A Guide to Ledbury, Herefordshire

by E. Freeman (1892)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2003


Berrow is a village on the Tewkesbury road, distant from Ledbury 7 miles, S.E.

The church of St. Faith is a stone edifice, in various styles of architecture, with a square tower and 2 bells, and underwent complete restoration in 1858: it consists of a nave and chancel, north porch and Norman doorway; the leper's window still remains in the chancel.

Birts Morton is a village 6 miles east from Ledbury. The church of S.S. Peter and Paul is a cruciform stone building, and consists of nave, transepts, and chancel, with a square tower and 4 bells, and contains an ancient tomb to the memory of Sir John Nanfan, once Governor of Calais and one of the body guard[s] to Henry VII. Near the church is Morton Court, a curious moated Manor House, celebrated by the publication of the late Mr. Symond's historical novel “Malvern Chace”. The Court contains an old baronial dining hall; the oak wainscoting and carving are very ancient, some of the armorial quarterings upon the panels are as old as the Wars of the Roses. For ages tradition has fixed upon Morton Court as one of the hiding places of Sir John Oldcastle. It was for many centuries the residence of the Nanfan family, and in later times of the Earls

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of Bellomont: Wolsey, when a young man, had been chaplain here, and was presented to Henry VII. by one of those Nanfans. William Huskinson, the English statesman, was born here, and his father was churchwarden in 1797. The Manor House is open for inspection by the public on payment of one shilling each person.

Bosbury is a very picturesque village distant about 4 miles N. of Ledbury. Bosbury was once a place of considerable importance, its Saxon name was Bosamberig, or Bosa's Town. According to Leland, Bishop Athelstan died here in 1056. The Norman prelates also lived at Bosbury. It was the favourite residence of the great Bishop Cantilupe, St. Thomas of Hereford, and his friend and successor, Bishop Swinfield, died here in 1316. The church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was erected in the 12th century; the tower is a massive square structure containing six bells and a clock, and is distant from the church about twenty yards on the south side. Entering the church by a Norman doorway, the interior is seen to consist of a long nave, divided from its side aisles by six pointed arches, resting on round pillars, with capitals, characteristic of the Transition period. The clerestory windows, the triple lights of the west-end, and the very beautiful lancet windows of the side aisles are of the same date (about 1180). An interesting fan tracery screen of oak divides the nave from the chancel. There are two very curious and well preserved monuments on either side of the altar, one representing a recumbent figure of John Harford with the date 1573, the other having figures of Richard Harford, son of the former and his wife. The old pre-reformation open seats in the nave have been preserved. There are some fine specimens of ancient carving inserted in the pulpit. On the south side of the nave is the chantry of Sir Rowland Morton, a beautiful specimen of perpendicular architecture,

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temp. Henry VII. This chapel is embattled on the exterior, and is lighted by windows of the shape and tracery of the time when it was erected. Near this is the oldest inscription in the church, painted on the wall in old characters, in memory of the father of Bishop Swinfield, who died in 1282, but the inscription is almost illegible. On the floor of the south aisle are two stone slabs, probably of the 13th century, which are supposed to cover the remains of two Knights Templars. The font near the west end of the church deserves notice, being of large size, square, and supported on five short pillars, and is of 13th century date. A still older one is preserved, which is presumed to be of Saxon origin. In the churchyard is a well-restored cross of red sandstone.

Old Court, which is now a farm, was formerly a palace of the Bishops of Hereford; the refectory is used as a cider cellar, and the doorway and wicket are still perfect.

Temple Court, the residence of J. Harford Pitt, Esq., was formerly occupied by the Knights Templars. In the Crown Inn, formerly the mansion of the Harford family, there is an ancient panelled room, with the date 1571, and the arms of different members of the Harford family; over the fire-place are four shields with the arms of John Skipp, Bishop of Hereford, 1539-53, and of William Paulet, first Marquis of Winchester, K.G., who died in 1572, with the garter and coronet, Wrottesley, of Wrottesley, Scrope, of Castle Combe, Wilts and Fox, of Brimfield. The Rev. S. Bentley, the Vicar, has recently published a very interesting book entitled “History and Description of the Parish of Bosbury”.

