A Guide to Ledbury, Herefordshire

by E. Freeman (1892)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2003


The Market House in High street was erected about the year 1668; it is a quaint structure of Elizabethan character, built by the celebrated John Abel upon sixteen substantial oak pillars, and the beams coloured black. The room above is now chiefly used for the meetings of the various Temperance orders of the town, and it was thoroughly restored a few years ago. An old deed directs “that the rent of the Market House shall be expended in providing yearly twelve coats or gowns for twelve poor persons of Ledbury, to be delivered every year at Christmas at the direction and appointment of the Rector and Churchwardens”. At the time the Market House was built, a shop was made under the staircase leading to the upper part of the building. This shop was let for £2 per annum, “but in consequence of its situation rendering it a public nuisance, and that by serving as a wall for the playing at fives”, it encouraged the resort of idle and disorderly persons, particularly on Sundays; it was removed by order of the Vestry, August 16th, 1818.

Besides the above Market House, which was known as the Lower or Wheat Market, there were two other Market Houses in Ledbury, one in the Southend, opposite Mr. Biddulph's house, and another opposite the Hospital Chapel. Neither of

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these markets had rooms above; they were both pulled down about the year 1820.


is situated in High Street, opposite the Market House, and was founded by Bishop Foliott about the year 1232 for six single men, two men and their wives, and two widows. Each was allowed 20 nobles a year, the master 20 marks. At the Dissolution the revenues of this establishment were valued at £32 7s. 11d. annually. It was re-founded, or rather re-established by an Act of Parliament passed A.D. 1580, obtained by the Dean and Chapter of Hereford, with the full approval of Queen Elizabeth, who is consequently named as the restorer of the said Hospital. The Dean and Chapter of Hereford are the trustees and patrons. An Act of Parliament was obtained in 1819 to enable the Dean and Chapter to re-build the almshouses, and for the better regulation of the Charity. The Hospital is now, and must be hereafter, governed in strict conformity with the enactments of this statute, which after giving powers for raising money on mortgage of the estates to erect the new almshouses, directs that the number of almsfolk shall be 24 at the least, without any limitation as to sex, as soon as the mortgage to be then created shall have been discharged. In 1822 the present Hospital was designed by Mr. Smirke, but only one wing (and the Central Tower) for 12 residences was erected. Under the management of the late Dean of Hereford (Very Rev. Richard Dawes, M.A.) the mortgage debt was largely reduced by regular instalments, and a new wing (next the Bye Street) containing 12 residences was added in 1866 to complete the building. There are now 7 male and 17 female inmates, each of whom receives 7s. 6d. per week, a ton of coals at Christmas, medical attendance and clothes every second year. The Master or Warden of the Hospital is bound by the statutes to reside

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not less than four months in the year. His house of residence or Mansion House, as it is statutably called with a garden attached, is situated within the Hospital gates, westward. A copy of the Foundation Charter hangs up in the hall, and in the parlour the portrait of the founder with some account of his life and Charities. The present Master is ......... He receives 3-27ths of the net income, in addition to one-third each of the rents of 70 acres of land and 40 acres of coppice-wood, and he has the appointment of the brethren and sisters. During the reign of the Rump Parliament the then Master, John Tombs, the celebrated anabaptist, obtained a beneficial lease or rather gift of the Hospital lands, but was dispossessed by the Act of Charles II., Cap. 30, Sec. 8.

The Chapel attached to the Hospital is a plain but massive building in the early English style of architecture. Herein Morning Prayer is daily read by the Master, when resident, or in his absence by the Chaplain, except on Sundays and festivals, when there is service in the parish Church. In the windows of the Chapel, among other fragments of painted glass, are the Arms of Grandison, which family once lived in the neighbourhood, and are supposed to have been benefactors.[1] A small marble tablet was erected by the inmates in 1870 to the memory of the late Dean Dawes. There is also a very curious and ancient clock dated 1642 with a dial facing the High Street. The bell has the inscription “Thomas Roake, D.D., Master of this Hospital, 1674”. The bell is used as an alarm for fires.

Orlam farm, in this parish, the property of St. Katharine's Hospital, contributes nine bushels of wheat to the poor yearly; this dole is of unknown origin.

