The Butcher Row in Ledbury stood in the middle of the High Street stretching from the Lower Cross to
near St Katherine's Chapel. The 'Row' of fifteen buildings had grown from the pitches of the medieval market stalls. Initially
consisting of little more than
a workspace with storage above, they grew to include living accommodation with greater facilities.
N.B. North is not necessarily at the top of the maps. Early map makers didn't concern themselves with orientation!
As the name suggests the main trade was butchery which was mostly
carried out at the end facing the Homend where a convenient stream ran down Church
Street into Bye Street, a useful conduit for waste. The animals to be slaughtered were kept in a pound near
the bottom of Church Lane and were brought out to be despatched outside, or even inside,
the butchers shop. Not a pretty sight.
As the years went by other trades moved in to include a milliner, barber and public house called 'The Rising Sun'.
A weighing machine was situated just outside St Katherine's chapel. Picture a row of houses today in the
space in front of the Market House and you will get some idea of the cramped space available for passing traffic.
And this was the main route from Gloucester to Hereford!
A painting showing the
view from the Upper Cross toward the Butcher Row.
A correspondent in the Hereford Journal graphically describes the scene in the early part of
the nineteenth century.
On entering the town of Ledbury by the Hereford Road, the whole of the long road called the Homend
from one end to the other was on
each side studded with dung heaps...that at the Lower Cross, the passage between the houses on each
side was so narrow that two carriages could not pass, that the projecting spouts on each side left
no escape for a passenger in wet weather, and that a foot-passenger passing at the same time with
a waggon was in danger of his life, indeed several persons have lost their lives in that place.
Clearly an undesirable state of affairs and as early as 1813 the Parish Council was making efforts to secure its removal.
A note in the Parish Book states:
And Whereas the Avenue leading from the High Street to the Homend is extremely dangerous
to passengers by reason of its narrowness & it having been represented at their meeting that the Lords of the Manor
are willing to remove the house belonging to them called the Tollshop and which is one of the projections that tends
to render the road unsafe....
A subscription was set up in 1820, to collect weekly sums from one penny upwards, to form a fund
for purchasing the properties but made little progress either through lack of funds
or refusal to sell, but some improvements were made as a report in 1823 shows:
From the Hereford Journal 31st December 1823
..............Now the scene is quite changed, there are no dung heaps to be seen in the streets,
the street at the Lower Cross has been widened by the removal of several houses in the Butcher Row,
( and more will come down when funds can be obtained for that purpose)...
Seven years passed and there were still problems!
From Hereford Journal 10th November 1830:
Many of our readers who have been in the habit of passing through Ledbury must have
regretted that the buildings called the Butcher Row should have been so long permitted to remain an
obstruction to the road and a nuisance to the inhabitants. Some years since eight of the houses in various
parts of the Row were removed... but from want of funds seven remained....
By 1834 the patience of the promoters for change was exhausted and it was decided to seek an Act of
Parliament to enable what would today be called compulsory purchase.
It didn't take long for Parliament to pass the Act and it received Royal Assent on 13th April
GULIELMI is Latin for William, the Act was made during the fifth year (QUINTO) of the reign of King William the 4th
The preamble tells us that there were fifteen properties originally in the Butcher Row
and that eight had already been taken down leaving seven to be dealt with and these
were detailed in the schedule shown below.
It was a requirement of the Act that the accounts be declared publicly at the end of each year and
that there should be a public meeting on the 3rd Monday in January
The first set of accounts dated 31 Dec 1835 show that the following purchases were made:
£ 230 for No 3 Mr Bellers.
£ 450 for No 4 Mr R Millard.
£ 340 for No 6 John Cale.
£ 180 for No 7 Mr Pools (Deceased, purchased from his Estate).
More purchases were made in 1836 as the end of that year accounts show:
£ 500 for No 1 John Webbs
£ 10 for Weighing Machine
£ 64 6s 7d for plot of land
(No's 2 and 5 had already been purchased)
The fourth accounts in 1838 show an interesting receipt:
Letting site of the Butcher Row, per the surveyor of the Highways: £ 2 2s 0d
After 25 years the Row had become a Highway.
There was a brisk demand for the 'Materials' of the houses once they were pulled down:
Mr Timothy Spencer paid £ 13 for No 2 'The Butcher Row Removal Society's House', £ 25 for No 4 Mr Millard's House
and £ 40 for No 5 'The Butcher Row Removal Society's House'.
Mr John Ford paid £ 56 14s for No 6 & 7.
Mr Alfred Allgood paid £ 34 10s for No 3 Mr Bellers's House.
It is very fortunate that George Wargent 1825-1909 wrote a booklet in 1905 'Recollections of Ledbury'.
He would have been 11 when the removal of the Butcher Row was completed and could obviously remember
it as it was at that time. Here is the Butcher Row section from the book:
The Butchers' Row stood in the middle of the High Street reaching from the Lower Cross to near St Katherine's Chapel.
There were about eight shops in the row including several butchers. The first was a straw bonnet makers and bookbinders
shop on the same premises, the proprietor being a Mr Tranter. Mr John Cale, butcher, was next door, and then came an
open space where 'tumbling shows' were erected, a great attraction in those days. The next building was a butcher's
shop, the last to carry the business on being a man called Daniel Webb. Adjoining this was a public house called
'The Rising Sun'. There was hardly a block of houses without a pub. Another blank space separated the inn from a
fish shop and small bakery kept by a Mrs Bayliss. Next door was the indispensable barber's shop where basket making
was also carried on. Part of that establishment is now situated at the back of Meacham's the Chemists.
Then came the end house with frontage facing up the High Street. This was a butcher's shop kept by Mr John Webb.
Here there was a driving way into St Katherine's the then residence of Canon Underwood. The driving way separated
the last house in Butchers' Row from a weighing machine which was located near the site where the water tank was
situated opposite St Katherine's Chapel.
Using this together with extracts from an 1835 Pigot's Directory for Ledbury and the Schedule referred to in the Act it is possible to
build a good picture of the activities in the Row. The author
is walking up the High Street from Lower Cross and the gaps he refers to are
obviously where some of the houses had been pulled down earlier than he could remember.
(The Act states there were fifteen originally)
The numbering of the properties in the Schedule is opposite to that used by George Wargent and starts at the end furthest
from Lower Cross, I am using the same numbering here:
No 1, facing High Street, occupied by John Webb, Butcher in all references.
No 3, Occupied by Elizabeth Bayliss. A fishmonger and baker according to Mr Wargent,
fishmonger and dealer in game according to Pigot.
No 4, Occupied by Elizabeth Johnson. Landlady of the 'Rising Sun' according to Mr Wargent, just named 'The Sun' from Pigot.
No 5, Occupied by James Cale, according to the Schedule, a butcher in Pigot's Directory. Occupied by By Daniel Webb,
butcher, according to Mr Wargent.
No 6, Occupied by John Cale, butcher, in all references.
No 7, Occupied by Enoch Tranter. Bookbinder and straw hat maker according to Mr Wargent, bookbinder and shoe dealer
A typical 19C Weighing Machine
The weighing machine and machine house is described as being just after the drive to St Katherine's and I am assuming this drive
is where the telephone boxes are.
It must have been situated at the High Street facing end of St Katherine's Chapel, where the Postbox is.