The Civil War, railway tunnels, market hall, gas lighting and much more

1645 – The Civil War

During the Civil War, the local families of the Hoptons and the Kyrles favoured Parliament.

On 12th November 1645 – 60 of Scudamore’s Horse were chased through Ledbury by Major Hopton.

Battle of Ledbury

Battle of Ledbury: Prince Rupert fought and beat the Roundheads in a fierce skirmish. (Bullet holes from this battle can still be seen in the oak panelled dining room of the Talbot Hotel.)

1692 – There was a large fire in Ledbury.

1695 – The poor of Ledbury were provided with coal, or money, but in return were forced to wear a “bagge” (badge) which proclaimed “this signifieth that I am reduced to poverty”. Not wearing this badge meant no more money or coal!

1735 – Turnpike Riots.

Several turnpikes were destroyed, there was much violence and some rioters died.

Thomas Reynolds of Ledbury

Thomas Reynolds of Ledbury was executed at Tyburn, and a woman to whom he had shown kindness provided his shroud and coffin once he was cut down. Just before he was to be put in the ground, it was noticed that he was still breathing, and he was given brandy and bled by a surgeon (just what he needed after being hung!), but he died shortly after and was buried by the Oxford Road.

Cloth Making  and Tanning in Ledbury

Cloth making was an important trade, as was tanning with the tan pits being well supplied by the large woods surrounding Ledbury. The Workhouse inmates made pins, and the women of Ledbury made gloves in their own homes.

1824 – Dirty Ledbury

“The Homend in Ledbury from end to end was studded with 20 to 30 dung heaps on either side, the road covered in filth and the drains running on the surface. From the month of October to January, the noise occasioned by the killing of pigs in the High Street, and the danger to passengers from the fires for singeing them deterred travellers from passing through the town”.

By 1831  “the disagreeable practice of slaughtering pigs in the street” had been abolished.

1844 – Ledbury Shops Amend Closing Times

The drapers of Ledbury, along with those in other towns in Herefordshire, agreed to close at 7 in the evening, except for Tuesdays and Saturdays.

The public was asked not to bang on the doors after this time, and it was hoped that grocers and other shopkeepers would follow suit so that the shop assistants could have some sort of life in the evenings!

1844 – Canal Extends to Croom Pitch

The Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal was opened as far as Croom Pitch in January 1844, and immediately that place became a thriving trading place.

It was expected that within a few weeks the canal would be opened as far as Withington within 4 miles of Hereford, which would mean that Herefordians could become regular customers for Staffordshire coal, as well as availing themselves of an easy mode of transport for goods.

1844 – Disturbance in Ledbury

In April 1844, Ledbury residents were woken by shouts of “thieves, robbers……..assistance”, and rushed out fully expecting to discover Rebeccaites or Chartists.

One went armed with a large kitchen poker;  another with a broom, and a third described as being like a Waterloo hero, brandishing a sword and shouting “bring them to me and I’ll run them through”.

When the excitement died down, it was discovered that someone had tried to break into the warehouse of Mr. H. Symonds, a grocer in the High Street;  Mr. Hall, a glazier, whose house was close to Mr. Symonds,  had heard some sort of noise in the yard and gave the alarm, which led to the general panic as described!

The would be thieves had of course long gone, but Mr. Hall worked out that they would go up Church Lane and followed armed with a poker, whereupon he did indeed see one of the thieves, and managed to hit him.  Mr. S. Pedlington held him down, whilst a search was made in the Tanyard, where they found another man under a tan basket.  A third was eventually tracked down.

The three thieves were notorious young hooligans, aged only around 12 or 13, by the names of Hoare, Lane and Brydges.  Sadly there was not enough evidence to convict them of theft, but nevertheless Hoare and Lane were sent to prison for two months as rogues and vagabonds, whilst Brydges was lucky to be discharged.

1844 – Ledbury Butcher Outwitted

A certain butcher found a large dog in his shop, which had torn and spoiled the breasts of a calf which was hanging there.

After asking around, he discovered that the dog belonged to a professional gentleman who lived nearby, so off went the butcher to his house where he was asked in.

The butcher said that he had “come to have a little of his advice, if agreeable”.

The man replied, “quite agreeable, have the kindness to state your case”.

The butcher then proceeded to relate the tale of the dog, and the professional chap listened and then asked how much was the damage to the meat.

The reply was “four shillings and sixpence”, and the money was instantly paid.  The happy butcher walked away in triumph, but then heard a voice……. “Stop, you have to pay me six shillings and eightpence for my advice”

Imagine, reader, a sky all brightness and sunshine, and then think of its being suddenly overspread with clouds and darkness;  thus may you be able to form some idea of the transformation which came over the butcher’s face;  the knight of the cleaver walked away muttering unutterable things!

1845 – John Biddulp Interred in Ledbury Church

John Biddulph’s coffin was placed amongst his ancestors in the family vault in Ledbury church after a simple funeral.

He was remembered as a rich but very good man, who would be dreadfully missed by many including the poor of the town who had lost one of their greatest friends and benefactors.

Most of the shops and houses in Ledbury closed their shutters, and a feeling of genuine grief engulfed the town.