Bromsberrow, distant about 4 miles south of Ledbury. The church of St. Mary is an ancient edifice in the Gothic style, consisting of chancel, with chapel, nave, north aisle, and a

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western tower, containing 6 bells; the mortuary chapel adjoining the chancel was built by the Yate family under a faculty in the year 1725; in the chapel are two cavalry standards, relics of Cromwell's army, in which Colonel Yate commanded a regiment; some remains of ancient glass, formerly in Llanthony Abbey, and preserved by the late Henry Dobyns Yate, L.L.D., a former incumbent.

Colwall is a large village, with a station on the Worcester and Hereford branch of the Great Western Railway. It is situated on the western side of the Malvern Hills, about 4 miles N.E. of Ledbury. The church, dedicated to St. James the Great, is an ancient edifice, chiefly in the Norman and Early English styles of architecture. It consists of a nave with two aisles, chancel, and square castellated tower at the west end containing six bells. The nave shows fourteenth century decorated work, and is divided from its side aisle by four pointed arches resting on round pillars. The tower is in a good state of preservation, and is connected with the nave in a curious way, as if it originally had been separate from the church. In the south aisle is a mural slab in memory of a member of the Walwyn family of Rhudhale, date 1587, and under the tower is a flat stone of ancient date with an incised cross. The font is Norman. Close to the church stands a quaint building, said to be the remains of the hunting palace of the Bishop of Hereford.

This parish is famous as the scene of many of the writings of Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning - one of the greatest female poets that England has produced. She was born in London of wealthy parents in 1809, and began her literary efforts almost contemporaneously with Tennyson. Her girlhood, nevertheless, was partly spent at Hope End in this parish; and we find

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reminiscences of this district in her “Aurora Leigh”, and in some of the minor pieces, especially “The Lost Bower”, such as -

“Green the land is where my daily
Steps in jocund childhood played;
Dimpled close with hill and valley,
Dappled very close with shade;
Summer snow of apple blossom
Running up from glade to glade.”

Hope End, an elegant mansion, is the seat of C. A. Hewitt, Esq. The park is well wooded, and comprises about 900 acres. Old Colwall is the residence of Mrs. Holland; Barton Court is the seat of B. Bright, Esq. Walms Well and Mooralls' Well are springs in this parish, which for a long series of years enjoyed a high repute for curative properties. The Vinegar Works, established a few years ago, is also supplied from other noted springs. Near the railway station is the soda water manufactory of Messrs. Schweppe and Company. An endowed Grammar School for boys was founded here in 1649 by Humphrey Walwyn, Esq., of the Grocers' Company, London. This company now supplies funds for the free education of every boy in Colwall.

Colwall - The Herefordshire Beacon.- On the summit of one of the highest ridges of the Malvern Hills, and on the borders of Worcestershire, are the immense works of the Herefordshire Beacon, formerly one of the strongest and most important hill fortresses in this island. The vast labour employed in its construction, its amazing belts of ramparts and trenches, its great extent, its well chosen situation, which commands what was anciently the only pass through the Malvern Hills, its singular irregularity of form and evident dissimilitude to the modes of fortification observed by the Danes, Saxons, and Romans - all combine to establish its origin, which must unquestionably be

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ascribed to the Britons. The same reasons also prove that it was not constructed for mere temporary purposes, but rather for permanent security, as a place wherein an entire district might seek refuge, with all their possessions, whether of flocks or herds, in case of invasion or any other sudden emergency. It is almost impossible for words to convey a complete idea of this immense stronghold; the works are too vast, the heights too unequal, and the base of the eminence too extensive. Some antiquarians attribute the immense labour spent on these works more to the importance of the hill as a centre of Druidical worship, rather than to its value as a fortification. They point to the want of water within the lines as necessitating only temporary occupation. Near one of the springs at the base of the hill, a labourer found, in 1650, an ancient “torc”, which must have belonged to a chief, and legend says that a great battle was fought around this spring. “It was set with precious stones, of the size to be drawn over the arm and sleeve. It was sold to a Mr. Hill, a goldsmith in Gloucester, for £250, and the jeweller sold the stones, which were deeply inlaid, for £1,500.” The general shape of the hill, at least that portion occupied by the works, approaches to an ellipse; and the disposition of the banks and ditches correspond with that figure. The area of the centre and highest part is an irregular parallelogram, measuring about 60 yards in its longest diameter, and nearly 40 yards in its shortest; this is surrounded by a high and steep rampart of stones and earth, now covered with turf; and that again defended by a very deep ditch. Considerably below this on the acclivity of the hill, ranging towards the south-west, or rather S.W. by S., is a very extensive outwork or bastion of an oval form, containing a sufficient area for the stowage and even pasturage of horses and cattle. This was connected by means of a narrow slip of land, running beneath the south-east side of

