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Ironmongers in Ledbury PDF Print E-mail
History
Written by Steve Glennie-Smith   
Thursday, 08 March 2012 18:08

Like many Ledbury residents, I was saddened that Rodways closed at the end of March 2012.  This followed the untimely death of its founder, Colin Rodway on 29th December 2011 (read obituary here).

However, Ledbury wasn't without a hardware shop for long.  Rodways former staff re-opened as Ledbury Hardware in the former cinema a few doors up the Homend on Easter Saturday (7th April).  The L-shaped premises has been the home to a succession of businesses since the cinema closed in 1961 - most recently Wyatts.  Let's hope Ledbury Hardware becomes a permanent feature.

When I first came to Ledbury there were three hardware shops in town - Hobbs at the Top Cross (now Ceci Paolo), John Salmon (8 High St. - next to the Retreat - then the Hereford Bull) and B&D Hughes in the former TIC (3 Homend - now Specsavers).  The premises occupied by Rodways (25 Homend) was another Spar - soon to become Gateway (so it started life as a 1970's supermarket - hence its dreadful appearance).

In 1980, Hughes became Market Hardware and remained thus until the early 1990's - then the TIC in 1996.  Top Brass, specialising in the high end of the market, opened in 1984 in the former Vaughan china shop at 4 Southend.  Ledbury suffered a loss in 1986, when Hobbs closed following the death of its owner.

In 1989, Gateway relocated to its new premises in New Street (later Somerfield and now Co-op).  Colin Rodway, who had a hardware shop in Malvern Link, saw an opportunity in Ledbury and took on the premises vacated by Gateway later that year.  Hobbs and Salmon were wonderful old-fashioned ironmongers where you could buy nails loose (by the pound - and later by the kilo) - a tradition Colin was keen to follow.

In 1998, John Salmon decided the time had come for him to retire, leaving Rodways as the only ironmonger in town covering the whole range.  The Ledbury shop was doing so well that Colin decided to concentrate on it and close the one in Malvern.

Homebase opened in 2004, but ironmonger aficionados in particular soon realised this wasn't a patch on the service offered by Rodways.  Just a few examples where Rodways have been superior to Homebase - and sometimes even cheaper:-

  • Cabin hook (to hold a door open): Homebase - £4.59 for a utilitarian bit of bent steel.  An identical item in Well Worth It was £1.99 a pair.  I went for Rodways' quality brass hook (after all - it needed to look half decent) for £7.99.
  • 50 gallon water butt: Homebase - £33 for a thin plastic drum that didn't look as if it would last very long.  Rodways had a robust Harcostar butt for £51 - again worth the extra.  MSF wanted £61 for an identical item.  I have an another Harcostar - nearly 20 years old - that needed a new lid: having found Harcostar's website to be a waste of cyberspace, I asked Colin, who was able to get me one for £5.99, including a spare tap.
  • 2½" door catch: Homebase wanted £6 for a Yale item - a 'name' make, but Rodways had one of equal quality for £2.35.

Shortly after Ledbury Hardware opened, Hereford-based J Mart Warehouse took the former Rodways premises and opened a 'stack 'em high and sell 'em cheap' pound-shop style bazaar.  The appearance of such enterprises (including Well Worth It in the former Woolworths premises on the other side of the Homend) is a clear sign of the economic downturn.  The staff at Rodways, now reincarnated as Ledbury Hardware, have always been extremely helpful: hopefully the more discerning Ledbury shoppers will continue to realise there still a place for quality and service in our town.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 October 2012 19:05