Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

This plaque in the centre of the Herefordshire town of Ross-on-Wye commemorates John Kyrle (1637–1724) known as ‘the Man of Ross’. Kyrle was rich, but was not attracted to the high life so he stayed in his home town and devoted himself to charitable works – he was said to have helped the poor by paying the dowries of impoverished brides and subsidizing apprentices’ fees and, trained in the law, he gave free legal advice to the needy. In addition, he improved his town, laying out a public garden called the Prospect (still partly intact), planting elms, giving the parish church some pinnacles and restoring its spire, and leaving money to Ross’s charitable school. The poet Alexander Pope wrote about Kyrle in his third Moral Essay, the Epistle to Bathurst, praising both his charity and his flair for landscape gardening, and ensuring the lasting fame of this modest man.

In the 19th century, the proprietor of the Royal Hotel took over the Prospect and closed it to public access, planting cabbages over part of it. There was a public outcry and in 1848, while revolutions broke out across Europe, Ross had its riot too. After several years the Prospect’s lease was taken back, the garden was given to the town, and Kyrle's generosity was remembered once more.

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