On Friday May 22nd 1959 the Birmingham Weekly Post and Midland Pictorial Newspaper ran an article on CHAPMAN's and the stately home.
Below is the story. The pictures are by Robert MAY and the story by Vivian BIRD.
THE BARON LIKES THE WAY INDUSTRY HANDLES HIS "STATELY HOME"
A more sinister sound than bells brought Mr. H. J. CHAPMAN to Ledbury - the scream and thunder of bombs, the bombs which destroyed Coventry on that fateful fourteenth of November, 1940.
Two years earlier, Mr CHAPMAN who at the time was publicity manager and stationery and print buyer to an industrial group, had struck out on his own in one small room in Quinton Road, Coventry.
There he flourished as a print and stationery factor sufficiently to move to larger premises in Eaton Road, which were badly damaged when the blitz caught up with him.
Seeking temporary respite with friends at Staunton, Gloucestershire, Mr CHAPMAN was persuaded that he ought to move his business to quiter regions.
1940 - 1941
HE LIKED THE SPOT ON A MAP
Producing a map, his host put a finger on Ledbury and said that was the spot. So on a Sunday morning of November, 1940, Mr. and Mrs. CHAPMAN drove over to look at Ledbury - and liked it.
Mr. CHAPMAN found accomodation at a garage ( SWIFTS The Homend ) and, when the Easter blitz of 1941 further damaged the Coventry premises and killed the caretaker, all the stock was moved to Ledbury.
Traffic entering Ledbury today from Malvern is confronted where Worcester Street comes up to the crossroads, with a notice " Caution, Projecting Building."
On that half-timbered Tudor residence with its Victorian additions round a courtyard, Mr CHAPMAN cast his eyes as his business strained the gargae premises to the seams.
Ledbury Park for that is the name of the building and of the estate enclosed by a tall brick wall extending down the Gloucester road, was the seat of the BIDDULPH's, who acquired the property in the 17th century when Anthony BIDDULPH, of Biddulph, in Staffordhire, married the heiress Elizabeth HALL.
A "stately home" in an unusually urban setting, but behind the black and white facade of Ledbury Park all is sylvan countryside. The house, parts of which date from 1590, and its grounds are preserved - by industry. They were acquired by a stationery firm in 1951 and 150 workers are employed behind the quiet frontage.
A banking family, the BIDDULPHs were enobled by Edward VII in 1903, but since the death of the second Baron BIDDULPH, the Dowager Lady BIDDULPH had occupied only a few of the 64 rooms, while her son , Lord BIDDULPH, lived at "Underdown" at the far end of the park.
1951 - 1952
NOW THERE ARE SIX COMPANIES
In 1952 Mr CHAPMAN bought Ledbury Park and the venture which started so humbly in Coventry has now grown into six companies employing 154 workers between them.
The parent company markets and distributes all kinds of stationery and print; its subsidiaries manufacture, cover many aspects of paper conversion, and produce a point-of-slae illuminated display which bridges the gap between the cheaper showcard and the expensive electrical advertisement.
Since the first such sign - made for a sheep hearing device of a Birmingham firm - this method of display advertising has spread thoughout U.S.A. and the Continent, in both of which it is manufactured under licence.
To the romance of the rapid growth of Chapmans must be added the romance of the environment in Ledbury park. Death duties and other causes are jeopardising many fine English homes and nexessatating the disintegration of beautiful estates.
At Ledbury Park industry has intervened, not as a destroyer, but as the preserver of something worthwhile.
The old-world dignity is retained, and the visitor to ledbury is amazed to learn that from those half-timbered walls, through those massive gateposts crowned with Biddulph wolves rampant, between 50 and 70 tons of paper and stationery go out every week.
Not least, Lord BIDDULPH himself remains a friend of the CHAPMAN enterprise, and has the greatest satisfaction in the fine job that is being done in preserving the old home of his family.
Lord BIDDULPH, who now lives at the far end of Ledbury Park, occasionally visits the home of his ancestors and is well pleased with the way industry is preserving it.
