A History of Leominster, Herefordshire
The town of Leominster, is these days renowned for its large number of antique shops, but there is a
high degree of antiquity in the town itself. Below is a history of
the town & and a handy map & town guide is presented below.
Leominster lies in the heart of the Marches, the beautiful and
historic borderlands of England and Wales. The town dates from the
7th Century, and its name (pronounced Lemster) may derive from
Leofric, Earl of Hereford and husband to Lady Godiva.The town's
strategic position has made it vulnerable to attack, and it was held
by both the Welsh and the Danes before being taken for Edward the
Confessor by Harold Godwinson (later King Harold). In 1461 the
decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, the battle of Mortimers
Cross, took place a few miles from the town.
Despite the area's turbulent history, Leominster prospered in the
medieval period. The town's wealth arose primarily from the wool
trade, owing to the superlative quality of the wool of its local
Ryeland sheep. The fleeces came to be known as 'Lempster Ore'
Much of the town centre still retains its medieval and Tudor flavour
- narrow streets and half timbered houses with jetted out
overhanging first storeys. School Lane, Drapers Lane and High Street
all contain good examples of such buildings. Church Street and Etnam
Street boast the wide streets and gracious terraces of the Georgian
A magnificently carved building of 1633 by John Abel, The King's
carpenter. Formerly the Town Hall situated where Burgess street and
Broad Street meet. Dismantled in 1852 by Act of Parliament to remove
traffic obstructions. It was sold by auction in 1853 for £95.00. Re-sold for the same price on the same day it was later re-erected
on its present site as a private home. It became Council Offices in
1938/39 to prevent its export to the USA.
The Chequers Inn
Certainly dating from around 1600 and possibly going as far as 1480,
this is one of England's finest examples of an early timber framed
Hester Clark's Almshouses
Founded in 1735 for 'four decayed widows" this unusually decorated
building has on its face a foundation plaque and a whimsical figure
of an axeman with lines "He that give away all before he is dead,
let them take this hatchet and knock him on ye head".
The Priory Church
A nunnery in 660 A.D. it was rebuilt in the 12th century. The unique
tower has work of early Norman, Transitional, Early English,
Decorated and Perpendicular periods. The reformation of 1539 led to
partial destruction. Inside are many fine features including
England's last used ducking stool and a beautiful 15th century
Formerly the Red Lion Hotel, an important coaching inn and wagon
centre. It still carries one of the stone lions at roof level. The
elegant ballroom has been restored to Regency glory by the present
owners. In 1808 mail coaches went to Bristol and Holyhead delivering
letters en route faster than today's service.
Built in 1284, this chapel was later dedicated to Thomas a Becket.
It contains some fine medieval roof timbers. In the 19th Century it
served as a rather unlikely music hall for the town.
7. The Three Horseshoes
Situated in Corn Square market place, this plain timbered building
combines with the gift shop across School lane in a perfect medieval
The Old Priory Hospital
Originally the Infirmary & Reredorter of the Benedictine Priory. As
part of the once great monastic complex it still portrays the wealth
and strength of the Church of those times.
Looking along the narrow street the typically medieval steep roofs
and deep jetties, hidden when walking along the street itself, can
be seen to advantage. The town retains much of its ancient road
patterns and purity of character.
A Tudor house lies behind 1850 Gothic exterior. Once Safferton House
and renamed after John Dutton, 6 times MP for Leominster, who
acquired it in 1670. Opposed to Catholic King James II he was tried
for treason in 1684 and fined £10,000. He hid in a secret chamber
within the existing Tudor fireplace.