Discovering History On The Ledbury Heritage Trail

Church Lane, Ledbury

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From the top of the High Street I could see the old coaching inn on the left and the wooden Market House on the right. In between were dozens of centuries’ old buildings. I was following the Ledbury Heritage Trail, a half mile walk through the historic town centre, and it felt as if I had moved back in time. But it wasn’t long before I realised that the sense of timelessness was illusory. However old it appeared, the town would have looked very different in the past.

The Changing Fortunes Of Ledbury

Ledbury, in the English county of Herefordshire, was built around 1125. It was an early example of a planned settlement, but the plan didn’t last for long. The town went through periods of wealth, poverty and plague, and the streets and buildings were chopped and changed to fit the shifting circumstances.

The Feathers, Ledbury
The Feathers Hotel in Ledbury was once a busy coaching inn

Many of the old buildings are still there but as I looked closer I could see how different the town must have been in the past. The Market House would have overlooked a noisy cattle market rather than a constant stream of cars. The narrow alleyways would have resonated to the sound of workmen’s tools, rather than to the chatter of morning shoppers.

And the courtyard of the Feathers Hotel would have been bustling with coaches coming and going. Of course some things never change: the inns are still full of weary travellers seeking food and accommodation for the night.

Design Quarter, Ledbury
This medieval alleyway has been transformed into a modern shopping area

The Butcher Row House Museum is a case of things not always being as they seem. The building was once a butcher’s shop on the High Street but it was later cleaned up and moved to Church Lane, where it became a museum. Not just a change of function and location; it must also have smelt considerably different in the past!

Market House, Ledbury
The Market House, dating from 1617, is still used for markets and community events

Sixteenth Century Painted Room

Sometimes you can just see the ghost of what went before. A plaque in Tilley’s Alley commemorates an inn that disappeared in the 18th century, and street names such as Salters Yard recall long gone activities. But occasionally ghosts can come back to life. Like the Sixteenth Century Painted Room, an Elizabethan room whose wall paintings were hidden under layers of wallpaper and were only rediscovered during restoration work in 1988.

Sixteenth Century Painted Room, Ledbury
A decorated wall in the Sixteenth Century Painted Room

I spent some time looking at the restored walls with their intricate patterns based on Tudor knot gardens and biblical themes. Yet even here there have been subtle changes over time. In 1500 the house belonged to a merchant family who painted their walls in imitation of the wall hangings of wealthier homes; the building has since been used as a poor law institution, a public library and as Town Council offices.

It was a reminder that towns and buildings have a life of their own, adapting to the changing needs of society.

Church Lane, Ledbury
The old buildings of Church Lane, part of the Ledbury Heritage Trail

More History In Herefordshire

Herefordshire has lots to offer to tourists with an interest in history, architecture and medieval buildings. The following day I followed the Black and White Trail, a tour around the county’s historic timber framed houses. You can read more here – Enjoying Herefordshire’s History on the Black and White Trail.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…


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