Found east of Hereford and west of the Malvern Hills, Ledbury is a market town that still hosts markets today. Ledbury is home to many timber-framed buildings such as the Market House and still hosts markets twice-a-week. These are at the ground level underneath the Market House, whilst the upper chamber is used by the local council. Work started in 1617 on this two-storey building which is raised by sixteen pillars, the owner of the space died in 1655 with the Market House still yet to be finished and no money left to finish it. Eventually the building was finished in 1668 after trustees were able to get the money from a pair of bequests that had intended to provide clothing to poor people, they would however provide clothing for a dozen poor people each year to make up for it. Throughout the 20th century some restoration work took place to help maintain the house. Ledbury has also been associated with famous poets.
John Masefield (1878 – 1967) was a poet and writer who was born and raised in Ledbury. John’s parents both died when he was young and he had to leave his home to live with his aunt and Uncle. They decided to remove the library of books that he held so dear to push him away from a career in writing. At 13 he was sent by his aunt to train on a ship, he was not impressed, but slowly grew to enjoy the work as he could focus on reading and learning in his spare time. After taking on an apprenticeship on a sailing ship and sailing to Chile and back, he went to work on a ship bound for New York. Upon arriving, he decided to stay in New York for many years, where he would take whatever work he could. After getting work at a carpet factory and working hard enough to gain promotions and even a large area of the factory to run himself, he decided to return back to England to focus on writing, mainly for newspapers but also poems about the ocean. When he was 23, he met Constance de la Cherois-Crommelin, who was 13 years older than him but was highly educated and came from a wealthy family. In 1903, they married and had two children. After writing reviews, books and plays, in 1911 he heard a voice calling to him after a walk through the woods. After revisiting weeks later, he thought of the poem “The Everlasting Mercy”, which was published in October to praise from critics. He would write two more poems and be acclaimed as a genius. In the 1920s John was writing an impressive amount and his work was being regularly published which led to him being appointed Poet Laureate by King George V in 1930. A title he kept until his death in 1967.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861) was a poet and the eldest of 11 children. Born in 1806, her family moved to Hope End, Ledbury in 1809. During her early years she was tutored at home and supported in her writing by her family. By her early teenage years, she started to come down with illness with intense head and spinal pain which would continue throughout her life. Her mother died in 1828 and her grandmother followed in 1831. Due to lawsuits and the abolishment of slavery, the family was forced to sell Hope End because Mr Barrett had taken great financial losses. Over the next decade Elizabeth found herself moving around before settling in Wimpole Street, London. During this time, she was hit with illness again, which is thought to be tuberculosis, one of her brothers died in Jamaica (where the Barrett’s were originally from), whilst another brother drowned whilst sailing in Torquay. At Wimpole Street, she spent a lot of time writing and was able to produce a number of works, this work also gave her the chance to be poet laureate although it was given to Alfred Tennyson. In 1845 she met Robert Browning, after he wrote to her praising her work. Their relationship and marriage were kept secret before moving to Italy in 1846 where she lived until her death. At the age of 43, in 1849 she gave her birth to her son Robert, whom they called Pen (which was after 4 miscarriages). Over the years Elizabeth continued to produce work, although her health deteriorated until she died on 29th June 1861.
Ledbury has a number of attractions around the town, such as the Malvern Hills, Eastnor Castle and many more, some of which are listed below:
Ledbury Heritage Centre can you help you learn about the history of Ledbury’s historic buildings, with shop listings from the 18th century.
As one of the first vineyard in Herefordshire and was established in the mid 1980’s, Coddington Vineyard creates white wine from around 2,300 vines on about 2 acres of land. Available for weddings, parties, special events, tours, tastings and overnight stays.
New Bridge Farm Park is a family run attraction, opening in 1994. Families can have fun with, tractor rides, play areas, animals and different events throughout the year.
Hellens Manor is a historic Tudor/Jacobean home with foundations from the 12th century. Today it’s owned by the Pennington Mellor Munthe Charity Trust with the descendant’s family still living there. Guided tours are available around the manor, whilst the gardens and grounds are available for free of charge.
The 16th Century Painted Room is a timber framed building with parts of the house dated from 1510. Restoration began in 1988 and once the first layer of wallpaper was removed from the upstairs room, they found painted decorations underneath. After specialists removed the rest, they found some of the best examples of Elizabethan Wall Paintings yet discovered.