Ledbury in Herefordshire is one of our favourite places to visit for a day trip from Cooks Green Cottage. It is a fascinating town full of rich history and an abundance of beautiful half-timbered buildings. Located near the Malvern Hills and Welsh border, the attractions of Ledbury are plain to see for every visitor. For people who enjoy poetry, Ledbury is something of a cultural haven with many poetic connections and wistful romance.
Ledbury has origins dating back to 690 AD. It is believed the town is named for the river Leadon. Ledbury appears in the Domesday Book as “Liedeberge”. During the 1600’s there were thriving drovers inns such as the Feathers Hotel and the town has an abundance of Tudor and Stuart architecture regularly winning many awards for its architectural preservation and decorative features. Quite simply, the town is an absolute pleasure to explore.
The world famous poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning grew up and spent her childhood at Hope End. Here she began writing her popular and timeless poetry. The library in Ledbury is dedicated to her and is called the Barret-Browning Institute. Ledbury is also the birthplace of John Masefield Poet Laureate. Poets William Langland and Thomas Traherne were also born in Ledbury and William Wordsworth was a visitor to Ledbury and wrote a sonnet called “St. Catherine of Ledbury” and the opening line begins “When Ledbury bells broke forth in concert.”
Not surprisingly, Ledbury hosts an annual Poetry Festival that draws the cream of literary persons from around the globe.
One of the most popular – certainly the most photographed buildings in this delightful town is the magnificent Market House which can be dated back to 1653. The building constructed on 16 enormous timber posts for support, was intended to be a grain or wool store. The builder is said to be John Abel the King’s carpenter. Today, it acts as the town council chamber and hosts an open market form time to time, recreating a feel of medieval Britain.
The well-preserved medieval streets of Ledbury are among the finest to be found in England. The old medieval architecture is set off by riots of flower displays. This town is full of civic pride and revels in its heritage.
The distinguished heritage of Ledbury becomes evident in a narrow walkway of cobbles off the High Street that meanders from the town to the beautiful parish church. Church Lane offers a wealth of interesting features beginning with the Market House close to the entrance of the walkway. The Heritage Centre gives an insight into the town’s history situated in a 15th century building. This small museum is full of interest and offers the challenge of a timber puzzle, which is a scaled model of part of the building.
The award winning folk museum in Church Lane is situated in Butcher Row House one of a row of 15 houses and shops, of which many were butcher shops. Interestingly, these rows of buildings were originally in the High Street and were re-erected in Church Lane during the 19th century. Exhibits and installations on display include curiosities such as a Tibetan pipe made from a human thighbone and replica armour as would have been worn at the Battle of Ledbury in 1645
At the furthest end of Church Lane is the 16th century Painted Room, which is within one of the oldest timber framed buildings now in use as council offices. Dating between 1560 and 1570 the paintings were only discovered in the 1980’s during restoration work. The paintings are considered some of the very best examples of Elizabethan wall art. The theme is Elizabethan box gardens with floral fresco designs and boxes containing religious writings.
The church of St. Michael & All Angels is claimed to be the best local parish church in Herefordshire. It has a tall spire of 200 feet, which is detached from the rest of the building. The church dates from the 13th and 14th centuries, built by St. Guthlac’s monks of Hereford some people believe.
The 17th century Skynner family tomb is very interesting and depicts Edward and Elizabeth of Ledbury Park husband and wife. Their infant daughter lies between the both of them and it is alleged the last wolf in Ledbury killed the child.
Do not be surprised if you have a sense of déjà vu in Church Lane, it is quite all right, you are not having a past life regression, it is just Church Lane has been featured in television programmes too numerous to mention.