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Leominster is a market town in Herefordshire, England, located approximately 12 miles (19 km) north of Hereford and 11 miles (18 km) south of Ludlow, at grid reference SO496590. It is the second largest town in the county with a population of approximately 11,000 people, and is located at the confluence of the River Lugg and its tributary the River Kenwater. From 1974 to 1996, Leominster served as the administrative centre for the former local government district of Leominster District.
The town takes its name from a minster, that is a community of clergy in the district of Lene or Leon, probably in turn from an Old Welsh root lei to flow. Contrary to certain reports, the name has nothing to do with Leofric, an 11th century Earl of Mercia (most famous for being the miserly husband of Lady Godiva). The Welsh language name for Leominster, still used today on the Welsh side of the nearby border, is Llanllieni.
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a raid by Gruffudd ap Llywelyn on Leominster in 1052 resulted in the Battle of Llanllieni, between the Welsh and a combined force of Normans and English Saxons. Henry II bestowed the minster and its estates on Reading Abbey, which founded a priory (Photo) at Leominster in 1121, although there was one here from Saxon times. Its Priory Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, which now serves as the parish church, is the remaining part of this 12th century Benedictine monastery. Quatrefoil piers were inserted between 1872-79 by Sir George Gilbert Scott.
The priory was ransacked by the Welsh forces of Owain Glyndwr after their victory at the Battle of Bryn Glas near Pilleth in 1402, along with several local manor houses.
Investigations to the north of the Priory in 2005 located the position of the cloister though most of the stone had been robbed following the Dissolution. Disposed animal bones found on the site when submitted to carbon dating showed that the area was occupied in the 7th century. This agrees with the date of 660 CE associated with the founding myth which suggests a Christian community was established here by a monk, St. Edfrid, from Northumberland.
Leominster is also the historical home of Ryeland sheep, a breed once famed for its 'Lemster' wool, known as 'Lemster ore'. This wool was prized above all other English wool in trade with the continent of Europe in the Middle Ages. It was the income and prosperity from this wool trade that established the town and the Minster and attracted the envy of the Welsh and other regions.
From approximately 1748 to 1754, Leominster was home to one of only four early cotton spinning mills employing the spinning machines of Lewis Paul and John Wyatt. The mill was financed by Lancashire native Daniel Bourn, and was partly owned by other men from Lancashire. Bourn introduced his own version of the carding engine to work at this mill, and of the four Paul-Wyatt mills, it may have been the most successful, for the , shortly after the fire that destroyed the mill, commented that the cotton works "had been viewed with great pleasure and admiration by travellers and all who had seen them."
The four-mile A49 £9m bypass opened in November 1988. The town also has a bus station linking it to Hereford and a number of nearby towns and villages. Leominster railway station has services to Manchester via Ludlow and to Cardiff via Hereford; links to London are achieved by changing at Hereford, for services via Worcester and Oxford, or at Newport, South Wales.
The only secondary school in Leominster is the Minster College, a comprehensive school with around 750 pupils. It is located fairly centrally, next door to the town's leisure centre and swimming pool, which are used by the school. The Minster College has received poor results in the past, but county league tables now rank it approximately half way in the list of the county's dozen secondary schools. The Minster is a specialist Sports College.