One of the first employees engaged at Ledbury was a firls from the local agency - Joy MALLEN. Eighteen years later she shares with Mr. CHAPMAN, as his secretary, Print Rupert's Room, for history touched the original house at Ledbury Park in 1645 when Rupert's dashing Cavaliers expelled Colonel Massies's Roundheads in the Battle of Ledbury, taking 200 of them prisoner, and killing among others, Major BACKHOUSE, whose sword is displayed in the north transept of Ledbury Church.
The upstairs rooms in this view of Ledbury Park were the principal bedrooms when it was owned by the BIDDULPH family. Today they are offices, with that on the left, Prince Rupert's Room, the office of the firm's founder, Mr. H. J. CHAPMAN.
``It was a fascinating excursion round the house to see the adaptation of old rooms to new functions. A telephone switchboard operates where once stood a bath; a game larder makes an admiral dark room; a conservatory was an obvious choice for a studio; the library shelves now house stocks of pencils, not books; the tempo has been increased in the billiards room by the substitutionof a table tennis table.
HIS WIFE A PILLAR OF STRENGTH
Mrs. CHAPMAN, who has always been a pillar of strength in her husband's business, is secretary and a director, and her office would enhance any building, industrial or domestic.
Gun room, laundry, and kitchen are all adapted to modern purposes, and the large motto carved above the kitchen fireplace is equally applicable to 20th century industry as to Victorian domestic economy - " Waste Not, Want Not."
The erstwhile coach house is now the packing and despatch department while the saddle room is the maintenance shop. But perhaps the representatives room is the most romantic of all. The oldest room in the house, with "1590" inscribed above the door, it was probably Prince Rupert's headquarters. Where he planned his cavalry campaign CHAPMAN's representatives now plan their selling campaigns.
The courtyard at Ledbury Park, with, left to right, Lorna BEBBINGTON, June LAWLEY, Glenys PERRY and Wendy DANIELS.
CHAPMAN's employees can use the grounds at any time, and exquisite surroundings they are, with well-raked paths winding between smooth lawns studded with goldfish ponds and shaded by exotic trees, including some magnificent cedars. Industrial expansion and upkeep of the grounds go hand in hand.
CHAPMAN's employees can use the grounds at any time, and exquisite grounds they are with wide stretches of lawn, shaded walks, magnificent cedars and attractive goldfish ponds.
NEW BUILDINGS ARE GOING UP
Another 6,000 square feet of warehouse and factory are being built - and summer flowers are replacing spring bulbs. And in this charming setting with wide views over the delectable Herefordshire landscape, provision is made by the staff for archery and tennis, rest and relaxation.
A peaceful lunchtime stroll for some of the girl employees, but should they feel more energetic, Ledbury Park's industry also provides archery and tennis.
This month CHAPMANS are celebrating their 21st birthday. The firm has come a long way in a short time, and Mr. CHAPMAN has never regretted the move to Ledbury.
The stationery business started by Mr. H. J. CHAPMAN 21 years ago this month might still have been conducted in Coventry - but for the blitz. Instead it is housed in Ledbury Park, where Mr. CHAPMAN looks out from his office window on smooth lawns and lovely gardens.
"Labour here," he says "is easily trainable and most loyal when trained, and we have nothing but tremendous kindness from the moment we first arrived.
Industry, in the shape of a stationery firm, took over a "stately home" in Ledbury, herefordshire, eight years ago, but the serene rural charm of the estate has been maintained. Here, Christine JAMES (seated) and Marion DADSWELL find sunshine and relaxation within a hundred yards of their workplace.
A HAPPY SPOT WHERE INDUSTRY PRESERVES OLD-WORLD DIGNITY
Horace CHAPMAN left the business when it was acquired by Inveresk Paper Co.
The business was sold to Georgia Pacific
Acquired by W H SMITH
1959 Birmingham Weekly Post and Midland Pictorial Newspaper
Photographs are credited to the owners
Comments are from members of the Old Ledbury Facebook Group
Cuttings from Ledbury Reporter Newspapers