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Notes on Blackmore

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Blackmore's historical background

Blackmore is said to take its name from the dark, swampy soil in the area. The dark soil has gone now, but the ground is still wet and boggy and mists and fog are frequent.

The village was particularly affected by Black Death which arrived in the country during the summer of 1348. The plague took some time to spread across the country, but over the next two years around 30 – 40 per cent of the population died. Black Death reached Essex in the spring of 1349 at which time 85 families lived in Blackmore. By autumn that same year, 70 of those families had been wiped out. It was at this time that new roads were created which took travellers around the village rather than through it, so that people could bypass the blighted settlement.

During the reign of Henry II (1154 – 1189) an Augustinian priory was built in the village and dedicated to St Lawrence. The Priory continued until 1525 when it was dissolved by Henry VIII and the land and buildings given to one of the King's auditors, John Smyth. He began pulling down the buildings including the Norman church (which was also the village church). He had demolished most of the church before the villagers were able to take out an injunction to stop him, whereupon he merely bricked up the east wall, and local people had to get used to worshipping in a much smaller church.

Blackmore Frieze
A Frieze on Swan House

The best feature of the remaining church building is the magnificent timber tower, which was built in 1400 and has been described as the most impressive of its type in the country. The roof of the nave is also impressive, apart from the bullet holes left in some of the 14th century carved bosses by the Roundheads, and the fact that the church is kept locked.

Although there has been a lot of development in the area in recent decades, the village centre is neatly gathered around the church and village green. There is a rich variety of architecture, including half-timbered, jettied and weatherboarded buildings. Some of these buildings are medieval, as is the road layout. It's rare and somewhat marvellous to find these tiny alleyways preserved and still in use.