1845 – Child burnt to Death in Workhouse

Thomas Saunders, a young boy and inmate of the Ledbury Union Workhouse, was burnt to death when his clothes caught fire.

1847 – Ledbury gets Gas Lights

On the first Sunday in January 1847 the newly installed gas lights in Ledbury were lit for the first time:

“The town changed from heaviness and gloom to cheerfulness and light.  The event was hailed by feelings of unanimous joy throughout the whole of the town, and notwithstanding the sacredness of  the day, the bells commenced their gayest notes immediately on the completion of the illumination”

This new lighting was considered to be the first step in the improvement of Ledbury, however in 1862 the lights were no longer being lit due to a disagreement between the inspectors.

The suggestion of a rate was not well received, but three men, nameley G. Masefield, V. Barber and R. Edy formed a committe for canvassing Ledbury for subscriptions for lighting the lamps, of which there were 40, from early September to the beginning of December, when a rate would be made.

The amount needed was £37, and the committee were confident that the money would be quickly raised, by which time it was hoped that the rows that caused the darkness in Ledbury would have blown over.

1854 – Mail Cart from Ledbury to Hereford

The discontinuation of the London Mail coach from Hereford to Ledbury caused a great deal of inconvenience, and efforts were being made to establish a new Mail Cart to go From Ledbury to Hereford each morning, returning each evening.

1857 – Ledbury Market Hall Crumbling

Ledbury Market Hall was so dilapidated that it was in danger of falling down, but only £62 of the £250 needed had been raised.  An appeal was sent out to the 16,000 people in and around the Ledbury area.

1857 – Small Pox in Ledbury

Small Pox was very prevalent in 1857 in Ledbury and the surrounding area.  The Guardians set about putting up large posters to inform people of the free vaccination available.

1857 – Man Suffocates on Canal Boat at Ledbury

Alfred Dowling, aged around 16, was working for William Greenway the owner of a canal boat.

One evening after rather a lot to drink, Alfred lit a fire in the fore deck of his master’s boat which was lying in the canal near to Bye Street bridge, Ledbury.  The warmth from the fire plus the effects of drink soon sent him to sleep, and during the night someone closed the hatchway lid, confining the poor chap to a tiny unventilated space.

When the hatchway was opened next morning, Alfred was still alive…….just, but in spite of attentions from a surgeon, he died shortly afterwards.

1858 – The Railway Line at Ledbury Progresses

The works on the railway line near to Homend turnpike, Ledbury were progressing well with more than 80 men being employed.

The ballast had been made for some distance, the the considerable hight of the embankment could clearly be seen from the Hereford road.

1859 – The Railway Works at Ledbury

Contractors of the Worcester and Hereford Railway were working as fast as they could;  sheds and shopping for the use of masons, smiths etc. were being built next to the canal and adjoining the railway works, whilst huge machinery for making mortar etc. was being brought in.

A great many men were being employed on the building of the railway, and it was thought that work on the “monster viaducts” would soon commence.

1861 – The Ledbury Railway Tunnel Opens

An engine went through the tunnel for the first time, gaily decorated with flags and people from Ledbury along with the contractors, happily celbrated the event with copious amounts of sherry!

However, although the engine went through the tunnel very carefully and slowly, the two front wheels came off the line,  (trains to this day have to be extremely cautious when negotiating this tunnel), but as there were so many workmen around they soon had it back on the tracks.  The engine worked thereafter, taking soil from the Eastnor end of the tunnel to the viaduct at Ledbury.

In the same week, part of the Colwall Tunnel fell in, burying several men who were bricking part of the tunnel at No. 3 shaft.  Two men were dug out alive, but it was thought that another man was dead.

1863 – Railway Accident at Ledbury

One of the trucks of a goods train running from Hereford to Lebury, came off the rails at the Bush Pitch cutting by the viaduct, and was dragged for a distance until the driver stopped the train.  He uncoupled the truck and attaching it separately to the engine, took it into Ledbury station yard, leaving the rest of the train on the track near to the viaduct.

Meanwhile, at Ashperton station, Mr. Makepeace neglected to stop another train even though he had not received the signal of “line clear” from Ledbury, and this train approached the stationary trucks at the viaduct with great speed.  The driver, Mr. Bridgeman saw the trucks at the last minute, and shutting off the steam, reversed the engine then jumped off onto the embankment as did the stoker and guard – thankfully none of them were hurt.

A terrible crash then took place, with the engine being wrecked as well as the guard’s van and four or five trucks.  The line was torn up for two or three lengths of metal and the cost of the crash was estimated at between £600 and £700 pounds.

1860 – New Cemetery in |Ledbury

Messrs. McCann and Averal, builders from Great Malvern had their tender accepted for the erection of chapels and a sexton’s residence at this cemetery, and the Ledbury Burial Board requested that work should be commenced immediately.

1862 – Freemasonry in Ledbury

Freemasonry was making much progress in Herefordshire, and Lodges had been established in Hereford, Ross, Leominster and Ledbury, and were progressing very satisfactorily.

The brethren were getting reading to celebrate the centenary anniversary of the Hereford Palladian Lodge in October.


In Brief:

During the nineteenth century there were five coopers; four tanners; six maltsters; three curriers; ten boot makers, one portrait painter and seven schools.