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Hereford, Herefordshire

Historical Description

Hereford, a city, a municipal and parliamentary borough, the head of a poor-law union and county court district, the capital and assize town of Herefordshire, and a diocese partly also In Salop, Radnorshire, Montgomeryshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, and Monmouthshire. The city stands on the river Wye, in a fine spacious valley, 29½ miles SW by W of Worcester, 30½ NW by W of Gloucester, 51 S of Shrewsbury, and 134 by road, but 144 by railway, WNW of London, and it has railway communication in five directions-the Shrewsbury and Hereford Joint (L. & N.W.R and G.W.R.), the Worcester, Malvem, Ledbury, and Hereford, the Hereford, Ross, and Gloucester, and the Newport, Abergavenny, and Hereford branches of the G.W.R., and the Swansea, Brecon, and Hereford branch of the M.R.

History.-The date of the city's origin is matter of dispute. Some writers suppose it to have been a Roman outpost, dependent on the large station of Magna Castra, about 4 miles distant, others regard it as having been founded by the Britons soon after Magna Castra was deserted by the Romans. Others connect its origin with the establishment of the Saxon power, and others date it as late as the time of Edward the Elder. Early British names are said to have been Treffawyd and Caerffawyd, in allusion to beech trees; a later British name for it was Henfordd, signifying " the old ford," and the present name of it was originally Here-fordd, signifying "the ford of the army." Most writers represent the place as of great importance at the rise of the Mercian kingdom, as having early become the capital of that kingdom, and as having, in 680, been the meeting-place of a synod for re-adjusting the episcopal government of Mercia. Walls were built, and a castle was erected about 905 by Ethelfleda, and these were strengthened or rebuilt about 939 by Athelstane. The city then began to overawe the Welsh and to hold them to tribute, but in 1055 it was captured, sacked, fired, and reduced almost to total ruin by Llewelyn ap Gryfydd, Prince of Wales. Its walls were rebuilt, and its castle was re-erected-or, as some say, built for the first time-by Harold. The castle was given by William the Conqueror to the Fitz-Osbornes, was seized against King Stephen by William Talbot, and was recovered in 1141 by Stephen. The city was captured in 1263 by the Earl of Leicester and the rebellious barons, was the place of the forcible detention by them of Prince Edward, afterwards Edward I., till his escape in 1265, and was the scene of the execution of Edward II.'s favourite Despenser in 1322-and of Edward II.'s own deposition in 1326. It was the scene also of the execution of Owen Tudor and many others in 1461, after the Battle of Mortimer's Cross. It surrendered to the Parliamentarian forces under Sir William Waller in 1643, was soon retaken by the Royalists, was besieged in 1645 by the Scots under the Earl of Leven, was relieved by the approach of the king after his defeat at Naseby, and was one of the last places which surrendered finally to the parliament. Charles II., on coming to the throne, granted it an augmentation of arms, with the motto " Invictas Fidelitatis Prsemium." It gives the title of Viscount to the Devereuxs, and numbers among its distinguished natives or residents Roger of Hereford, Nell Gwynne, General Stringer, Captain Cornewall, David Garrick, Cardinal Wolsey, Polydore Virgil, Phillips the poet, and Havard the song writer.

Streets and Environs.-The city occupies a gentle eminence, and, though environed by low lands, is sufficiently elevated to be free from damp or fog. The walls which surround it had a circuit of about 2350 yards, and were aided in their defence of it by the Wye and a little brook. Fifteen towers projected from them, embattled, and with cruciform embrazures in the sides and centre, for discharge of arrows and for observation. The gates were six in number-Eigne Gate on the W, Widemarsh Gate on the N, Bishop's Gate on the NE, St Andrew's Gate or St Owen's Gate on the SE, Wyebridge Gate at the S end of the bridge, and Friar's Gate on the SW. The castle stood contiguous to the Wye, a little below the bridge, and was described by Leiand as having been " one of the largest, fairest, and strongest castles in England; strongly ditched where not defended by the river, the walls of it high and strong and full of great towers." Some portions of the city walls, in fair preservation, still exist, but the six gates and all the castle have utterly disappeared. The castle green or area of the outer ward, overhanging the river, is now surrounded by an elevated and delightful public walk, which runs along the site of the castle walls, and commands beautiful and extensive views of the surrounding country. It contains a lofty column, erected in 1807 in commemoration of Nelson's victories. The site of the principal keep still bears the name of Castle Hill. The city presents a pleasing, well-built, modern appearance, yet still contains a number of old houses. The main streets are broad and well paved. A curious ancient house, the Butchers' Hall, with a large amount of carving, is in St Peter's Street; the birthplace of Nell Gwynne was in Pipe Lane (now Gwynne Street), and that of David Garrick was in a small street diverging from Widemarsh Street. The environs are noted for luxuriant fields, charming orchards, delicious gardens, and extensive pasture lands; they are adorned with fine mansions, as Belmont, Holme Lacy, Rotherwas, Sufton, and others, and they stretch away on all sides over the fertile valley to picturesque ranges of hills, most of which are wooded to the summits.

