The St Katharine’s site is an area of about 2 acres lying on the west side of the High Street, Ledbury and comprises four buildings – St Katharine’s Hall and Chapel, St Katharine’s Almshouses, St Katharine’s Barn, and The Master’s House (which is surrounded by a public car park, which in turn is enclosed by an historic brick wall)
The site was originally a mediaeval, religious foundation, dating from about 1232, providing care for the elderly, infirm, and travellers. The chapel and hall formed the original heart of the site with the present building dating largely from the 1330s.
An Almshouse was built in the early 15th century, but Robert Smirke’s building of 1822, and a northern addition of 1866 succeeded it. Both the Almshouses and St Katharine’s Hall and Chapel are now owned and run by the Diocese of Hereford. The 17th Century St Katharine’s Barn is all that is left of a farm that was previously on this site.
The Master’s House – which sits in the middle of the building known locally as St Katharine’s – is a mediaeval building dating from 1487. The original timber-framed building comprised a full-height hall flanked by two-story wings, with a separate structure to the north thought to have been a kitchen.
16th Century alterations included the introduction of an upper floor to the hall. 18th Century additions and alterations included the south and east elevations, and much re-facing of the timber with brickwork and re-alignment of rooms and walls. 19th Century saw the addition of a new west wing and much infilling of spaces between existing parts of the buildings.
The Master’s House and St Katharine’s Barn were requisitioned by the Ministry of Food in 1940, which then passed ownership on to Malvern Hills District Council, which in turn passed ownership to Herefordshire Council.
The Master’s House, a Grade 11* Listed building , is one of only three examples in the UK of a Master’s House attached to a mediaeval ‘hospital’. Indeed, some say that it is a unique survival of what was once a relatively common mediaeval building type – and it is among the premier 8% of the UK’s half million listed buildings