Ledbury Streets - An Introduction
The settlement which developed into Ledbury grew up in the Anglo-Saxon period at an important crossroads where the road from Hereford to Worcester (probably the modern Bridge Street, Bye Street and Church Street) crossed that from Bromyard to Gloucester (the modern Homend, High Street and Southend). At the centre of the early settlement was the church, approached from the main roads across a triangular area, perhaps used as a market, which was later infilled to create the modern Church Lane and Church Street. When Domesday Book was compiled in 1086 Ledbury was still a rural manor belonging to the bishop of Hereford. However, in the 1120s or 1130s the bishop created a new town or borough along the main roads. A new wedge-shaped market place was established in what is now High Street. Houses soon extended north along the Homend and then along Southend. Bye Street was probably developed next, and finally New Street, where houses had been built by 1186. This town plan, established in the twelfth century, was hardly altered until the building of the canal and railway in the first half of the nineteenth century and can be clearly seen in the town centre today.
The opening of the Gloucester to Ledbury section of the Hereford – Gloucester Canal in 1798 and of the Ledbury to Hereford section in 1845 led to some development on the western edge of the medieval town. A greater stimulus to expansion was provided by the opening of the Worcester to Hereford railway, with its station north of the Homend, in 1861 and then of the Gloucester to Ledbury railway, built partly along the line of the former canal, in 1885. New streets were laid out, mainly west of, or downhill from, the line of the Homend, High Street and the Southend. The earliest was South Parade, off the Southend, developed in the 1820s by the Biddulph family. Victoria and Albert Roads, named for the queen and her consort, were built in the 1850s. Despite the declining population between then and c. 1900, new streets including Newbury Park, Belle Orchard, Oatleys and Woodleigh Roads and part of Bank Crescent had been developed or laid out by the early twentieth century. In 1851 the area around Lower Road was called New Town, indicating its recent origins. By 1886, that along the modern Bridge Street was Happy Land, perhaps a name chosen to attract new residents. Much of this nineteenth-century development was carried out by the Ledbury Benefit Building Society which was founded before 1852 and wound up in 1914.
There was little change to the street plan in the first half of the twentieth century, when the population remained nearly static at between 3259 and 3693, although existing streets were further built up. As a result of the 1919 Housing Act, council houses were built in Homend Crescent in 1921. The Council developed the remainder of the Bank Crescent estate in the later 1920s and 1930s through private development, the last plot being sold in 1937. More council houses were built in the early 1950s in Long Acre, Margaret Road and Queensway, the last two streets named for Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret, continuing the ‘royal’ theme started with Victoria and Albert roads. By 1966 other streets, including Horse Lane Orchard, Mabels Furlong, Lawnside Road, Oatleys Crescent and Terrace, the Langlands, Northmead, Audley Croft, and Plaisters End had been laid out by private developers. The major expansion of the town came in the third quarter of the twentieth century when the Deer Park and New Mills estates were built between the town and its new by-pass; the population leapt from 3911 in 1971 to 4549 in 1981 and 8839 in 2001. The Deer Park estate was named from the medieval bishops’ deer park, so called as late as the nineteenth century, which in fact lay on the other side of the Southend. The developers of the New Mills estate originally proposed to continue the medieval theme by naming their development Capella Court, after Richard de Capella, bishop of Hereford 1121 – 7 and the supposed founder of Ledbury. The name finally chosen derives from the ‘New Mills’, a water mill recorded from 1602, which stood north-west of the new estate. More information on the street names of Ledbury can be found in the booklet published by the EPE project.
The following streets can be explored by theme:
- Bye Street
- Church Lane
- Church Street
- High Street
- Market Street
- New Street
Content generated during research for two paperback books 'Ledbury: A Market Town and its Tudor Heritage' (ISBN 13 : 978-1-86077-598-7) and 'Ledbury: People and Parish before the Reformation' (ISBN 13 : 978-1-86077-614-4) for the England's Past for Everyone series