Drapers Lane

The line of Draper’s Lane marks the eastern side of Leominster’s original wedge-shaped market space, probably laid out in the 1100s.

In the Middle Ages, the Lane connected the formal market space with the more informal open space next to the monastery walls which later became Corn Square. Different traders congregated together, and those who finished and sold locally produced cloth worked here.

The buildings in the Lane vary greatly in age; numbers 20 and 22 were built in the 1400s, but had a new front added in the 1600s. Numbers 9 and 11 date from the 1500s. In 1879, Kelly’s Directory records two grocers, five drapers, a confectioner, a jeweller & watchmaker, a china and glass dealer, two boot and shoemakers, a fishmonger, and a butcher. Ellwoods the chemist was here too. There are still a number of independent traders in the Lane.

9-11 Drapers Lane

Now Rossiter Books

Shop advert dating from the 1920s-30s.

Many of the buildings along Drapers Lane have hidden timber frames, but nos. 9 and 11 Drapers Lane, now combined as Rossiter's Bookshop, have their wooden frame showing on the outside. Both 9 and 11 were probably built as one big shop in the 1500s, but were later split into two. The building has two storeys and an attic.  The sash windows were added in the 20th century and the two shop fronts were constructed in the 1800s and 1900s respectively.

In the past there have been a variety of different shops in these two units. Advertisements show that in the 1870s, William Seager kept a shop that sold meat, game and potatoes at number 9. Number 11 was a tobacconist in the 1920s and 1930s, selling a variety of products associated with smoking pipes, cigars and cigarettes.


14 Drapers Lane

Now Motif 

For over 60 years this building was the site of Ross and Son’s shoe shop.

12 and 14 Drapers Lane were built in the first half of the 1700s, almost certainly on the site of an earlier building, as this is one of the oldest parts of the town. It was probably built as a house with a shop below. The current shop front was put in during the late 1800s, possibly at the same time as the sash windows on the first and second floors.

Newspapers show that in the 1880s the building was occupied by Edward Hammond, who was an auctioneer, debt collector & estate agent. Mr Hammond seems to have left around 1893, because for a few years, the shop was occupied by H. Cooper, an upholsterer, who advertised his services in the Leominster News.

By 1897, the promises had been taken over by Ross and Son, boot and shoe makers, repairers and sellers. Judging by their regular advertisements in the Leominster News, Ross and Son remained there for over 60 years, until at least the mid-1950s. The business advertised almost weekly in local papers. They ran effective marketing campaigns, offering free purses and portraits of public figures to people who spent well in the shop. They also offered discounts to cash buyers and ran ‘boot clubs’ to hop pickers and others, allowing them to pay for their footwear in instalments. 

In recent years the shop has been occupied by a gift shop.


27 Drapers Lane

Now Drapers Lane Deli


The buildings on this side of Corn Square are closely linked to the Southall family. In the first half of the 19th century, a timber-framed pub called the Dukes Head stood nearby. The innkeeper died and the wooden building was demolished.  Next door was a dress maker’s shop, owned by Anne Lloyd. Later the innkeeper’s widow, Susannah Knill, took the shop over.

The first Southall to live here was John, who moved in with his family in 1808, when he established his draper’s business. The family were Quakers, members of a significant religious community in the town, who served Leominster in many ways. Many of them wrote books and pamphlets, often about their faith. This led them to an interest in printing, as well as fabric, to spread their words In 1858, the business and family home were taken over by John’s son, the 28-year-old John Tertius Southall. John Tertius bought the Leominster Printing Company, with his son, Arthur. Arthur later moved into no.1 Corn Square, where he lived until 1923. He published several local newspapers, including the Leominster News.

Newspaper advertisements show that this shop and 1 Corn Square next door have been mostly occupied by printers and tailors for the last 150 years. Edwin Storr worked as a tailor there until 1885, followed by CM Binyon until 1904. In an advertisement from 1884, Edwin Storr mentions the business being 150 years old, so there may have been a tailor on the site since the 1730s!

27 Drapers Lane is now Drapers Lane Delicatessen, a charming and versatile deli, restaurant and coffee shop to enjoy a variety of delicious food and drinks. The owners, Samantha and Peter Morgan, established the business in 2020 with a passion for quality and detail. They offer a range of products including speciality ingredients, charcuterie, bread, patisserie etc. They also stock rare and speciality items from local and international sources. Winner 'Small Independent Retailer of the Year' at the 2023 Speciality and Fine Food Fair. Find out more on the Drapers Lane Deli website.

Ellwood & Son Chemist

Ellwood & Son Chemist shop front


By 1900, Ellwood's was characterising itself as 'North Herefordshire's drug store.' It sold all manner of goods, some which we would still buy in a chemist's shop, but others that we would now buy elsewhere or that are controlled. The shop advertised regularly in the Leominster News,which gives us an idea of their range of stock, and local health concerns. In the 1880s and 1890s, as well as selling ginger beer powder, baking powder, and powdered egg. Despite the fact that a safe pumped water supply had been installed in Leominster 20 years before, Ellwoods was still advertising 'effervescent saline' (fizzy salt water) as a remedy against cholera in the 1880s, perhaps preying on people's fears. They also sold 'nerve pilules' in the 1880s, which contained both cocaine and nux vomica, a south American herb. Until 1916, there was hardly any legislation in the UK about the sale of dangerous drugs – it was legal for pharmacies to sell morphine, cocaine, opium and even arsenic in small amounts.  The 1920 Dangerous Drugs Act started a programme of control which has increased ever since. By the 1920s, Ellwoods was advertising radios and spectacles.

Bon Marche Drapers

Bon marche drapery company shop front


The Bon Marche Drapery Company was one of a chain of shops across the country with the same name. It existed in Leominster for the first half of the 20th century, selling all kinds of ready made clothing.  The Company frequently advertised in the Leominster News, with many seasonal offers.

Image Acknowledgements

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.