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the upper ditch, with a similar kind of bastion or outwork, ranging eastward, and manifestly intended for similar purposes. Both the works are surrounded by a rampart and deep ditch; and the enclosed areas have evidently been levelled by art as far as the natural shape of the eminence would permit. Still lower on the acclivity on the N.W. sides are successive ranges of ramparts and ditches, very deep, steep, and high, encircling the sides of the mountain, and rendering it nearly, if not utterly, inaccessible. The views from the summit of this majestic work includes a vast extent of country; and Herefordshire from this height assumes a very distinct character to that of the contiguous districts of Worcester and Gloucester. It appears to be composed of an immense continuation of oblong, conical, and irregular hills, principally covered with fine timber, the deep shadows of whose luxuriant foliage project over beautiful vales, abounding with orchards, cornfields and hop-grounds. The distance in the west is finely marked by the range of the Black Mountains and the hills of Radnorshire. The prospects to the east and south-east are yet more extensive, including a very large proportion of Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, which appears spread out before the sight, variegated by all the charms of nature and cultivation The Herefordshire Beacon is distant from Ledbury about 4½ miles.

Dymock is a village with a station on the Ledbury and Newent railway; it is distant about four miles S.S.E. from Ledbury. The church of St. Mary is a stone edifice with some remains of Norman work, consisting of chancel, large nave, north and south transepts, unequal in height, south porch, and an embattled tower with oak spire. There are remains of a central lantern tower and the piers of a Norman apse, and one Norman window. The celebrated John Kyrle, eulogised by Pope as the “Man of Ross”, was born at the White House in this village

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in 1634. Near the high road, towards Newent is an elevation called “Castle Tump”, which is evidently artificial, and is variously reported to have been thrown up by Cromwell in the time of the Civil War as a place of observation, to have been of Roman origin, or the site of a castle erected by one of the Earls of Hereford. The ancient mansion, “Old Grange”, formerly belonged to the Abbey of Flaxley, at the dissolution of which it was granted to Sir Anthony Kingston, Bart., from whom it descended to the Wynniatt family.

Kempley.- This village is distant 2 miles west from Dymock Station and 6 S.S. west from Ledbury. The church celebrated for its ancient mural paintings, consists of a Norman nave and chancel, built probably at the end of the 11th century. All the walls of this early part remain, with the west and south doors, the narrow chancel arch, and four of the original windows. In the 15th and 16th centuries a western tower was added, a wooden porch built on to the south door, and two perpendicular two-light windows were inserted in the nave, probably in the place of original Norman windows. The dedication of this church is not quite certain, but tradition ascribes it to the Blessed Virgin, and this view is supported by the legend on one of the bells, which is-

“Dilige Virgo Pia quos congrego Virgo Maria.”

Another bell has the following legend:-

“Jesu campanam tibi semper protege sanam”.

Both these bells date from the reign of Edward III. The chancel, where the best preserved paintings remain, is covered by a plain round barrel vault built in rubble. Such vaults are common in monastic and military buildings of the 11th and 12th centuries; but excepting the chapel in the keep of the Tower of London, there is scarcely another English instance of a church being so roofed. The chancel arch and

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vaulting, the walls of chancel and nave, and the splays of various windows are covered with paintings, which are not, however, true frescoes; those in the chancel probably date from about the year 1130; others in the nave are of the 13th and 15th centuries, and there are blue letter texts on the west wall of the nave of the 15th or early 16th century: all these were discovered at the restoration of the church in 1872, and those in the chancel are the oldest mural paintings in England.

