About Ledbury History Society
Hello, I’m Michael Lever, born in 1949 in London, I’ve lived in Ledbury since 1993. A self-employed commercial property surveyor, I specialise in rent review and business tenancy advice for landlords and retailers in England and Wales. Having started my career in commercial property in 1967, I established my practice in 1975. As well as advising clients, I contribute to professional wisdom and market intelligence through research and writing about shop property and retailing; my articles, opinions and comments appear in numerous journals, newspapers, and websites, and my work is mentioned in text books for practitioners. With more than 45 years experience, in short, shops are my field.
Essentially, the work I do is about change and how to capitalise on opportunities that arise. Successful retailing is about providing what customers want now, but the big profits come from anticipating what people will want in future and being there to provide it. Successful investment is also about the future. When one is paid for advice, original and in-depth forward-thinking is vital. I find it helps to have an interest in a range of subjects and wider experience in order to have a deep understanding of the forces at work. Amongst subjects I’m particularly keen on are healing, counselling, photography, town planning, marketing, and local history.
When you move to somewhere new, as I did more from London to a rural area, one way to discover how a place works is to use spare-time to voluntarily contribute to the community.
Since moving to Ledbury more than 20 years ago, I’ve served on committees of local organisations including Membership Secretary of the Friends of the Dymock Poets, President of Ledbury Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of Ledbury Carnival Association, and Secretary of Ledbury Badminton Club. For six years, I helped run my wife's shop in a Grade II Listed building in Homend Mews, trading as The Rice Cake organic grocer and Muse Organix, the skin-care centre; we introduced many leading brands to Ledbury, and the popularity of the venture inspired other local traders to copy our ideas. In 2009, I launched Ledbury Camera Club and even though more than 50 people attended an inaugural meeting and 15 people joined, including four members of the Royal Photographic Society, for various reasons I ended the venture the following year.
From September 2009 until May 2011, I was Chairman and Director of Ledbury and District Society Trust Ltd: a civic society and registered charity that is responsible for many of the embellishments that make Ledbury what it is today. In the world outside Ledbury, I am a trustee of a Grade II listed mixed-user building in Islington, North London.
For me, having a knowledge of the local history helps a place come alive.
Unlike national history which provides an overall framework, local history provides a sense of place. Fascinating and stimulating, invariably always something new to learn, local history can answer questions such as how did the place originate, what was here before, why is a particular building where it is, what is the meaning of a particular street name, who built that, and so on. Because local history is a vast subject, it helps to have a theme to focus on. For me, the built-environment is the most interesting subject, not only because photographically it is fixed, which makes it an ideal subject for those of us that rarely take photos of anything that moves, but 'streetscape' familiarity is often taken for granted, even though it can be here today and gone tomorrow. It doesn't take much for the dynamics of the built-environment to change. A building is demolished or erected, a row of properties pulled down to make way for a new development, a shop changes hands and its fascia; all of a sudden a view that might have been the same for years is no more.
History is continually in the making, a consequence of each new experience, whether involving one's own life or the lives of others or a combination of both. In the built-environment, the process of change is either a shock, for example a natural disaster; or an accident, a one-off event; or a product of town planning, an announcement of intent followed by a written procedure resulting in a decision and an outcome that might alter the course of history.
In 1992, when I moved to Ledbury from London, one of the first things I did in order to get to know Ledbury was to photograph many of the buildings in the town centre. Fast-forward to now, Ledbury has experienced numerous changes. From old-established shopkeepers that are no more, to the completion of the New Mills Housing Estate, the closure of The Cottage Hospital, to the restoration of the Master's House. In the offing is a proposed redevelopment of the Lawnside Road complex, the redevelopment of the cricket ground for housing, also building of new homes on surrounding farmland. Take a photograph of a field of crops now and it might not seem that interesting but in future it might be covered with bricks and mortar, who knows.
For a trip down memory lane between the 1900s and 1970s the popular website Old Ledbury is a fascinating resource. For those of us who are newcomers, we are nevertheless as part of the history of the Ledbury as those who were born and bred here. The indigenous people are known as Ledburians and, nowadays, in the minority. As an incomer, I have been emotionally touched by the number of Ledburians who have extended warm friendship, shared knowledge and anecdotes and helped me learn about the history of Ledbury, thank you.
I hope you enjoy browsing Ledbury History Society.