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is situated near the Market House at the corner of the Church Lane. Strangers to the town and neighbourhood may use the Reading Room by paying one penny per visit. A box is placed in the room for receiving these contributions. The Library contains upwards of 1,000 volumes, and additions are made to it from time to time. There are about 30 newspapers and periodicals supplied to the Reading Room. Attached is a smoking room, which is also used for chess and draughts. In 1881 the late Wm. Ireland, of this parish, left a legacy of £500 for the use of this Institution. Many years ago this room was used as the Committee room of the parish Workhouse at the time when each parish maintained its own poor; it was afterwards used for the ancient Grammar School.[2] The cellar beneath has a small arched recess of stonework and a square cavity in one of the walls, and was probably used as a place of worship during times of persecution.


is in Homend Street, at the corner of the new road leading to the Belle Orchard estate. It has recently been erected and is a commodious building in the “Queen Anne” style. It is the gift of M. Biddulph, Esq., M.P., in commemoration of the coming of age of his eldest son, Mr. John Biddulph, and is designed for the reception of accidents and diseases occurring in Ledbury and the neighbouring parishes, requiring immediate surgical treat-

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ment. There are small endowments, left by the late Mrs. Mary Harris and others, but the Hospital depends, for the most part, for its support, on donations and annual subscriptions. In the 19th Annual Report, 47 patients are stated to have been treated during the past year, and that the Committee have received from Mrs. Russell of Woodlands, the offer of a bed for the new Hospital, to be called the “Russell bed”, which offer they have gratefully accepted. Donations may be made payable to Mr. E. W. Forward, Hon. Sec.


nearly opposite the Cottage Hospital, is a brick building in the classic style, and was built in 1849. A few years ago it was reconstructed, and will seat about about 500 persons. Minister - Rev. T. Duthie.


is in the Homend on the same side as the Cottage Hospital. It was erected in 1831 at a cost of £1,150. It has since been enlarged, and will now seat about 450 persons. Minister - Rev. H. D. Brown.


is a large corrugated iron building in Bye Street. Evangelist - Mr. Neighbour.


is situated at the back of a house near the market place. It is a plain structure of brick with Bath stone facings, and was rebuilt in 1852, at a cost of £800. Minister - Rev. C. Y. Potts.


A portion of the “Feathers” Hotel is fitted up with stalls for the numerous dealers, who frequent this market.

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is in New Street. Mr. W. A. Baker, Postmaster.


The Boys' Church of England School was erected in 1868 on a site in Homend Street, towards the railway station, given by John Martin, Esq., of the Upper Hall. It was opened in May of that year, and is a commodious structure of red brick. There is accommodation for 235 boys. The average attendance is about 250. The Girls' and Infants' National Schools are situate in the Back Lane, near Dog Hill. Average attendance - girls, l00, and infants, 76. The Girls' School in the South end, supported by Mrs. Hall's Charity, educates 30 girls.

The CEMETERY of about 2 acres, situated about half-a-mile from the town on the Ross road was opened in 1861, at a cost of £2,500, and has two Mortuary Chapels: it is under the control of a Burial Board of nine members.

The DISPENSARY is In New Street, and was established in 1824.

There are two Cricket Clubs, and a Football and Lawn Tennis Club.

P. J. Miles, Esq., of Bristol, left about £24 per annum to the deserving poor of Ledbury. This with other charities amounting in the whole to about £65 annually, are distributed on St. Thomas' Day, by the Rector and Churchwardens, for the time being.

[1] Walter de Lacy gave to the Hospital the Churches of Weston and Yarthall; John Gersant gave lands in Eastnor; Roger de la Burg, John de Stanford, Simon de Weston, Peter de Donis, Maud de Purko, &c., were benefactors.
[2] There was a school established in the Church previous to the Reformation, but by whom founded is not known; it was continued by order of Sir Walter Myldmay and Robert Keylway, Commissioners appointed by King Edward VI. touching the continuance of Schools, &c., and confirmed by Queen Elizabeth under the seal of her Exchequer. The Endowment arises from the rents of the dissolved Chantry lands. The School was held for a long time in an ancient stone building (now demolished) on the north side of the Church, and was called the “Deacon's Lodgings”. The Master's salary was £2 2s. 10d. and a house for his residence; the salary is paid by Her Majesty's Commissioners of Woods and Forests. The Grammar School is now incorporated with the National School as a permanent endowment, under the title of “King Edward VI. Grammar School,” to be free to four boys.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in September 2003.

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