Eastnor is a pretty village beautifully situated on the road from Ledbury to Tewkesbury, about 2 miles E. of Ledbury. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was, with the exception of the tower, rebuilt in 1852 under the superintendence of the late Sir George Gilbert Scott, R.A. The cost of rebuilding was over £6,000, the whole of which was defrayed by John, Earl Somers, father of the late Earl, and the Rector. It is in the early decorated style of architecture, and consists of a deep chancel, nave, and north aisle, with a western tower, and a mortuary chapel for the use of the family of Earl Somers. There are some portions of the old church carefully preserved of late Norman date. The interior of the church is lined with stone of a rich reddish grey; the font and pulpit are of Caen stone, beautifully carved, and enriched with shafts of Cornish marble. There are various new monuments to the Somers family. There is a brass plate, in Latin, in the tower, giving the genealogy of the Higgins family.

Eastnor Castle, the seat of Lady Henry Somerset, is a noble castellated mansion of stone, built by John, first Earl Somers, in the year 1815. It has four towers and a keep, commanding a charming view of the Malvern Hills, and the picturesque scenery for which the surrounding district is so celebrated. The contiguous grounds are very beautifully laid out and corres-

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pond with the grandeur of the Castle. The park is about 500 acres in extent, and is well wooded and stocked with deer. In the park is an obelisk erected by Earl Somers in 1812 to commemorate the virtues and talents of his family; it stands on one of the highest eminences in the vicinity, distant about a mile from Eastnor Castle, rising 90 feet above its base. The west side is inscribed - “To the memory of John Lord Somers, Baron of Evesham, Lord High Chancellor of England in the reign of William III., and President of the Council of Queen Anne.” The east side - “To Lord Chancellor Somers, who died a bachelor.” The south side - “To the memory of James Cocks, ensign in the Guards, who, before he had attained the age of 20, fell fighting for his country in the battle of St. Cas, upon the coast of France, A.D. 1768.” The north side - “To the memory of the Honorable Edward Charles Cocks, eldest son of Earl Somers, who fell under the Duke of Wellington, before Burgos, at the age of 26. Respected, beloved, and regretted.” The Castle is open for inspection by the public on Mondays and Fridays. A small Roman station probably existed at Eastnor. In 1876, when some excavations were being made on what is now the Lawn Tennis Court of Eastnor Castle, some curious portions of Oolite stone piping were discovered, bored through the centre and fitting by socket into each other. They were evidently used for the conveyance of water, probably from the beautiful spring near the church, and the locality is close by the Wain street and Ridgway Roman roads. Mr. G. H. Piper, of Ledbury, has these pipes in his possession. The nearest place where Oolite stone is found is some twelve miles off, at Bredon Hill. The exact site of the station, which was probably very small, has not yet been discovered, nor is its Roman name known. At Bronsil, which is about a mile from Eastnor Castle, in the private grounds of C. W. Bell, Esq., are the

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remains of an old castle, originally of a square form, with a round tower at each angle, and a double moat surrounding it. It was erected by Richard Beauchamp, son of the first Lord Beauchamp, of Powick, in the reign of Henry VI. on the site of an older structure. The second Lord Beauchamp died in 1496, when the title became extinct, and his estates were divided among his grand-daughters; the youngest married William Reed, Esq., of Lugwardine, Herefordshire, but descended from an old Worcestershire family. The Reeds and their descendants continued in possession of Bronsil until the middle of the last century, when it was purchased by Mr. Cocks of Castleditch, an ancestor of the late Earl Somers. About the year 1840 the moat was partly cleaned out, but no treasure was found - only a few weapons, some buckles of large size, spoons, &c. The Castle was burnt and desolated in the time of the Civil Wars.

The ancient Camp on the Hollybush and Midsummer Hills is distant from Eastnor 2 miles and from Ledbury about 4 miles; the entrance may be approached nearly opposite to the 4th milestone on the Tewkesbury road, by the side of a large stone quarry. This camp is of considerable extent, following the shape of the hills, as camps of this class always do. It has a circumference of 5,700 feet and a length of 2,000 feet. A deep ditch and a rampart encircle the two hills, i.e., the Hollybush and Midsummer Hills, and in the glen between the two, on the south side, is the site of a British town, about 1,100 feet in length. In the interior of the camp on the Hollybush Hill, are many hut hollows, or circles, where some sort of habitation probably existed. In September, 1879, some of these were opened, but without making any discovery. On the east face of Midsummer hill, which is 958 feet high and considerable higher than the Hollybush Hill, are several lines of hollows which have been habitations. Mr. Lines, a well known antiquary, and who