Public Buildings.-The bridge across the Wye leads to a suburb, is ancient and six-arched, was originally a beautiful structure for its time, and suffered considerable defacement by the irregular reconstruction of an arch which was destroyed at the siege of 1645 to prevent a renewed attack by the Scots. The old Town Hall in High Town, an open space where some principal streets meet, was erected in the time of James I., figured as a remarkable feature of the city, was an oblong structure of wood and plaster, supported by pillars of solid oak, but was taken down in 1861. The Shire Hall was built in 1817 after designs by Smirke, is in the Doric style, with a handsome octostyle portico, contains courtrooms for the assizes, quarter sessions, petty sessions, and county courts; contains also a fine county hall, 100 feet by 48, hung with portraits of George III. and a duke of Norfolk, and with other paintings, and is used for concerts and balls, and for the triennial musical festival by the choirs of Hereford, Worcester, and Gloucester. The Guildhall, in Widemarsh Street, is used for the city police court and city petty sessions, and contains the council chamber. The Mansion House, in Widemarsh Street, was formerly the official residence of the mayor, and now contains municipal offices. Her Majesty's prison for Hereford and district, in Commercial Road, was built in 1797, and is enclosed within a high brick wall, with handsome rusticated Tuscan gateway. The city jail was built in 1842, and is now used as the city police station and fire-engine station. The markets are situated in High Town, and include markets for poultry, fish, provisions, vegetables, &c. There is also a large cattle market in New Market Street, and a Corn Exchange, erected in 1857, in Broad Street. The White Cross, in Eigne suburb, was built in 1347 by Dr Charlton, afterwards Bishop of Hereford, as a market-place during the prevalence of an epidemic in the city, had a graduated octagonal base, an ornamental shaft, and a variety of sculptures, and was restored by Lord Saye and Sele. The theatre has been taken down; it was small and badly situated, yet claims notice for having been long under the management of the Remble family, and for having nurtured many distinguished actors, including Clive, Siddons, Remble, and Garrick. Theatrical performances are now given in the Athenaeum. The public library and museum occupy buildings erected in 1872-74. The museum is centrally situated, contains a valuable collection of curiosities, and stands connected with a well-stocked reading and news room. A massive column, to the memory of Lord Nelson, stands in Castle Green, is 60 feet high, and rests on a square pedestal, on one side of which is a bust, in relievo, of Lord Nelson. A bronze statue of Sir G. C. Lewis, by Baron Marochetti, was erected in 1864 in front of the Shire Hall.

The Cathedral.-More than one ancient church seems to have stood on the S side of the city, on the site of the present cathedral Polydore Virgil speaks of a large church- "Templum quod Herefordise id temporis magnificnm erat" -as early as the reign of Offa. This structure appears to have been formed of wood, yet it may probably enough have been a grand one for its era, and at least it acquired a sort of magnificence by becoming the burial-place of the murdered and canonized King Ethelbert, and the resort of pilgrims to his shrine. A new church of stone in lien of the wooden one was erected on the same spot in honour of Ethelbert in 825 by Mildred, a Mercian viceroy; but this, within less than 200 years, fell into complete decay. Another church, some small portions of which still exist in the present cathedral, was founded, on the same spot in 1030 by Bishop Athelstan, but was destroyed in 1055 at the capture of the city by Llewelyn ap Gryfydd. The present pile was begun in 1079 on the plan of that of Aix-la-Chapelle by Bishop Lozinge or Lothingar. The nave and the original "W front, the latter of which is said to have been the finest specimen of arcade work ever constructed, were completed about 1114 by Bishop Eaynelm. The retro-choir was built between 1186 and 1199 by Bishop De Vere. The Lady chapel and the crypt were constructed about 1120. The lower portion of the central tower was built between 1200 and 1215 by Bishop De Braose, the upper portion about a century later. A great western tower, 130 feet high, and very similar to the central tower was built also by Bishop De Braose, and this fell down in 1786 destroying four bays of the nave. The north transept, the choir, and the earlier part of the N porch, were built between 1275 and 1282 by Bishop Cantilupe. The latter part of the N porch was built between 1516 and 1535 by Bishop Booth, and the chapter-house, the main cloisters, the choir-transept, and the aisles of nave and choir, were built between 1426 and 1464 by Bishops Spofford and Stan-bury. The cathedral, as it now stands, consists of a nave of seven bays with aisles, a choir of four bays with aisles, a main transept of two bays in the N wing and one bay in the S wing, a choir-transept divided laterally into two aisles, a presbytery, a Lady chapel of three bays, square cloisters on the S side of the nave, and a central tower. The nave is 130 feet long, 74 wide, and 70 high; the choir is 96 feet long, 76 wide, and 64 high; the main transept is 150 feet long, and 64 high; the choir-transept is 106 feet long, the presbytery is 24 feet long, the Lady chapel is 75 feet long, the cloisters are 100 feet square, and the central tower is 161 feet high. The entire pile is 325 feet long.

