Ledbury

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Ledbury is a town in Herefordshire, England, lying east of Hereford, and south of the Malvern Hills.

Today, Ledbury is a thriving market town in rural England. The town has a large number of timber framed buildings, in particular along Church Lane and High Street. One of Ledbury’s most outstanding buildings is the Market House, built in 1617, located in the centre of the town. Other notable buildings in the area include the parish church, the Painted Room (containing sixteenth century frescoes), the St Katherine’s Hospital site, founded c1231, is a rare surviving example of a hospital complex, (with hall, chapel, The Master’s House, almshouses and a timber-framed barn), and Eastnor Castle.

Ledbury is an ancient borough, dating back to around 690AD. In the Domesday Book it was recorded as Liedeberge, and returned members to Parliament in the reign of Edward I. Ledbury probably takes its name from the River Leadon, on which it stands. The Old English berg (hill) has been added to the river name. The Feathers at Ledbury was a famous 16th century drover’s inn.

Ledbury was once home to the poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who spent her childhood days at Hope End. It is also the birthplace of poet laureate John Masefield, after whom the local secondary school is now named – John Masefield High School (JMHS). William Wordsworth’s sonnet St. Catherine of Ledbury, dated 1835, begins “When … Ledbury bells broke forth in concert”. In 1901 St. Katharine’s priest was Charles Madison Green, whose wife, Ella, was the eldest sister of author H. Rider Haggard.

The Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal, which was opened from Gloucester as far as Ledbury in 1798, passed through the lower part of the town with wharves at Bye Street and at what is now the Ross Road near the Full Pitcher public house. After closing in 1885, part of the Ledbury to Gloucester section of the canal was used by the Great Western Railway for the Ledbury and Gloucester Railway. The original line of the canal northwards towards Hereford can still be seen, where it went underneath the Ledbury to Hereford railway – an additional smaller bridge was made for the towpath. When the Gloucester railway closed in 1964, as a result of the Beeching cuts, it gradually became overgrown but the route through Ledbury then was used as a footpath. In 1997 a 1.6 mile (2.5 km) section from the bypass / Ross Road roundabout to the railway station was upgraded to a 2 m (6.5 ft) wide path with a surface of compacted limestone chippings that could also be used by cyclists and those with wheelchairs. This included creating several access points, thinning out but retaining many of the trees that had grown since the 1960s and reopening the skew bridge across the A438 Hereford Road. Unfortunately the proposed bridge to take the Town Trail (as it is now known) across the B4214 Bromyard Road into the station yard was never built. The Trail ends at the Hereford/Bromyard road junction.

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