The Market House, Ledbury
|Population:||9,900 (2009 est.)|
Today, Ledbury is a thriving market town in the midst of its rural setting. The town has a large number of timber framed buildings, in particular along Church Lane.
Ledbury apparently takes its name from the River Leadon, on which it stands and the Old English beorg (hill).
Buildings in the town
One of Ledbury's most outstanding buildings is the Market House, located in the centre of the town.
Other notable buildings in the area include the parish church, the Painted Room (containing sixteenth century frescoes), and Eastnor Castle. Ledbury Park, built around 1600 by the Biddulph family, has been called one of Britain's finest timber-framed houses.
A recent study has also shown that the majority of houses in Ledbury are from the Georgian period (1714–1836) with many other houses/buildings built before 1714.
The parish church is St Michael and All Angels. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner described Ledbury as 'the premier parish church in Herefordshire'.
The current church was built in the twelfth century, with further extensions and changes up to the 15th century, but it was built on earlier foundations and some of the visible foundations are believed to be those of the earlier Anglo-Saxon church.
The church tower is unusual in being built separately from the nave; one of seven Herefordshire with that feature. It was built about 1230, and a spire was added in 1733.
Ledbury is an ancient borough, dating back to the Domesday Book, where it was recorded as Liedeberge. As a borough, it returned members to very first Parliament in the reign of Edward I.
The Feathers at Ledbury was a famous 18th century drover's inn.
Ledbury was once home to the poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who spent her childhood days at Hope End. It is also the birthplace of poet laureate John Masefield, after whom the local secondary school is now named - John Masefield High School. William Wordsworth's sonnet St. Catherine of Ledbury, dated 1835, begins "When ... Ledbury bells broke forth in concert". In 1901 St. Katharine's priest was Charles Madison Green, whose wife, Ella, was the eldest sister of author H. Rider Haggard.
The Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal, which was opened from Gloucester as far as Ledbury in 1798, passed through the lower part of the town with wharves at Bye Street and at what is now the Ross Road near the Full Pitcher public house. After closing in 1885, part of the Ledbury to Gloucester section of the canal was used by the Great Western Railway for the Ledbury and Gloucester Railway. The original line of the canal northwards towards Hereford can still be seen, where it went underneath the Ledbury to Hereford railway - an additional smaller bridge was made for the towpath.
When the Gloucester railway closed in 1964, as a result of the Beeching cuts, it gradually became overgrown but the route through Ledbury then was used as a footpath. In 1997, a 1.6 mile section from the bypass / Ross Road roundabout to the railway station was upgraded to a 6½-foot wide path with a surface of compacted limestone chippings that could also be used by cyclists and those with wheelchairs. This included creating several access points, thinning out but retaining many of the trees that had grown since the 1960s and reopening the skew bridge across the A438 Hereford Road. Unfortunately the proposed bridge to take the Town Trail (as it is now known) across the B4214 Bromyard Road into the station yard was never built. The Trail ends at the Hereford/Bromyard road junction.
For many years, a factory producing Robertson's jam was a major employer but production was moved to Cambridgeshire in 2007. The site is now used to process fruit for cider producers and has two giant fermentation tanks, each capable of holding 180,000 gallons.
In Ledbury also is Amcor's flexible packaging manufacturing plant, which has been awarded both the "Carbon Reduction Cost Saving Award - over 250 employees" and "Most Promising New Low Carbon Product / Service Award - over 250 employees" in the West Midlands Low Carbon Economoy 2010 awards.
Ledbury also enjoys a modest income from tourism, being a small tranquil town, steeped in history, in an attractive rural area. “Come Cycling: Ledbury” promotes the Ledbury area as a destination for people planning a short break that includes some cycling.
Ledbury is the venue for various festivals including the Ledbury Poetry Festival] and The Big Chill music event at nearby Eastnor Castle, which brings thousands of young people to the town each year.
Ledbury is home to the Silurian Border Morris Men.
The Ledbury hunts (Ledbury, which dates from 1846, and North Ledbury, established in 1905) are well-supported.
There are a number of singing groups in the town, including Ledbury Choral Society and Ledbury Community Choir, the latter with over 60 singers.
The Market Theatre is near the town centre, in Market Street. Ledbury Amateur Dramatic Society (LADS) runs the theatre, mounting three of its own productions a year. They also show films on a regular basis and play host to small and mid-scale professional touring shows, including events in the Ledbury Poetry Festival. The society has its own active youth theatre, which mounts productions throughout the year, giving local children a chance to participate in drama outside of an educational establishment.
At Tedstone Delamere the Sapey Brook runs its course to Upper Sapey. A story is told of a mare and a colt that had been stolen and the hoofprints stopped at the bank of the brook. The owner was Saint Catherine of Ledbury who prayed for their safe return and upon examining the bed of the brook saw hoofprints clearly visible in the rocky bottom. These hoofprints were followed and the thief caught, the horses being safely recovered. The nearby Hoar Stone is said to be the horse thief petrified for his crimes.
A local pastime was once the creation of fake hoofprints for visitors, however the original petrosomatoglyphs are still visible in the brook to this day.
- Eighteenth Century Road Travel
- St. Catherine of Ledbury, in William Wordsworth, The Complete Poetical Works, with introduction by John Morley, Macmillan, London, 1888.
- "Robertsons Jam to disappear". The Daily Telegraph. 2008-12-07. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/3660193/Robertsons-Jam-to-disappear.html. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- "Slow trip for giant cider tanks". BBC News Online. 2009-06-06. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/gloucestershire/8087201.stm. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- "Giant cider vessels close highway". BBC News Online. 2009-06-07. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/gloucestershire/8087988.stm. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- "Amcor Flexibles Europe & Americas Excels at West Midlands Low Carbon Economy Awards". Packaging Europe. 2010-07-27. http://www.packagingeurope.com/NewsDetails.aspx?nNewsID=37079. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
- Worcester News 21st December 2009
- Westwood, Jennifer (1985), Albion. A guide to Legendary Britain. Pub. Grafton Books. London. ISBN 0-246-11789-3. P. 262.