The cathedral, owing to the widely different dates of its different parts, necessarily exhibits many different styles, and at the same time, owing to extensive modern reconstructions and recent renovations of some of these parts, displays portions of the styles in a much-altered form. The reconstruction of the W front was done by Wyatt at a cost of about —£18, 000-a sum quite inadequate to the fair or even moderate reproduction of the work in its pristine character, and it both cut away 15 feet of the former length of the nave, and raised a front of miserably poor features compared with those of that which had fallen. Restorations of numerous parts, carried on from 1842-63 under the superintendence of Cottingham and Sir G. Gilbert Scott, were of a far happier kind. The nave, in the columns and circular arches which separate it from the aisles, presents beautiful examples of zigzag, nail-headed, lozenge, and other Norman decorations; shows below the clerestory a range of arcades with pointed arch, and on the N side has Early Decorated English windows. A magnificent screen of metal-work, painted and gilt, designed by Sir G. G. Scott, separates the nave and choir. The north porch rises two storeys, consists of three broad, open arches, with windows above them to light the parvise, and is a fine example of Perpendicular architecture. The south wing of the main transept has on the E side five arcades of circular arches, and the north wing has a triforium of three trefoiled lights under three quatrefoiled circles within a triangular-headed Early Decorated arch. In the N transept is a magnificent geometric stained window in memory of Archdeacon Lane Freer. The choir transept has windows of four lights with early geometrical tracery, and probably was parted off for four altars. The choir has a Perpendicular window of five lights flanked with pinnacled buttresses, and its clerestory has Early English windows of two lights each, an under arcade of long lanced arches, and an upper arcade of small arches trefoiled. The Lady chapel was restored about 1850 by Cottingham, is a beautiful example of Early English architecture with lancet windows, has five of these in the E end filled with stained glass in memory of Dean Merewether. The central tower rises two storeys divided by a broad band of quatrefoil tracery, has on each face of the belfry four canopied two-light windows, trefoiled, with a quatrefoil in the head set between buttresses, is crowned by pinnacles added in 1858, and till 1792 had a broach-spire 92 feet high. The font in the nave is Norman, circular, with twisted columns resting on lions, and with figures of the apostles in an arcade. Fifty oak canopied stalls in the choir are of the time of Edward IL, and were restored under the direction of Dr Meyrick. The reredos was designed by Cottingham and executed in 1853, has five deeply recessed panels with alti-relievi of our Lord's passion in Caen stone, and is a memorial of Joseph Bailey, M.P. The organ was built by Schmidt in 1686, and given to the cathedral by Charles II., and has been improved by Byfield, Green, Avery, and Bishop.

The chief monuments in the cathedral are, in the nave, an effigies and tomb of Bishop De Lorraine, an effigies of Bishop De Braose, an effigies of Sir Richard Pembridge, and an effigies of Bishop Booth; in the main transept a sculptured shrine of Bishop Cantilnpe, a canopied effigies of Bishop Aqua Bella, a canopied effigies of Bishop Charlton, and effigies of Bishops Westphaling and Trevenant; in the choir-transept tombs of Bishops Swifield and Godwin; in the-choir an altar-tomb of Bishop Mayo, an arcaded effigies of Bishop Eaynelm, a brass of Dean Frocester, and effigies of Bishops De Vere, Foliot, Betun, and Melun; and in the Lady chapel an effigies of Humphrey de Bohun, an effigies with frescoes of Joanna de Bohnn, several black incised slabs of the earlier part of the 15th century, and effigies of Bishops Lothingar, Clyve, Mapenore, and Dean Berew.

An octagonal chapel, built about the close of the 15th century by Bishop Audley, a fine example of Perpendicular architecture, with fan-tracery vaulting, is to the S of the Lady chapel; another chapel, built in the 15th century by Bishop Stanbury, also with fan-tracery ceiling, is on the N of the choir. The crypt is reached by descent off the N side of the Lady chapel, measures 50 feet by 40, consists of two. aisles, and is called Golgotha. The main cloisters are a good specimen of Later English, but only the E alley of eight panes and the S walk of nine panes remain. Other cloisters,. called the Lady Arbour or Bishop's cloisters, are of later date-than the main cloisters, and consist of a single alley 100 feet long. The Vicar's College, a quadrangle about 100 feet square, is reached through the Lady Arbour. The original chapter-house stood on the E side of the main cloisters, and was decagonal and richly decorated, but only part of its wall remains. The present chapter-house adjoins the SW transept, and contains one of the oldest maps in existence, a map of the world, compiled about 1313, with Jerusalem in the centre, and bearing inscriptions of the time of Henry III. The Bishop's Palace is on the S side of the cathedral fronting the river, and the deanery is on the E.

