On a lovely sunny day our group was met by our guide, the smiling and exuberant Reverend Alice Wood.
The village of Blackmoor is described as a textbook example of a Victorian estate village created by Sir Roundell Palmer, the first Earl of Selborne. He purchased the land in 1865/66 and commissioned the renowned architect Alfred Waterhouse to design the parish church of St Matthew, a vicarage, school, reading room, several cottages and finally Blackmoor House. They were all built between 1868 and 1870.
Our visit started with a peel of the six bells from the unique spiral tower of St Matthew’s church where we were given a brief history whilst we sat in the nave having coffee and cake - what a splendid church! We learnt of recent remedial work to rectify subsidence in the chancel and the stained glass windows.
A walk followed around the village to see the Victorian buildings and additionally the First World War war memorial cloister, one of only 134 Grade II listed in England. It was commissioned by the 2nd Earl of Selborne and his wife to commemorate the loss of their 2nd son who was killed in Mesopotamia in 1916.
The village economy is based primarily on the surrounding fruit farms and it was our luck to be able to buy some freshly picked cherries, after which we left for lunch at The Chocolate Frog in nearby Oakhanger.
After lunch we were privileged to visit nearby Blackmoor House which is now divided into private apartments, albeit that the central entrance hall and staircase are communal and we were able to sense how the house must have been in its heyday. Our guide was Chris, one of the residents who then took us on a walk around the splendid gardens ending with tea and cake in the stable courtyard.
A really lovely day with history, punctuated by frequent food and drink breaks!