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Leominster, Herefordshire

Historical Description

Leominster (popularly Lempster), a market-town, a municipal borough, the head of a poor-law union, petty sessional division and county court district, and a parish in Herefordshire. The town stands in a fertile valley, on the river Lugg, at the influx of the Pinsley, Kenwater, and the Arrow, and at the commencement of the Leominster Canal, 13 miles N of Hereford, and 157 distant by rail from London. It has a station on the Shrewsbury and Hereford Joint (L. & N.W. and G.W.) railway, and on the Leominster, Kington, and Presteign branch of the G.W. E. Its name is supposed to be a compound of either leof, signifying " beloved," or feo, signifying 'l lion," and minster, signifying " a large or monastic church," and was written at Domesday Leofminstre. The prefix leof appears to have been the true one, and was used by the Saxons, while the prefix leo seems to have been a corruption, introduced by writers of the middle ages. A monastery, with large church or minster, was founded at the town, and a castle or palace half a mile to the E about the year 658 by Merewald, King of West Mercia. The monastery, together with almost all the houses which had been built around it or near it was destroyed in 777 by the Danes assisted by the Welsh. The monastery was afterwards rebuilt as a college or priory, became a cell to Reading Abbey, was notable for the preaching of the Crusade in it in 1187 by Baldwin and Giraldus; was further notable for two of its monks, William and John of Leominster, who were natives of the town, and made some figure in history; was given with the manor by James I. to Villiers, subsequently underwent many changes, and was eventually in 1836 incorporated with the workhouse. The castle, in consequence of its vicinity to the Welsh marches, had much military importance, was taken by the Danes in 777 at the time when they destroyed the monastery, was taken again in 1055 by the Welsh and refort.ified, was retaken by Harold and made the place of a garrison, and was refortified by William Rufns, but seems to have soon afterwards become useless. The town was held in the time of Edward the Confessor by Queen Editha, was burnt in the time of John by William de Braose, was held by Owen Glendower after his victory over the Earl of March, whom he made a prisoner in a house in Church Street; submitted to Prince Henry, afterwards Henry V., on his defeat of Glendower in 1404 at Ivington camp; took an active part in the cause of Mary against the partisans of Lady Jane Grey, and defeated them in 1553 at Cursneh Hill; and was taken in 1643 by Waller and retaken in 1645 by Charles I. Price, the local historian, was a native of the town. It gave the title of Baron Lempster to the Fermors, Earls of Pomfret, which title became extinct in 1867.

The town comprises one long principal street running nearly N and S, and four or five others going on" at right angles, and the streets for the most part are spacious and handsome. A few of the houses are ancient, built of timber, ornamented with grotesque carvings, plastered and painted white and black, but most are modern. A stone bridge and a light iron one span the Kenwater. The Town-hall was built in 1856, is in the Italian style, 156 feet long by 48 wide, has over the centre a lofty cupola and clock-turret, and contains a council-chamber 45 feet long and 30 wide. The Market-house adjoins the town-hall, is 125 feet long, 40 wide, and upwards of 22 high, and has a corrugated galvanised iron roof supported on two rows of iron pillars. The Butter-cross stood on the site of the new market-house; was built in 1633 by John Abel, "the king's carpenter;" was a curious and beautiful example of Tudor timber-work, with twelve carved oak pillars, arches, shields, and various carved devices; was taken down in 1855 to give effect to the town-hall and to afford space for the market-house; and has been re-erected as a private dwelling-house on a large open space called the Grange. The Corn Exchange was erected in 1859, and contains a large hall. The old borough gaol is now used as a drill-hall for the volunteers. The county police station stands on the site of the old theatre, and was enlarged in 1883 by the addition of a magistrates' room. The parish church, or church of St Peter and St Paul, is a spacious irregularly-constructed edifice; includes a Norman nave, part of the original priory, and two collateral naves, one of which was erected in 1239 and now forms the nave proper, and the furthermost is of the Decorated period; there is a massive NW tower of four stages and a S porch. It contains some fine windows and a beautiful modern font. The church was partly destroyed by fire in 1699. A restoration was commenced in 1864 by Sir Gilbert Scott, and was completed in 1894. In the churchyard are monuments to members of the Kemble family. The chapel of Le Forbury is an ancient structure in the Pointed style, has a good E window, was used for a long time as a place of worship, was afterwards converted into a national school, and is now used as a place of business. There are Roman Catholic, Baptist, Moravian, Wesleyan, and Primitive Methodist chapels, and meetinghouses for Plymouth Brethren and the Society of Friends, almshouses, orphan homes, and a workhouse.

