Herefordshire's Historic Villages
Lovers of architecture, history, and picture postcard English villages should not miss north-west Herefordshire’s “Black and White Village Trail”. It’s worth a journey to see the many examples of timber-framed buildings and churches in their unspoiled village settings.
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The 40-mile circular trail is identified by brown and white tourist signs. Pick up a trail leaflet at the tourist information centre where the trail begins at Leominster. From here the trail leads to Weobley, Eardisley, Kington, Pembridge, Eardisland, and back to Leominster.
Leominster, an old market town, dates from Saxon times and won fame as a wool town in medieval days. The priory church has a 45-foot high perpendicular window and a ducking stool. There are antique shops in the town. From Leominster the trails leads through Barons Cross to Dilwyn and its church of St Mary the Virgin and village green.
From Dilwyn drive to Weobley with the spire of the church of St Peter and St Paul high on the horizon. The Norman de lacy family built the church. Weobley, dating from the 7th century, is one of the finest of the black and white villages. Glove making and ale production were economic mainstays of the village. The Crown had a famous visitor, King Charles I, in 1645 after the battle of Naseby. During the 18th century the village was known for its practice of witchcraft. Stop at the small museum for full details.
Continue your journey past Sarnesfield to Kinnersley castle, built c 1588. It contains Jacobean and Elizabethan features. The church of St James with its tower is nearby.
The village of Eardisley is next on the agenda. Park by the 12th century St Mary Magdalene church (added to in the 13th and 14th centuries). The church tower was built in 1708. In the church is a 12th century carved font. A 17th century building was a telephone exchange, and a 14th century cruck building and forge are near the village hall. Tram square is the original market area where house servants, labourers, and farm workers were hired. An old pump house is another attraction. The village castle was attacked and destroyed during the civil war. A mile away is a ‘great oak’ mentioned in the Doomsday book and thought to be 8-900 years old. E 2
Next is the town of Kington, a small market town named after Edward the confessor. The town has moved down the hill since Saxon times. Many of the houses are 300 years old. A grammar school, founded in 1632, and the 12th century church (restored in Victorian times) of St Mary are of special interest. Kington was an important agricultural centre before the industrial revolution. The river Arrow provided water for several local industries: Keynton broadcloth, weaving, glove making, tanning, malting, rope making, wool stapling, and a foundry. A tramway once linked the town with the steel works and coal mines of south Wales.
The Offa’s dyke path goes through the village, and the Mortimer trail links Ludlow in Shropshire to Kington. Kington is home to a small museum and tourist information centre. The 50-acre Hergest Croft gardens are near the church. They are home to rhododendrons, azaleas, and a national collection of birches and maples.
Stop at Lyonshall to view the church of St Michael and all Saints and the remains of a castle hidden in the trees. The 16th century Royal George pub and an old forge are other attractions.
Pembridge, granted a charter in 1240, is next on the trail and boasts many timber framed buildings on its main street. Over 90 listed buildings are unaltered due to the town’s decline in the 16th century. The river Arrow runs by the village. Park at the car park behind the 16th century Kings House housing the visitor centre to enjoy a walk down the street and take in the buildings, among which are an early 16th century market hall on eight oak columns with a stone tiled roof and a 14th century inn, the New Inn. The Steppes was a village shop in 1777. On West street are 14th century half-timbered cottages and a cruck house.
St Mary’s church, on the site of a former Norman church, has a fascinating detached octagonal shaped wooden bell tower dating to 1208. In the tower is a peal of five 17th century bells. The church contains a stone ribbed and vaulted ceiling a solid oak door, a Jacobean pulpit and altar rails, and a 13th century stone font. A west window portrays 14 gospel scenes.
Eardisland, also on the river Arrow, beckons next with its Burton Court, an 18th century house with a neo-Tudor front designed by Sir Clough Williams Ellis. The house was built around a 14th century great hall with a timber roof. It houses a collection of costumes. Notice the 13th century Staik house that once served as a yeoman’s hall and was the rectory until the late 19th century. Its original doors and windows are still in place.
St Mary the Virgin church dates from the 14th century but the tower was rebuilt in the 18th century. The tower contains a peal of eight bells. The church itself was restored in 1864. Next to the church is a castle mound and moat. A former grammar school sits beside the bridge and still shows the manacles of a whipping post. In the grounds of the 17th century Manor House is a listed dovecote. In the village are two timber-framed inns, the Cross and the White Swan and a 15th century cruck hall house, Knapp house. From Eardisland the trail leads back to Leominster.
PO Box 44
Herefordshire HR6 8ZD
Tel. 01432 260621
Herefordshire Council official website
Black and White Visitor Centre
Pembridge, HR6 9HA
Tel. 01544 388761
Kington Tourist Information Centre
2 Mill St, HR5 3BQ
Tel. 01544 230778.
Open: April-end Oct, 10am-1pm and 2-5pm.
Leominster Tourist Information Centre
1 Corn Square
Leominster, HR6 8LR
Tel. 01568 616460
Open: Easter-end Sep, Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm; Sat from 9am-5pm; Oct-Easter, Mon-Sat, 9.30am-4pm
Leominster Folk Museum
Etnam Street, HR6 8AL
Tel. 01568 615186
Open: April-Oct, Mon-Fri, 10.30am-4pm; St, 10.30am-2pm; in winter, Mon-Fri, 11am-4pm
Hergest Croft Gardens
Kington, Herefordshire, HR5 3EG
Tel. 01544 230160
Open: March, Sat and Sun, 12 noon–5.30pm; April-end Oct, daily 12 noon–5.30pm
Web: Hergest Croft Gardens
Tearoom, gift shop, plant sales
Photos © by Barbara Ballard