After the Norman Conquest Bromyard developed into an important manor of the Bishop, with a palace next to the church. By 1086 the Bromyard area extended to about 3000 acres, and amongst the residents were forty two villeins (a peasant, or tenant farmer) and 9 cottagers, plus six slaves; 3 knights, 2 priests, and a chaplain, each of whom had their own land. The population gradually expanded and by 1285 it was roughly 1,200 but then various diseases followed by the Black Death in 1348 decimented the inhabitants of Bromyard and in the first census of 1801 the head count was a mere 983. In 1394 a large chunk of the population were labourers (104), and there were 86 domestic servants, plus Masons, dressmakers and shoemakers.
In the early 1800s it was cheap to live in Bromyard, and poor people from miles around flocked to take advantage of this, which inevitably resulted in a rise in general health problems, and in 1850 it was reported that only eleven other places in the whole country had a higher mortality rate.
As with other market towns, Bromyard held fairs – the main ones being the May Mop Fair and the Whit Monday Fair, where those seeking employment held an indication of their trade (hoe if they were a labourer; bridle if they were a horseman etc. etc. If they had no set trade, then they would carry a mop….hence the term Mop Fair). In 1844 the market cross was demolished and the importance of these fairs gradually diminished whilst stock fairs increased in importance, and Bromyard gained a reputation for it’s horse fair in the Autumn, which thrived until the mid 1950s when the need for horses declined. In 1877 the railway connected Worcester with Bromyard which allowed many more buyers to move stock in and out of the market, and the line was extended to Leominster in 1897. Sadly these lines were closed during the mid 1900s.
Most of the buildings in Bromyard date from the 18th century, but the mediaeval structures are now hidden by modern brick fronts in many cases. For information on the Bromyard Workhouse go to Workhouses in Herefordshire