Looking beneath the surface at St Leonard Blakemere (Herefordshire)

We were out and about the other day visiting more of the churches in the Abbeydore Deanery, west of Hereford. Our first stop was at St Leonard, Blakemere where the thundery clouds parted for long enough to bless us with bue sky for our picnic lunch.

As it stands the church mostly shows the result of a thorough-going rebuild after a disastrous fire c.1877, but as so often its proportions betray it and it was clearly re-erected on much older foundations going back to the twlefth century. And on a closer look the history peeps through. A megalith now acting as a doorpost suggests that this was a ritual site long before the Christian Church or the Normans arrived. Norman though are the chancel arch and its labels (re-cut do you think?), the plain but rather fine font with its cable moulding at the bottom of the bowl,, the round-arched priest’s door and a number of simple small lancet windows.

The tomb recess in the north wall and the churchyard “preaching” cross are fourteenth-century though, and note the niche in the cross’s socket-stone, which could have held a statue or been used for a reliquary or the pyx or holy water if mass was celebrated in front of it. It perhaps suggests something of the heightened religious fervour during the plague years. A socially-distanced communion service? Or visit from a mendicant preacher? Larger windows were also added in the later middler ages.

Later periods have left their mark too. Memorials of course, but also seventeenth-century woodwork in the communion table and rails and the pulpit. Another age of heightened religious sensibility.

And all of this in a picture-postcard setting with half-timbered vernacular houses. I think the cottage in the photo gallery may be the old vicarage. I wonder what it would be like to live in it if it was so used today?