"ROSS, a parish, market town, and nominal borough, in the hundred of Greytree, county Hereford, between 13 and 14 miles S.E. of Hereford, by road, or 124 by the Gloucester and Hereford railway, on which it is a station. The parish comprises 3,012 acres, and is situated on the banks of the river Wye, much visited by tourists, and is divided into Ross Borough and Ross Foreign. In former times it belonged to the Bishops of Hereford, who had a palace here, and was made a free borough by Henry III. It sent members to parliament till the 34th year of Edward I., but the privilege was subsequently relinquished at the petition of the inhabitants.
It suffered much from a visitation of the plague in 1637, the memory of which is perpetuated by an old stone cross, still standing at the N.E. corner of the churchyard. It is mentioned by Camden as a seat of the iron trade. The town has been immortalised by Pope in his well-known theme, "The Man of Ross", and is at present a rapidly improving place.
It occupies the slopes of a rocky eminence, surrounded by loftier hills, overlooking the Wye. The streets of the town are irregularly laid out, and some of the houses are old, but there are many modern residences, and several good streets, as High-street, Broad-street, Brookend-street, St. Mary-street, and the market place. The streets are well paved and lighted with gas. The market house and townhall is an antique structure, supported upon pillars, with a small square clock-tower, situated near the centre of the town. At the E. end is a bust of Charles II., and the upper part of the building is used as the townhall. The other public buildings are the police and railway stations, both of recent erection, a union poorhouse, a mechanics' institute, situated in High-street, a reading and newsroom in the market-place, baths, four commercial banks, a savings-bank, two circulating libraries, and a dispensary.
Wilton Bridge is situated near the old castle of the Greys. At the house called the "Great Inn" Charles I. is said to have slept on his journey to Ragland Castle; and at the house opposite to the old market-house, Kyrle, the "Man of Ross", resided. This house, after his death, became the chief posting-house of the district, under the name of the "King's Arms". It is now occupied by a chemist. The population in 1851 was 2,674, with 517 inhabited houses, but had increased in 1861 to 3,715, with 736 houses, showing an increase in the decennial period of no less than 1,041 persons.
There are no manufactures, but two extensive tanyards, a large brewery, machine works, where agricultural implements are also made, an iron foundry, and several flour-mills. Ross is still styled a borough, although there is no corporation, the government being vested in commissioners appointed under the "Ross Improvement Acts". A court-leet is held annually at Michaelmas, at which the town officers are chosen, and a court-baron a few days after by the lord of the manor. The Ross Poor-law Union comprises 2 parishes in Gloucestershire and 27 in Herefordshire. It is also the seat of a new County Court, and head of a superintendent registry district. The horticultural society and the choral society hold their meetings in the town.
Some portion of the tithes belong to the Bishop, Dean, and Precentor of Hereford Cathedral, but the rest of the tithes are attached to the living, which is a rectory* and vicarage, value £1,290, in the diocese of Hereford, and in the patronage of the bishop. The parish church, already alluded to, is dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, and stands at the S.W. of the town. It is a spacious but irregular pile of building, having been enlarged and altered at various periods subsequent to 1316, amongst others by the "Man of Ross".
The spire, about twelve years ago, sustained material damage, for the third time, by lightning, but has since been restored. The church has been recently restored and enlarged under the charge of Mrs. Buckler, of Oxford. The two ugly galleries have been taken down, and the space under the tower, where the organ stood, fitted with seats. We do not learn that the spire, the peculiar incurving outline of which has puzzled many a tourist, has been restored to its original beautiful line; its recent odd shape and increased height were given under the care of John Kyrle himself, whose eye for beauty must have been a peculiar one.
The church contains a stained portrait of Bishop de Cantelupe, tombs of the Rudhalls and Westfalings, of Rudhall House, and an elaborate marble monument, erected in 1776 to the memory of Kyrle, the great benefactor of the town. At the E. of the N. aisle three elm-trees, two of them of considerable height, and which seem to grow and thrive in this strange atmosphere, sprang up in Kyrle's pew after some of the elms planted by him in the churchyard outside were cut down, about the middle of the last century. The Wesleyans, Baptists, Independents, Society of Friends, and Plymouth Brethren have places of worship.
There are several well-endowed charities, including the Blue-Coat school, at Deanhill, originally founded by Dr. Whiting, in the early part of the 18th century; further endowed by Lord Scudamore; and restored and endowed by Walter Scott in 1786, who left by will £200 per annum to this charity, which clothes and educates 30 boys, and the like number of girls free: James Baker's charity consists of the interest of £20,000, appropriated to the relief of the poor inhabitants of the parish not receiving parochial relief.
There are besides Rudhall's Hospital for five poor men and women, with an income of £10 per annum; Webbe's hospital, or almshouses, for seven poor people, with an income of £90; Perrock's almshouse at Dean Hill for four poor persons; and Pye's and Markye's almshouses.
The principal schools are the National schools for boys and girls, to the funds of which is added a yearly rent-charge of £10, originally granted by Lord Weymouth towards the endowment of a grammar school; a British and Foreign school, and an infant school. Adjoining the town on the S.W. is The Prospect, a promenade formed by the Man of Ross, and left by him to the inhabitants of the town for 500 years.
In the centre of the meadow, below the Prospect, formerly stood an oak-tree 33 feet in girth, and said to be upwards of 1,100 years old, but which was almost destroyed by fire in 1850. From this spot a view is obtained of the river Wye which, affords good salmon fishing, and forms a curve, resembling a horse-shoe, a little below the town; there is another promenade, called Kyrle's Walk; and at a short distance from the town are the ruins of Wilton and Goodrich castles, and the mansion of Goodrich Court, with a collection of ancient armour and other antiquities. The banks of the Wye are much visited by tourists.
The principal seats in the immediate vicinity of the town are The Chase, situated under the Roman camp on Chase Hill, Lincoln Hill House, Overross, Rudhall, and Springfield. Market day is Thursday, for corn, cheese, and provisions, and every fourth Thursday a monthly market for cattle. Fairs are held on the Thursday after 10th March for sheep and lambs; on Holy Thursday, and on the Thursday in the second week after Whit Sunday, for pedlary and fancy goods; on the 20th July for wool; on the Thursday after 10th October for cheese; and on 11th December for horses, cattle, and sheep."
"KINGSTON, a hamlet in the parish of Ross, hundred of Greytree, county Hereford, 2 miles N.E. of the town of Ross, and 10. S.E. of Hereford. It is situated near the river Wye."
"PENYARD, a ruined castle on the river Wye, in the parish of Ross and hundred of Greytree, county Hereford, 1 mile S.E. of Ross. It belonged to the Talbots of Goodrich, who had a mint for the coinage of "Penyard pennies"."
"WHITEHALL, a hamlet in the parish of Ross, hundred of Greytree, county Hereford, 2 miles S. of Ross, and 12 S.E. of Hereford, on an acclivity overlooking the Wye."