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has paid much attention to this camp, states that there are 10 or 11 ranges of terraces, with no less than 214 hut hollows visible, and 30 more under the brushwood. The principal exits from the camp are on the Midsummer Hill, leading down to the valley on the north, called the Gullet pass, and on the south-east, in the ravine between the two hills, leading down to the Hollybush pass. Along this ravine are four tanks or reservoirs, having the ancient dams for holding back the water still in existence; they are supplied by two springs which rise in the camp; the first of these dams also forms part of the rampart. On the south side of the camp on Hollybush Hill, the rampart is much higher, and is strengthened by a second one being thrown up inside it. At this point the so-called Earl of Glos'ter's ditch, which enters the camp on the north-east side, running along the ditch of the camp on that side, goes off down the hill, over the Hollybush pass, and runs up the side of Ragged Stone Hill beyond. In the centre of the Hollybush Camp is a raised mound, which was supposed to be a “long barrow”, but is probably a “Botontinus” or one of the terminal marks, which were contructed by ancient surveyors at the confines of territory or estates. The Hollybush Camp is of earlier date than that of the Herefordshire Beacon, both of which are of late Cymric or Celtic origin, and were probably occupied for a time by the Romano-British.

Pixley, distant 4 miles north-west of Ledbury and ½ mile south-east of Ashperton station. The church of St. Andrew is small but very interesting, in the Early English style, consisting of a chancel, nave, south porch, and a turret with a wooden spire. The chancel and nave are separated by a remarkable Early English oak screen; there are also ancient wrought iron hinges on the south door.

Putley is a small parish, distant 5½ miles W. of Ledbury, and

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about 2 south of Ashperton station. The church has undergone complete restoration, and was re-opened May 7th, 1876. The total cost was over £1,400, of which £1,000 was given by J. Riley, Esq., of Putley Court, at the foot of whose lawn the little church stands. During the restoration of the church, in the north wall of the nave, a considerable quantity of fragments of Roman bricks, roofing tiles, coarse pottery, &c., was found, which would lead to the belief that a Roman building of some description once existed on or near the spot, and in 1878, in excavating near Putley Court, the workmen found fragments of Roman buildings, including a quantity of tiles.

Much Marcle is an extensive parish and village pleasantly situated on the main road between Ledbury and Ross; is distant 5 miles south-west of Ledbury. The ancient name of this parish was “Merchelay”, and belonged to the King, who bestowed it on Roger de Laci, banished by William Rufus, when the manor of Marcle Magna was given to Wynebald de Balun. Isolda, widow of Sir Walter de Balun (daughter of Sir Edmund Mortimer), married Hugh de Audley, of Marcle, and died 1338. Their line merged in the Earldom of Stafford. Near the church stood Mortimer's Castle; the mound within a few yards of the churchyard is still called the Keep of Mortimer Castle. According to Blount, there was another castle, perhaps more ancient, called “Ellingham Castle”, the site of which is now overgrown with wood, called the Quarry Wood, at a little distance from the village. In the thirteenth year of Queen Elizabeth (1571) occurred a most remarkable landslip. It is reported that on the 17th of February, at six o'clock in the evening, Marcle Hill commenced moving, and in its progress overthrew the chapel of Kynaston, together with hedges and trees, and also destroyed many cattle, and finally rested at its present position on the 19th. Camden gives the following

