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A Short History of Ross-on-Wye
by Heather Hurley, Freelance Writer


The market town of Ross is attractively situated above the river Wye and below the wooded hills of Chase and Penyard, with its name derived from the Welsh 'promontory' and the 'on Wye' added in 1931.

The Domesday Book of 1086 records Ross as a village and manor of the Bishop of Hereford with a priest and a mill indicating that Ross had emerged as a settlement with a church and corn mill.

In the 12th century King Stephen granted the right to hold a market, which stimulated the economy and encouraged trade with the surrounding countryside. During the reign of Edward 1 Ross supported a variety of tradesmen, shops, market stalls, mills and iron forges.

By the time of Elizabeth Ross had become an important market town on the main routes from Hereford, Monmouth and South Wales to London, which led to the building of a stone bridge at Wilton to replace an unreliable ford and ferry crossing over the Wye.

After Ross recovered from the horrors of the plague and the destruction and turmoil of the Civil War during the mid 17th century, serious efforts were made to improve communications by road and river.
In the past Ross benefited from the generosity of the towns people who endowed charities, founded hospitals, established almshouses and started schools. The best known benefactor was John Kyrle who was born in 1637 and lived most of his life carrying out charitable deeds and beautifying the town before it became fashionable. Shortly after his death in 1724 the natural beauty of the Wye attracted artists, poets, writers and those seeking the Picturesque.

The boat trip from Ross became known as the Wye Tour, which developed into a commercial enterprise and led to the town becoming a tourist centre. The effects of the 19th century
Improvement Acts significantly changed the appearance of Ross, the streets were cleaned and widened, dilapidated buildings were demolished, new roads were constructed and public services were improved as the town adopted a mock gothic style.

After the opening of the railway in 1855 there was a decline in navigation on the Wye, but a rise in tourism and an expansion in trade and industry. Further sweeping changes were made during the later half of the 20th century to cater for modern living, and to preserve the town's heritage.


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