Upper Hall sits out of sight on the hillside above Ledbury nestling beneath Dog Wood, and has origins which go back to the early thirteenth century, undergoing a few name changes over time, originally being known as Aula Superior, then Over Court, Over Hall and finally Upper Hall. As is the case with many important houses in Herefordshire, Upper Hall is very close to the Church.
The present building is made up of many additions over the years, following its near destruction in the Civil War. A Jacobean wing was built in the seventeenth century and a Georgian wing in the eighteenth. Later in the eighteenth century these two wings were joined up by a Georgian style house, and later still many Victorian alterations were made. It was originally owned by the Skyppe (also spelt Skippe) family who hailed from Norfolk, and one of the branches of this family who settled in Herefordshire was John Skippe, Bishop of Hereford from 1539 to 1552.
Alice Skippe married John Willason who leased the estate, and eventually bought it – and Upper Hall, along with other properties in the Ledbury area, passed through the death of Willason’s heir to John Skippe who died in 1619. Following generations of the Skippe family continued to buy land and property in Ledbury, until finally they sold it all in 1812.
Rev. Reginald Pyndar
For many years the Rev. Reginald Pyndar, Rector of Madresfield and Magistrate for Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester, and formerly of Worcestershire, was in residence until his death at Upper Hall aged 77 in 1831. In his will, he left his wife Mary “his interest in Upper Hall, with its household goods, plus its land and farming stock” . This, it seems, is of little interest to many local historians who have totally ignored his time at Upper Hall, and who mainly skip straight to the Martin family who came later.
In 1841 the widow Mary lived at Upper Hall with two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary and 80 year old Colonel Cope, with the following servants:
Mary had a keen interest in the plight of the blind, and became actively involved in charity work to fund instruction for same; she was clearly a very well loved lady and was greatly missed after her death at Upper Hall in 1849.
The Martin family at Upper Hall
The new owners were the Martins of banking fame (Martins Bank eventually merged with Barclays), and they carried out a vast amount of work in the grounds, completing transforming it into beautiful parkland with many specimen trees, some of which were imported specially from abroad. The main drive was relocated through the grounds so that visitors could not fail to notice, and be impressed by the surroundings. Horticulture was very important to the family, and in the summer of 1867 the first Ledbury Cottage Gardening Society show was held in the grounds of Upper Hall and it drew a huge entry. Fortunately the weather was good, and thousands of visitors thronged to admire not only the entries but also exhibits by locals in the form of Mrs. Biddulph, the Earl Somers, and J. Ensley, and also to listen to three bands. There was the Ledbury Rifle Corps; a brass band, and a fife and drum band. Thomas Bennett, Head Gardener at Upper Hall was frequently asked to judge at other local gardening shows, but on this occasion it was the gardeners from neighbouring houses who carried out judging duties.
The Martins enjoyed their country pursuits, and the Ledbury Hunt regularly held their meets in the grounds; many years later in 1900 the Master of Ledbury Hunt, H.M. Wilson leased Upper Hall for roughly three years.
John Martin was born in 1805, and married Mary Morse with whom he had one daughter, Elinor Traherne. Mary died, and John then married her cousin, Maria Henrietta in 1847 who bore him both sons and daughters. She died in 1865.
In 1875, Elinor Traherne, the eldest daughter of John Martin of Upper Hall, married the Rev. F.W. Holland who was vicar of Evesham, then two years later in August 1877 A.H.Martin, the eldest son married Georgina Maude whose father was the late Colonel G. Haines of the Madras Army. She was also granddaughter of Field Marshal Viscount Gough. They married at Rathronar Church, Clonmel in Ireland.
John Martin dies at Upper Hall 1880
John Martin, banker and former Liberal MP for Tewkesbury died at Upper Hall aged 75. Apart from Upper Hall, he also had properties in London – 68 Lombard Street, and 14 Berkeley Square.
In his Will, he left to his eldest son, Waldyve Alexander Hamilton Martin, all his estates in Herefordshire and Warwickshire except for the mines, minerals, clay and sand. Another son, Hugo Hamilton Martin was left £15,000, and likewise his youngest child when reaching 21. Son John Evan Martin was left £30,000 and his daughters Edith and Ada £17,000 each. Daughters Nora and Frances gained an extra £500, and his eldest daughter Elinor Traherne Holland succeeded under settlement to properties in Colwall and Coddington.
April 1884 – Marriage of Francis Hamilton Martin
The marriage was arranged between Alexander Baillie of Chudleigh, Devon, and Francis Hamilton Martin of Upper Hall, youngest daughter of John Martin deceased; the ceremony taking took place in August the same year. In the press, a lovely happy picture is painted of the couple being showered with slippers and rice as they left for their honeymoon in Scotland, after which the Ledbury Fife and Drum band played for the guests at Upper Hall, whilst the Ledbury church bells pealed merrily for hours.