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account of the phenomenon:- “The hill which they call 'Marcley hill' did, in the year 1571, rouse itself as it were out of sleep, and for three days together moved on its vast body with an horrible roaring noise; and overturning everything in its way, raised itself, to the great astonishment of its beholders, to a higher place.” Fuller asserts that the whole field that moved was 20 acres, and that it travelled 14 hours, and ascended 11 fathoms up the hill, leaving a chasm 400 feet wide and 520 long. The chapel bell was dug up some years since, and is in the possession of Colonel Money-Kyrle. Phillips, in his “Cider” poem, refers to the movement of Marcle hill; also Butler, in his “Hudibras”. The parish church, dedicated to St. Bartholomew, is one of the finest in the county. It stands on a hill, a short distance from the main road, and has a square castellated tower (containing six bells), nave, chancel, and aisles. It was restored in 1878 at a cost of over £3,000; three stained glass windows were inserted, an organ erected, the principal fittings renewed, and a reredos added. In a small chapel adjoining the church, founded by Sir John Kyrle, Bart., in 1628, is the tomb of himself and his lady Sybill (daughter and heiress of Philip Scudamore, Esq.). It is in excellent preservation. In the churchyard are the remains of a cross, also a yew tree, with seats inside to accommodate ten or twelve persons. Homme House, the seat of Colonel Money-Kyrle, is a spacious red brick mansion surrounded by a thickly-wooded park, with fish-ponds, etc. Thomas Kyrle, Esq., fourth son of Robert Kyrle, Esq., of Walford Court, who married Frances, daughter and heiress of John Knotsford, of Malvern, was the ancestor of the Kyrles of Much Marcle. His son was created a baronet in 1627.

Hellens, the seat of C. W. R. Cooke, Esq., M.P., is an ancient manorial residence of brick and stone, built temp.

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Henry VII., and pleasantly situated in spacious grounds, commanding a fine view of the Malvern range. Mr. Cooke is the author of a well-known book, “Four Years in Parliament with Hard Labour”.

Munsley is a parish 4 miles north-west from Ledbury and ¾ mile from Ashperton station. The church of St. Bartholomew is an ancient building in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, south porch, and turret. It was restored and re-seated with open benches in 1863, when, in taking down the south walls, some very ancient gravestones bearing crosses were discovered, and are placed outside the west wall of the church. Under the altar is a stone, with a deeply incised inscription in ancient characters, which for years no one was able to decipher. There are some Lancet windows, one with ancient painted glass, and a church chest carved out of a solid oak tree, with three locks, and apertures in the lid for donations.

Redmarley and Pauntley.- Redmarley d'Abitot, distant 5 miles S.E. from Ledbury. The church of St. Bartholomew was re-built, with the exception of the tower, in 1856. Redmarley was formerly a town of extensive limits; and vestiges of considerable buildings remain in the neighbourhood. It is said that Redmarley Park mansion was a court of judicature of some kind. The remains of the prison, which indicate a building of considerable dimensions, are to be seen, and the place of execution for criminals is pointed out. Bury Court has also a very curious and ancient cellar. Pauntley is a picturesquely beautiful village near Redmarley, and 2 miles N.E. from Newent station. Here is a small Norman church built soon after the Conquest. Near Pauntley Court, on the banks of the Leadon, is a Spa of excellent saline properties, said to be similar to that of Cheltenham, only of a better quality.

Wall Hills, about 1½ miles N.W. from Ledbury, near the

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Hereford Road, is a tabulated eminence called Wall Hills, the lower part of which is surrounded by large trees, and the summit crowned by a spacious camp, the probable site of an ancient British town. The name of Wall Hills is supposed to be derived from the word Waal, an appellation given to the Britons by the Saxons, and meaning with them, strangers; pointing out that it was occupied by the natives of the country up to the time of the latest Saxon invasion, and until the Saxons obtained permanent possession of Herefordshire. The camp itself is very large; it comprises within its area nearly 30 acres of ground. It has two main entrances, one from the north, through the outer portion called “Fluck's Close”, and another from the east. This entrance is approached by a deep fosse road or covered way from the north, and it is also defended by a traverse and deep fosse in front of it. The camp is supplied with water from a spring close to the ramparts, and by two ponds in the southern side of the outer fosse. The portion by the bastion guarding the northern entrance is called the Churchyard. The portion termed the “Camp” is nearly rectangular, with a small projection at the eastern end called the “ Little Camp”, it is nearly 20 feet higher than the western portion. This is called “Peas Hill” with the narrow portion near the eastern entrance called “Humble [Ed: sic] Bee Park”. In a surveyor's plan dated 1733, this portion is covered with wood, and it was doubtless the removal of this that caused the outer ramparts to be so much defaced. The entrance on the west is not an original one. The fosse near it is called the King's ditch. In ploughing the area, spear and arrow heads have been found, together with brass coins, horse shoes of antique form, human bones, and flint implements. Just below the camp, near the farmhouse, a very fine view of the town of Ledbury and valley of the Leadon may be obtained.

The End.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in September 2003.

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