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St Michael and All Angels, Ledbury, Herefordshire

(52°2′13″N, 2°25′11″W)
SO 713 377
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Herefordshire
now Herefordshire
medieval Hereford
now Hereford
  • Ron Baxter
29 June 1990, 03 May 2005, 14 April 2016

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Ledbury is a town in the E of the county, situated 12 miles E of Hereford at the foot of the Malvern Hills whose ridge, 3 miles to the E, forms the border with Worcestershire. The town stands on the river Leadon, a tributary of the Severn. Prehistoric flints have been found around the town, and Wall Hills and Kilbury, on the outskirts of the town, are Iron Age hillforts. Two miles to the W a Roman road (now the A417) runs NW from Gloucester to Leominster. At nearby Putley is the site of a Roman villa and there have been numerous finds of Roman pottery.

St Michael’s has an aisled nave with six-bay arcades, and a chancel with two-bay arcades giving to north and south chapels. To the north of the north chapel is St Katherine’s chapel, added c.1330. To the north of the nave is a free-standing tower of c.1230-40 with a tall spire behind a battlemented parapet. The chronology of this large and complex building begins in the 12thc, and two 12thc phases can be distinguished. The earlier phase, c.1150, includes the bases of the four west piers of the north nave arcade, a turret doorway to the north of the main west doorway (only visible inside), and the chancel walls. The chapel arcades belong to this phase, and the round-headed windows to the east of them, and probably the oculi of the clerestorey too, although they are out of phase with the arcade. On the outside of the lateral walls the corbel tables remain, now inside the much-heightened aisles. The chancel corbel tables that are actually outside the church, to the east of the chapels, are higher and later. The nave arcades were apparently replaced at the end of the 12thc, and of this work the east and west responds remain, with some keeled shafts and more complex scallop capitals, including some trumpet scallops. The elaborate west doorway is of this period too. It stands in the centre of the original facade, flanked by shafted buttresses carrying square turrets, also shafted at the angles, with pyramidal roofs. The north buttress conceals a stair. By 1200, then, the church was as long as it is today, and had an aisled nave and chancel chapels. The sequence of events after this seems to have begun in the mid-13thc on the north side with the rebuilding of the north aisle and chapel, presumably wider than before, and the construction of the free-standing bell-tower. The south aisle and chapel were similarly widened c.1300 or shortly afterwards, and St Katherine’s chapel was added to the north chapel in the mid-14thc. The west end of the north aisle, with its doorway and porch, are also of this period. The south nave arcade was replaced later in the 14thc, and the north arcade later still.


Ledbury was held by the canons of Hereford Cathedral in 1086, and was assessed at 5 hides, of which a priest held 2½ hides, 2 knights 1 hide, and a radman 3 virgates. There was a mill there, 7 acres of meadow, and woodland half a league square. In 1066 Earl Harold held 1 hide of this, but it was returned to the Bishop of Hereford by King William. There is evidence for the presence of a pre-Conquest church at Ledbury (Parsons (1995), 61-63), and a 13thc record that it was a collegiate foundation.


Exterior Features



Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches
Nave arches



Loose Sculpture


It is generally agreed that there is evidence for two 12thc phases here. The earlier represented perhaps by the N nave pier bases and certainly (as far as sculpture is concerned) by the arch to the N chancel aisle, the NW turret doorway and the chip-carved loose stone. Despite the presence of chip-carving, the scallop capitals are of types that are unlikeley to date from before 1140. Most of the 12thc work is very late, as attested by the keeled or filleted shafts and, on the W doorway, the foliage forms of the capitals. The regular use of very simple scallop capitals in this late work is rather surprising.


A. Brooks and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. New Haven and London 2012, 414-20.

Historic England Listed Building 151832

J. W. King, “Two Herefordshire Minsters”, Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, 48 (1995), 282-94.

D. Parsons, “Early Churches in Herefordshire: Documentary and Structural Evidence”, in D. Whitehead (ed), Medieval Art, Architecture and Archaeology at Hereford (British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions XV),Leeds 1995, 60-74.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Herefordshire. Harmondsworth 1963, 214-18.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, 2: East, 1932, 100-18.