The town has a head post office and three banks, and publishes a weekly newspaper. A weekly market is held on Friday, a great market on the first Friday in each month, and fairs on 13 Feb., the Tuesday after Mid-Lent Sunday, 2 May, second Friday in June, 29 June, 10 July, 4 Aug., 4 Sept., the Monday before third Wednesday in Oct., 8 Nov., and the Friday after 11 Dec. A good trade is carried on in corn, hops, cider, timber, wool, cattle, and sheep. Some industry is carried on in malting, wool stapling, tanning, and coarse cloth making; and there are an implement manufactory, an iron and brass foundry, corn mills, and brickfields. The town sent two members to Parliament from the time of Edward I. till 1867; from 1867 to 1885 it had one member, and in the latter year its representation was merged in that of the northern or Leominster division of the county. The borough has a commission of the peace, and is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors. It is divided into two wards. Population, 5675.

The parish is divided into in-parish, conterminate with the old borough and forming the town proper, and out-parish, containing the townships of Broadward and Brierly-Eaton, Hennor, and Stretford-Ivington, Hide Ash, and Wintercott -Newtown, Stagbatch, and Cholstrey-and Wharton-and including the ecclesiastical parish of Ivington, formed out of these townships. Acreage of the in-parish, 838; population, 4588; of the out-parish, 7890; population, 1087; population of the ecclesiastical parish of Leominster, 4968; of that of Ivington, 707. The manor went from the Villierses to Martin the regicide and others, passed to the Coniugsbye, and belongs now to the Arkwright family of Hampton Court. A racecourse of about a mile, on flat ground, was near the town, and races were held on it in August; but it was intersected by the Shrewsbury and Hereford railway, and the races were discontinued. Cursneh, Eaton, and Croft Ambrey Hills command fine views. Ancient camps are at Cursneh Hill and Ivington. The parochial living rs a vicarage, and that of Ivington also is a vicarage, in the diocese of Hereford; net value of the former, £273 with residence; gross value of the latter, £317. Patron of the former, the Lord Chancellor; of the latter, the Vicar of Leominster.

Leominster Parliamentary Division, or Northern Herefordshire, was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 45, 810. The division includes the following:- Bredwardine-Blakemere, Bredwardine, Clifford, Cusop, Dor-stone, Moccas, Preston-on-Wye, Whitney, Willersley, Win-forton; Bromyard-Avenbury, Bishop's Frome, Bredenbnry, Bromyard, Collington, Cowarne (Little), Cowarne (Much), Cradley, Edwin Ralph, Evesbatch, Felton, Grendon Bishop, Grendon Warren, Hampton Charles, Linton, Lower Brock-hampton, Moreton Jefferies, Norton-with-Brockhampton, Ode Pitchard, Pencombe, Saltmarsh, Sapey (Upper), Stanford Bishop, Stoke Bliss, Stoke Lacy, Tedstone Delamere, Tedstone Wafer, Thornbury, Ullingswick, Wacton, Whit-bourne, Winslow, Wolferlow; Leominster-Bodenham, Brim-field, Croft, Docklow, Eye, Dyton, Ford, Hampton Wafer, Hatfield, Hope-under-Dinmore, Humber, Kimbolton, Kings-land, Laysters, Leominster (Borough), Leominster (Out Parish), Little Hereford, Lncton, Ludford, Luston, Middleton-on-the-Hill, Monkland, New Hampton, Newton, Orleton, Pudleston, Richard's Castle (part of), Stoke Prior, Yarpole; Kington-Brilley, Byton, Coombe, Eardisley, Harpton (Lower), Huntington, Kington, Kinsham (Lower), Kinsham (Upper), Knill, Letton, Lyonshall, Pembridge, Rodd Nash and Little Brampton, Stapleton and Frog Street, Staunton-on-An-ow, Titley; Weobley-Almeley, Birley, Bishopstone, Bridge Sol-lars, Brinsop, Brobury, Byford, Dilwyn, Eardisland, Kinners-ley, Letton, Mansell Gamage, Mansell Lacy, Monnington-on-Wye, Stretford, Weobley, Wormsley, Yazor; Wigmore- Adforton, Stanway, Haytoe and Grange; Aston, Aymestry, Brampton Brian, Bnckton and Coxall, Burrington, Downton, Eiton, Leinthall Starkes, Leintwardine, Lingen, Shobdon; Walford, Letton and Newton; Wigmore, Willey; Leominster, municipal borough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyHerefordshire 
Ecclesiastical parishLeominster St. Peter and St. Paul 
Poor Law unionLeominster 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Leominster from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Herefordshire is available to browse.


Online maps of Leominster are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Herefordshire newspapers online:

RegionWest Midlands
Postal districtHR6
Post TownLeominster