November 1886 – Marriage announcement for Waldyve A.H. Martin
An announcement was made that a marriage had been arranged between Waldyve A.H. Martin and Miss Francis Hanbury-Williams of Coldbrook Park, Monmouthshire
February 1888 – Marriage of Nora Hamilton Martin
Marriage of Nora Hamilton Martin to Charles Harvey Palairet, at St. Peters, Eaton Square
February 1888 – Auction of rare books from Library at Upper Hall
Sothebys auction many rare books and manuscripts from the libraries of Waldyve .A.H. Martin at Upper Hall. One can only hazard a guess as to why this had been necessary – perhaps the relentless society weddings in the family were taking their toll on the coffers!
1889 – Marriage of John E.H. Martin
Marriage arranged between John E.H. Martin, youngest son of John Martin, and Miss Charlotte Ethel Long, third daughter of the late Richard Penruddocks Long. They married at Bicester in 1889, and immediately after the wedding breakfast, along with many of the party, they hunted with the Bicester Hounds who had especially delayed the time of the Meet.
February 1890 – Elizabeth Barret Browning Memorial in Ledbury
Waldyve Martin in residence at Upper Hall, and proving himself to be an active campaigner for the Elizabeth Barret Browning memorial in Ledbury.
“the large and very quaint Elizabethan market house in Ledbury, built upon sixteen substantial pillars, was crowded to excess by enthusiastic town folk when it was unanimously resolved that a Barrett Browning memorial clock tower should be erected in the centre of the town.
The money raised by the some two and a half thousand people reached around £500 – the same amount again was required, and it was decided that the numberless admirers of the “greatest poetess that ever lived” should be asked to help. Mr. Barrett lived at Hope End, just two miles out of Ledbury and took an active religious and social interest in the town
The plea to the papers:
“may I be allowed to plead in your columns for assistance, and remind your readers that old Ledbury lies nestled neath “those beautiful, beautiful hills”, and that our immediate locality when looking its best in leafy June, certainly suggests the lines engraved on the memories of thousands….
Green the land is where my daily
Steps in jocund childhood played
Dimpled close with hill and valley
Dappled very close with shade
Summer snow of apple blossoms
Running up from glade to glade
Donations could be sent, amongst others, to Waldyve A.H. Martin at Upper Hall.
The money was raised and the memorial Clock tower was built. The building currently houses the public library.
This photo also shows a corner of the market house as mentioned above.
Amongst other talents, Waldyve was an accomplished artist.
May 1893 – Marriage of Hugo Martin
Hugo Martin, second son of the late John Martin, arranges marriage to Mary Cecilia, youngest daughter of the late Captain Coventry, and married in August at Leigh Church near Malvern
August 1895 – Church window memorial for John Martin
Ledbury church reopens after a year of alterations, which included a stained glass East window to the memory of John Martin, and also to his first and second wife, along with the first wife of W.A.H. Martin.
Upper Hall Household and servants 1891
|Waldyve H. Martin||36||J.P. living on own means, b. London|
|Frances Martin||34||Wife b. France (British Subject)|
|George D. Martin||11||Son b. France|
|Alick G. Martin||8||Son b. Ireland|
|Evan H. Martin||7||Son b. Coates, Gloucestershire|
|John H. Martin||1||Son b. Ledbury, Herefordshire|
|Elizabeth Williams||70||Visitor b. Gloucestershire|
|Hellen Dunn||20||Lady’s Maid for above, b. South Cerney, Gloucestershire|
|Lizzie M. Thomson||26||Governess b. India (British Subject)|
|Edwin Carr||34||Butler b. St. Albans, Hertfordshire|
|Ellen Carr||34||Lady’s Maid b. Isle of Wight|
|Jane Atkinson||52||Cook b. Berkshire|
|Henrietta Hicks||25||Nurse b. Leytonstone, Essex`|
|Harriet River||35||Housemaid b. Norfolk|
|Alice Robinson||19||Housemaid b. Leominster, Herefordshire|
|Ellen Stephens||19||Kitchenmaid, b. Ledbury, Herefordshire|
|Mary L. Stidwell||15||Nursemaid b. London|
|Peter Ryan||23||Footman b. Ireland|
|John P. Heath||19||Footman b. Monmouth|
Upper Hall Household and servants 1911
|Waldyve Hamilton Martin||56||Living on private means b. St. Georges, Hanover Square, London|
|Ernest Richard Shakesheff||34||Butler b. Ledbury, Herefordshire|
|Francis Charles Load||19||Domestic Houseboy b. Ledbury, Herefordshire|
|Hannah James||38||Cook b. Shropshire|
|Gertrude Caroline Saunders||23||Kitchenmaid b. Norfolk|
|Edith Elizabeth Craske||34||Housemaid b. Norfolk|
|Mildred Mary Stebbings||19||Housemaid b. Norfolk|
I am fascinated by the fact that out of six servants, three of them came from Norfolk.
During WW1, Upper Hall was turned into a hospital for wounded soldiers, and Waldyve and his wife took an active part in the proceedings.
By 1920, this large and imposing mansion had ended its life as a family residence, and was sold to Herefordshire Council who converted it to what became known as Ledbury Grammar School.
In WW11 it again took on the mantle of hospital for wounded soldiers, after which it was extended and carried on life as a school, including post 1978 when for a time it became part of John Masefield High School, accommodating 11 to 13 year olds.
In the late 1990s, after some years of being neglected, Upper Hall was sold to a London solicitor, who converted it, and all the outbuildings, to private apartments.