War Memorial

Ledbury war memorial commemorates the dead of two World Wars. In a central position opposite Market House, the memorial was constructed in two stages at the end of each war. It was first unveiled on Sunday 5 December 1920.

The stone is oolitic limestone with granite plaques for the names inscribed.

On the lower First World War section are mosaic pictures of an angel, a soldier and a seaman. On the Second World War upper addition is a decorated tile picture of an airman.

Market House

Market House, Ledbury
In 1617 a group of local citizens bought some property ‘at or near a place called the Corner End’ and here John Abel built the new Market Hall, also known as Lower or Wheat Market, nowadays Market House.

Upon 16 oak pillars, The Market House has a room above. An old deed directs "that the rent of the Market House shall be expended in providing yearly twelve coats or gowns for twelve poor persons of Ledbury, to be delivered every year at Christmas at the direction and appointment of the Rector and Churchwardens".

When the Market House was built, a shop was made under the staircase leading to the upper part of the building and which was let at about £2 a year. However “ in consequence of its situation rendering it a public nuisance, and that by serving as a wall for the playing at fives", it encouraged the resort of idle and disorderly persons, particularly on Sundays so it was removed by order of the Vestry, August 16th, 1818.

A long running dispute as to whether the stilts were constructed of Oak or Spanish Chestnut was decided in the 1980s when one of the supports had to be partially replaced. Analysis of the removed timber proved that they are made of Oak. Earlier major work was carried out in the Victorian times when a change of use to a town hall and meeting room was proposed. Much of what you can see today dates from that time, when the present windows, staircase, floor and staging were put in. Other restoration works were carried out in 1939, the 1970s and 1980s, but the most recent were in 2006, when it was discovered there was something seriously wrong with the stilts. Wood had become infested with insects, notably boring wasps, with further decay from rot. Building technology made it possible to strengthen the stilts while maintaining the 17th Century structural framework: the Market House was raised off the ground a full 600 mm to allow the builders to scrape out the damaged wood from the insides of the bases and the lower part of the supports, and replace with a mixture of lime/grout mortar, strong enough to take the load of the building, which was then lowered back onto its base.

When the Market House was built, a shop was made under the staircase leading to the upper part of the building and which was let at about £2 a year.

However “ in consequence of its situation rendering it a public nuisance, and that by serving as a wall for the playing at fives", it encouraged the resort of idle and disorderly persons, particularly on Sundays so it was removed by order of the Vestry, August 16th, 1818

Tomb of King's Carpenter

John Abel (1578/9 - 1675) was an English carpenter and mason, granted the title of 'King's Carpenter', who was responsible for several notable structures in the ornamented Half-timbered construction typical of the West Midlands.

John Abel was born in Sarnesfield, Herefordshire. He was a Catholic recusant, along with his wife Johanna. (A 'recusant' is a person who refuses to submit to an authority or to comply with a regulation; historically a Roman Catholic in England who refused to attend services of the Church of England.) In 1618 he was brought before a church court to answer for his recusancy and also for his secret marriage to Johanna. The case against him was eventually dismissed, but his name can be found on a list of Catholic recusants from 1640

One of his first commissions was to provide a new roof for Vowchurch Church in 1613. He built the Town Hall at Brecon in 1624 and 10 years later the Market Hall at Leominster. On 20 August 1625 Abel signed a contract to build Lady Hawkins' Grammar School at Kington, for which he was to receive £240. All that survives today are some ceiling beams and a window. His fame was taken a stage further in 1633, when he signed a contract for the rebuilding and repair of Dore Abbey. A century of indifference over the fate of this Cistercian monastery had left it in a sorry state, but Abel was more than up to the challenge - finding, felling and using the timber all in five months.

In 1634 he built the splendid Leominster Town Hall, which stood as a testament to Abel's expertise for 222 years. In 1855 the town council took it down and offered it for sale. It aroused little interest and was sold for £95. Then the MP for Leominster, John Arkwright, bought it for the same sum and offered it back to the council if it would agree to re-erect it. They refused, however, and it was eventually re-built as a private house, known as The Grange, on a site near the Priory Church. It remained privately owned until the 1930s, when a more caring council, alert to the possibility of it being sold to America, bought it for £3,000 and today remains a source of civic pride in Leominster.

Other notable buildings constructed by Abel included the timber-framed market hall in Kington, which was taken down in 1820 and replaced. Then came Monnington Court, which still stands today, and the rebuilding of Brampton Bryan church in 1656.

The honour of King's Carpenter was bestowed on Abel for his efforts in 1645 when the Scots laid siege to the city of Hereford, which was defended by Barnabas Scudamore? The Scots had succeeded in destroying the powder mill on which the garrison depended for ammunition. But Abel's ingenuity in making hand mills saved the day - Hereford was able to hold out and the King himself raised the siege by riding into the city.

Abel married twice, but there is no record of his second wife except on his table tomb in Sarnesfield. He had one son, named John, who later became churchwarden of Sarnesfield

Abel died in January 1675 and was buried at Sanesfield on 31 January. He was 97 years old. He wrote his own epitaph and built his own tomb. His tombstone read:

"This craggy Stone covering is for an Architector's Bed
That lofty Buildings raised high, yet now lyes low His Head
His line and Rule, So Death concludes, are locked up in Store
Build they that [who] list, or they that wist, for He can Build no More
His House of Clay could Hold no Longer
May Heavens joy frame (build) Him a Stronger
Vive ut vivas in vitam aeternam."
—John Abel