Colourful past of Ludlow streets exposed in new history book

More old pictures of Ludlow have been released to give local history fans a treat for the new year.

Photograph courtesy of Gareth Thomas. In the early 1900s this yard, Drew’s Court behind No. 119 Corve Street, now the site of Tesco, was typical of the squalor and overcrowding of many of Corve Street’s dwellings.
Photograph courtesy of Gareth Thomas. In the early 1900s this yard, Drew’s Court behind No. 119 Corve Street, now the site of Tesco, was typical of the squalor and overcrowding of many of Corve Street’s dwellings.

'The People and History of Lower Corve Street and St Mary’s Lane, Ludlow' comes from husband and wife team Jonathan and Rosemary Wood who live at The Merchant House.

Jonathan, a retired journalist turned researcher and local history buff, was helped to put the final touches to his work which looks at the history of a less well written part of town. And they discovered lots of nuggets.

The Merchant House in Lower Corve Street was world-famous when it was a Michelin-starred restaurant owned by master chef Shaun Hill. But over the years this 15th century half-timbered house with the river Corve running behind it has been owned by wealthy dyers, tanners and glovers.

When Jonathan and Rosemary moved into The Merchant House with their son, William, in 2006, Jonathan, a former chairman of Ludlow Historical Research Group and a town guide, began researching its history.

© Shropshire Archives. Nos. 45 - 50 Corve Street. No. 45 (left) was demolished in the 1930s to make way for Coronation Avenue. No. 46, with black and white timbering, is where Elizabeth Charmer was born in around 1850.

Work intervened, and the project was put on hold until Jonathan’s retirement would allow him to finish it. It was agreed the manuscript should also cover the people and houses of Lower Corve Street and St Mary’s Lane, and Rosemary began researching this.

Rosemary said: “Ludlow’s recorded history begins in 1086, when its castle was built along the Welsh Marches to defend the border. Much has been written about this planned Norman town with royal connections and medieval, Tudor and Georgian buildings, but Ludlow’s northern, industrial quarter is not so well documented.

“In the eighteenth century, rich glovers erected low-status back buildings for their impoverished workers in what became a noxious tanning zone. They then moved up the hill into town to build or renovate grand houses reflecting their new social status. Speculators amassed fortunes or went bankrupt. Maltsters and brewers plied their trade, land was exchanged and murder was committed. Animals were auctioned, carriers and hauliers flourished, and Corve Street had its own ‘red light district’.”

Whilst the history of the area is charted, the book also includes local recollections.

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Corve Street had cobbled pavements; Harriet Griffiths, who lived in No. 62 from the 1940s, used to take in washing for that part of Corve Street. If there was a death in the road, she would also ‘lay out’ the bodies.

Jane Deakin (née Traylor) was brought up in No. 67a Corve Street, next to The Unicorn; ‘the cellar stairs were very steep. Sometimes mum would let us buy crisps or a bottle of Vimto from a hatch in The Unicorn –there were flagstones with sawdust on the floor’.

Mary Janet Griffiths, (now Mary Stubbs) moved to Nos. 86-87 Corve Street in 1936, when she was three. ‘I remember sometimes mother would run over to The Unicorn and get a jug of beer to go with the Sunday lunch, or would send me to get a jug of milk from Pipe’s farm in St. Mary’s Lane. The cows came up and down the lane twice a day. The garage at the bottom of Corve Street would charge the battery from your radio – you removed it, left it, then collected it.’

Dot’s 24-hour Transport Café in Corve Street

Many Ludlovians remember Dot’s 24-hour Transport Café in Corve Street. Lorries would park all the way up to St. Leonards and back to the auction yard in the old cattle market so the drivers could eat or stay overnight at Dot’s Café.

At 10am each day, Keith Arrowsmith, who lived at No. 105 Corve Street, used to order bacon, egg and sausage sandwiches for the Lloyds of Ludlow lorry drivers’ tea break. Tony Everall recalls ‘meeting Joe Erskine, the Welsh heavyweight boxing champ in Dot’s on his way home from a title fight.’

Tony Wilson remembers Ethel Morgan’s sweetshop at No. 65, next to The Unicorn. ‘She would sell me a single cigarette; I was only about 10 at the time.’

Blank book covers over white background Illustration

The People and History of Lower Corve Street and St. Mary’s Lane, Ludlow is a lavishly illustrated A4 hardback which would make a wonderful present.

Costing £20, this is a self-publication and there will only be one print run.

People can order a copy now and collect it later from The Merchant House, Lower Corve Street, SY8 1DU. Contact Rosemary Wood on 01584 875438 or rosemary.wood3@gmail.com. Copies are available from Castle Bookshop, 5 Castle Street, Ludlow or by calling 01584 872562.

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