Ledbury

Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

LEDBURY, a parish in the hundred of RADLOW, county of HEREFORD, comprising the market-town of Ledbury, and the township of Parkhold, and containing 3476 inhabitants, of which number, 3421 are in the town of Ledbury, 15 miles (E. by S.) from Hereford, and 120 (W.N.W.) from London. This place derives its name from the Leden, which intersects the parish from north to south. The town, which stands at the eastern angle of the county, and at the southern extremity of the Malvern hills, is situated on a declivity, and consists of three principal streets, which run north and south, and are intersected by smaller ones at right angles; they are lighted, and partially paved, and the inhabitants are well supplied with water; in the more ancient parts of the town the houses are composed of timber and brick, with projecting stories; the modern houses are of red brick, presenting a respectable appearance.

The manufacture of silk and broad cloth was carried on here to a considerable extent during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I., but at present the principal business consists in the manufacture of ropes, lines, and sacking; and there are also malt-houses and tan-yards. Hops are cultivated, and cider and perry made, in the neighbourhood, and, in productive seasons, a great quantity of the former liquor is sent to all parts of the kingdom. There are some quarries of excellent limestone, and others of grey marble. The Hereford and Gloucester canal, projected some years since, extends only from Gloucester to this town at present, having been left unfinished.

The market is on Tuesday, for poultry, butter, and pedlary; and fairs are held on the Monday after February 1st, Monday before Easter, May 12th, June 22nd, October 2nd, and the Monday before December 21st, for cattle, pigs, &c. The market-house is an ancient edifice of timber and brick, supported on sixteen strong oak pillars. The parish is divided into five parts, the borough, Wall Hills, Ledon and Haffield, Wellington, and Mitchell and Netherton; the last four of these form the Foreign of the manor, for which courts leet and baron are held annually, when the constables for the town are chosen: the borough is called the Denizen, and has likewise a court leet and baron annually. Petty sessions for the hundred are held here every Wednesday. Ledbury sent members to two parliaments in the reign of Edward I., but surrendered the elective franchise subsequently, on the plea of poverty.

The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Hereford, rated in the king's books at £14. 12. 6.: the rectory is divided into the two portions of Overhall and Netherhall: the Bishop of Hereford appoints the portionists, who present to the vicarage alternately. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, is a spacious and handsome structure, exhibiting some fine specimens of Norman architecture, particularly the door in the centre of the west front, and the chancel, on the north side of which is a chapel, dedicated to St. Catherine, of decorated character; the north porch is in the early style of English architecture, as is also the tower, which is detached from the church, and is surmounted by a finely-proportioned spire, about sixty feet in height, which, in 1811, was struck by lightning, but sustained little injury. Over the altar is a painting of the Lord's Supper, copied from an original by Rubens; and at the east end of the north aisle, a new window, recently made, is ornamented with the figures of Faith, Hope, and Charity, in stained glass, the expense of which was £500; the church has recently undergone internal repairs and decorations, the cost of which was defrayed by voluntary contributions: there are several interesting monuments.

The Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyan Methodists have each a place of worship. There are two endowed schools, with residences for the master and the mistress; one for boys, who are taught to read and write, and another for girls, who are taught to read and work; at another school, said to have been founded at the dissolution of a chantry attached to the church, four boys are taught writing and arithmetic gratuitously, and there are other boys who pay £1. 16. per annum: the master receives a stipend annually from the Exchequer, and occupies the building rent-free; formerly the masters of this school were clergymen, but within the last thirty years they have been laymen, and are chosen at a vestry meeting.

The hospital of St. Catherine was founded, in the thirteenth century, by Hugh Foliot, Bishop of Hereford, and endowed for six widowers and four widows: the revenue was valued at the dissolution at £32. 7. 11., but it was refounded by Elizabeth, in 1580, for a master, seven poor widowers, and three widows; the Dean and Chapter of Hereford are the trustees. The increase of funds enabled the trustees to erect a new hospital, in 1822, from a design by Mr. Smirke, intended to comprise twenty-four dwellings, for as many brethren, twelve only of which have been hitherto completed, at an expense of £5888; each inmate receives six shillings per week, and a quarterly payment of £1. 2., with other advantages. The senior canon of Hereford cathedral, as master, has a good dwelling-house and a large garden near the hospital, where he is required to reside two months in the year; to his annual stipend is added a farm of seventy acres, and forty acres of coppice wood, and he has the appointment of the brethren and the sisters. Morning service is performed in a chapel adjoining the hospital, four days in the week, by the chaplain, who, in addition to his salary, has the incumbency of one of the livings in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter.

There are several almshouses for poor persons; and a dispensary was established in 1824. At Well Hills, about a mile from the town, is a camp, supposed to have been originally British, though subsequently occupied as a Roman station, containing an area of about thirty acres; a smaller camp at Haffield was probably used as a temporary position. Within this parish is also a part of the famous Beacon camp, considered by some antiquaries as one of the fortresses constructed by Caractacus, when this part of Britain was invaded by the Romans under Ostorius Scapula. At Ledbury died Jacob Tonson, an eminent bookseller, and the subject of a satirical triplet by Dryden, whose epitaph, published in the Gentleman's Magazine for February 1736, was closely copied by Dr. Benjamin Franklin, for his own tombstone, and has been often recorded in print.

PARKHOLD, a township in the parish of LEDBURY, hundred of RADLOW, county of HEREFORD, 2 miles (S. by E.) from Ledbury, containing 55 inhabitants.

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