History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Timber-framed buildings abound, including the historic Feathers Hotel
Ledbury is a picturesque market town with a staggering array of lovely heritage buildings, including the medieval market hall, and the famous timber-framed Feathers Inn.
You might be forgiven for thinking that this historic market town has nothing but half-timbered buildings. While that certainly isn't the case, it is hard to imagine a place with more beautiful old medieval, Tudor, and Stuart half-timbering within a few blocks.
The Market Hall (sometimes known as the Market House) was begun in 1617 and originally served as a grain store in addition to a covered area for market stalls. It is raised on 16 massive timber columns to create an open arcaded market under cover. The upper chamber is used by the local council but twice-weekly markets are still held at ground floor level.
it was in this very spot in 1645 that a battle took place between Parliamentary troops and Cavaliers supporting the king, with the Royalists eventually prevailing.
On High Street is the Barett Browning Institute, notable for its striking clock tower. The building is dedicated to poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, who lived and wrote at Hope End, just a few miles north of Ledbury. The Institute's striking clock tower was designed in Tudor Revival style by architect Brightwen Binyon to echo the iconic Market Hall across the road.
The Market House is impressive enough, but add to this perhaps the most attractive timber-framed building in Ledbury, the Feathers Inn on High Street. The Feathers is actually two historic buildings linked together. The oldest dates part to 1560. Further along High Street is Ledbury Park, a large timber-framed house erected in 1590 on the site of a medieval palace built by the Bishops of Hereford.
A few steps away on New Street is the Talbot Hotel, made up of four timber-framed buildings joined together. The oldest part of The Talbot dates to around 1550.
Tucked in between the High Street and the main visitor parking area is one of Ledbury's newest visitor attractions in the form of one of its oldest buildings. The Masters House is a large Tudor mansion built in 1487 for the Master of St Katherine's Hospital, the large almshouses on High Street.
Much of the 15th-century timber-framed core of the building is hidden behind an 18th-century brick facade. A recent restoration programme has restored the historic building and used it to create a multi-purpose community venue including the town library and meeting rooms.
The almshouses front onto High Street. They were founded in 1231 by Hugh Foliot, Bishop of Hereford to care for the elderly and sick travellers and pilgrims. A group of 'brethren' cared for needy locals by giving alms, shelter and care. The almshouse was suppressed during the Reformation but later refounded. The present buildings date to 1822.
Take a wander off the High Street up Church Street, lined with timber-framed buildings. This must be one of the best-preserved medieval street scenes anywhere in the UK.
At the bottom of Church Street stands the Town Council, housed in a picturesque timber-framed 15th-century building. When the Council chambers were being restored in 1989 workmen discovered a stunning series of Elizabethan wall paintings painted to resemble expensive tapestries and oak panelling.
The wall paintings are designed like Tudor knot gardens and are full of symbolism equating Queen Elizabeth I with the Virgin Mary. The building probably housed the Town Constable and was used to administer the town's markets and fairs.
Located on picturesque Church Street, the Centre covers the rich heritage of Ledbury, including exhibits on local literary figures John Masefield and Elizabeth-Barrett-Browning. The Heritage Centre is housed in a picturesque timber-framed house built for a prosperous wool merchant around 1480 and later used as the town grammar school. The house was built directly over a stream that the wool merchant used to was his wool fleece.
At the top of Church Street opposite the Heritage Centre is an attractive timber-framed cottage that houses a display of local life in the Victorian period. The house originally stood on High Street but was disassembled in 1830 and only re-erected in its current location in 1979.
Most of the exhibits are focussed on local life since the Victorian period and there is a special exhibit on the local craftsman Philip Clissett, famous for his traditional ladderback chairs.
Architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner called Ledbury's medieval parish church of St Michael the 'premier parish church in Herefordshire', and it is hard to argue with that assessment. St Michael's dates to the 12th century and stands on the site of an earlier Saxon building.
Highlights include the 14th-century chapter house and a display of items discovered after the Civil War Battle of Ledbury. Look for the memorial to poet John Masefield, who was born in Ledbury.
Just east of Ledbury is Eastnor Castle, a palatial Regency mansion built in 1811 by the 2nd Lord Somers. The architect was Robert Smirke, who also designed the British Museum in London. Eastnor Castle is, as its name suggests, built to resemble a medieval castle, bristling with crenellated towers and battlements.
The Great Hall is home to a remarkable collection of armour. Then there is the drawing room, designed in Gothic style by AW Pugin, the architect responsible for the Palace of Westminster.
Ledbury is a delight to explore. All the old architecture is set off by a lush display of flowers around the town; Ledbury is a past regional winner of the Britain in Bloom competition.
Address: Ledbury, Herefordshire, England
Attraction Type: Town
Location: On the A417/A449/A438, five miles off Junction 2 of the M50
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Master's House, Ledbury - 0.4 miles (Historic Building)
Market Hall, Ledbury - 0.4 miles (Historic Building)
16th Century Painted Room, Ledbury - 0.4 miles (Historic Building)
Butchers Row House Museum - 0.4 miles (Museum)
Ledbury Heritage Centre - 0.4 miles (Museum)
Ledbury, St Michael's Church - 0.5 miles (Historic Church)
Eastnor Castle - 1.8 miles (Historic House)
Pixley, St Andrew's Church - 2.8 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Ledbury: