Corn Square was first described as le Corncepyng, an informal trading space just outside the walls of the monastic precinct.
By the 1500s, it had become known as Corn Market, and then Corn Square by 1900. Leominster Council built the first Corn Exchange in Corn Square in 1803 to encourage trade. It was replaced in 1859. When not used for trading, this hall held up to 500 people for other events. The Leominster Cinema Company started showing films there in 1911. When the Corn Exchange owners went bust in 1922, the Company bought the building, which became the Picture House. It survived until the 1960s, when it was demolished.
The Rankin Club in Corn Square was used as a Training & Industrial Home for girls, from the 1860s to 1880s. They were taught domestic skills, preparing them for a life in service. The headmaster of Grange Academy then moved his school into the building and renamed it Grange College.
It became co-educational, with boarding & day places. It had a very modern curriculum and advertised adult classes. It seems to have run into financial difficulties, as the Leominster News advertised several fundraising events. The Wetherspoons pub used to be the town’s main Post Office. A weekly market is still held here every Friday.
16 & 17 Corn Square
These shops were part of a speculative development by the monks of the Priory in the 1100s, creating shop units for rent.
By the 1400s, the building which now houses the ELT shoe shop and picture framers had four small lock up shops facing onto School Lane. The four shops all had the same ground plan, with a front and back door and shuttered window at ground level. In addition, each had an upstairs room accessed via a shared balcony at the back. in addition, there was another shop facing onto Corn Square. The Priory charged rent for these shops. In later centuries, the four units were combined, and the space used for a variety of purposes. The Bedford and Cullis families ran a butcher's shop from the 1840s to the 1860s. Then the Blomer family ran a decorating business and a cafe in the same premises for over 40 years. The Blomers had businesses elsewhere in the town, most notably in Broad Street.
Three Horseshoes Pub, Corn Square
Now Coffee #1
The timber frame of this current building probably dates from the 1600s. For many years, it was the Three Horseshoes public house.
The first building plots on the south side of Corn Square were laid out in the 1100s by the monks from the Priory, as speculative development, creating shop units for rent which would create income. Originally, the plots ran all the way back to Etnam Street. School Lane was also part of the plan, allowing residents of Etnam Street quick access to the main market square. The present building is over 400 years old, and has been a meeting place for much of that time. The 1848 report from the Hereford Times reports a horse sale taking place there during Leominster Fair.
Merchant House, Corn Square
Some years ago, 12th century pottery was found under the floor of this house, so there may have been a building on this site for over 800 years, although the present house is not that old. Over the years, many families have lived there and run different businesses from the premises. From the 1840s - 1860s, the Vale family lived there, and two daughters ran a dressmaking and millinery business. In the 1870s, the house was split into two dwellings, and by the 1900s, into three. In 1906 it was bought by Sydney Bridge, the house decorator and Methodist preacher who became a Leominster philanthropist. He was a successful businessman, who bought many properties, and renovated them for rent. (He also gave Sydonia Park to the people of the town.) After his death in 1940, the building passed through several owners, and became a solicitor’s office. It was turned into a restaurant and antique shop in 2012.
Images of advertising sourced from British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) and The British Library Board.
© 2022 Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited.
Images of Leominster shopfronts with kind permission from Herefordshire Museum Service.