predates the church itself.
Several names are recorded over the past thousand years or so for the parish and village of Blakemere, the most common being Blakemere, Blackmere and Blackmoor. Since the twelfth century usage has favoured Blakemere and Blackmere with a gradual leaning in more recent times to the former. Although there is still debate about both the origin and names of Blakemere, there is evidence backed by tradition, to suggest that Blakemere (or Blackmere) takes its name from the pond which lies in a hollow a few yards to the south west of the church. The pond, in old English was known as the "Blaec mere", or the dark coloured pool, and was known historically as a watering point for cattle etc, on one of the main droving routes connecting Wales with Hereford.
The name Blakemere (or Blackmere) was firmly established by 1247, further evidenced a little later when Richard Talbot and Ankaret le Strange, daughter and sole heiress of the first Lord Strange of Blakemere and direct descendants of the Plantagenet King, Henry III, were married in Blakemere in about 1371. Richard was subsequently called to Parliament in 1387 as Ricardo Talbot de Blakemere.
Neolithic flints and tools have been found in the parish indicating that the area was significantly populated in pre-historic times, evidenced also by the presence of burial mounds, barrows and hill forts on the nearby surrounding hills.
During 2008 an Archeological dig found artifacts and evidence of a Roman enclosure beside Stonyfield lane near to the Old School at Blakemere suggesting that, as the current residents do, the occupants found pleasure in residing in the Blakemere area even in those turbulent times
Twenty two of the thirty five homes within Blakemere are medieval or post medieval, being built between the tenth and the sixteenth centurys.
During the nineteenth century St Leonards, in common with many other local churches, was visited several times by Kilvert, the prominent Victorian diarist.
The area in which Blakemere is located is known as the "Golden Valley North". It is bounded to the south west by Blakemere hill, to the north west by the parish of Moccas, to the north east by the parish of Preston and to the south east by the parish of Tyberton. By common consent, the parish councils of Tyberton, Blakemere, Preston, Moccas and Bredwardine are essentially combined, meeting together and co-operating fully wherever practicable, although the individual councillors still represent the principle interests of their respective parishioners.
During the nineteenth century the population of Blakemere was between one hundred and sixty and two hundred residents with all of the usual supporting facilities common at that time. Sadly, during the twentieth century the population declined to its present level. However, what the village now lacks in numbers is more than compensated for by the closeness of the community and the friendliness of the villagers.