Parishes.-The parishes within the borough boundaries. of the city are All Saints, St Nicholas, St Owen, St Peter, and parts of St John the Baptist, St Martin, Breinton, Holmer, Bishop Hampton, and Upper Bullingham. Acreage of AU Saints, 376; population, 5627. Acreage of St Nicholas, 560; population, 2149. Acreage of St Owen, 293; population, 4107. Acreage of St Peter, 75; population, 2821. Acreage of St John the Baptist, 41; population, 954. Acreage of St Martin, 1146; population, 1535. The ecclesiastical parish of St James was constituted in 1869 out of St Owen. The parish of All Saints (population, 5479), is a vicarage; net value, £249 with residence; patrons, the-Dean and Canons of Windsor. St Nicholas (2149), a rectory; gross value,, £300; patron, the Lord Chancellor. St Owen with St Peter (3843), a vicarage; net value, c£240 with residence; patrons, Simeon's Trustees. St John the Baptist with St Mary Magdalene (1314), a vicarage; net value, £260 with residence; patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Hereford. St Martin (1362), a vicarage; net value, £79 with residence; patrons, the Dean and Canons of Windsor.. St James (3085), a vicarage; net value, £289 with residence½ patrons, Simeon's Trustees. The whole are in the diocese of Hereford. The other parishes are noticed in their own separate places.

Churches.-The parish churches do not possess striking-features in themselves, but being mostly situated at the terminations of streets they add considerably to the picturesque-ness of the city. All Saints stands at the top of Eign Street, almost in the centre of the city; is very ancient, partly Norman, and said to be the mother church of the city; was given by Henry III. to the hospital of St Anthony of Vienna; consists of nave, chancel, and aisles, with a fine tower and spire; includes parts of Decorated and parts of Perpendicular architecture, and contains some curious carved oak stalls which are supposed to have been appropriated to the brethren of St Anthony's Hospital St Nicholas stands at the foot. of Victoria Street, was rebuilt in 1842 partly from the materials of a previous ancient church in the adjoining square, and has a fine tower. St Owen's stood without the walls, and was destroyed in 1645 during the siege by the Scots. St Peter's stands in St Peter's Street, was founded by Walter de Lacy about the year 1070, is of pure Norman character, was partly rebuilt in 1793 and restored in 1885, and contains seven stalls and a piscina. St John the Baptist is part of the main transept of the cathedral. St Martin's stands on the Ross Eoad, was rebuilt in 1845, and is cruciform, with tower and lofty spire. St James' was built in 1869, and is in the Early Geometric style and cruciform. There are Roman Catholic,'Congregational, Wesleyan, Primitive Methodist, and Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion chapels, and meeting-houses for Brethren and the Society of Friends.

A Blackfriar priory was founded in Port Field beyond Bye Street Gate about the year 1276 by William Cantilupe, brother of Bishop Cantilupe, was rebuilt in Widemarsh suburb in the times of Edward II. and III., enjoyed the presence of Edward III., Edward the Black Prince, three archbishops, and many nobility and gentry at its dedication, became an establishment of great note, was given at the dissolution to John Scudamore and William Wygmore, passed to the Con-ingsbys and the Earls of Essex, and is now represented by inconsiderable ruins, chiefly the south wall' of the abbot's house, some remains of the monks' residences, and a mutilated but still beautiful hexagonal pulpit-cross of the 15th century. A Grey friary was founded in 1293 by Sir W. Pembrugge or Brydges, was the burial-place of Owen Tudor, and was 'given at the dissolution to the Boyles. The house of an ancient community of prebendaries stood in the Bye Street suburb, bore the name of St Guthlac's Priory, was a large building with fine grounds and a gloomy spacious chapel, and was destroyed at some period not recorded. Several other monastic establishments existed in the city, but have left no remains.

Schools, &c.-The cathedral grammar school was founded before 1385 and aided by Queen Elizabeth, and has an endowed income and several scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge. The present buildings were erected in 1875. Hereford County College was established in 1880 as a public school for boys. The Red Coat or Coningsby's Hospital stands on the site of a commandery of the Rnights of St John of Jerusalem, was founded in 1614 for a chaplain and eleven poor men, and comprises a chapel, a hall, and twelve residences. St Giles' Hospital stands on the site of a friary, was rebuilt in 1770, and has houses for five poor men. St Ethelbert's Hospital was founded in the time of Henry III., is a handsome Gothic edifice, and has ten houses for aged and infirm women. Price's Hospital was founded in 1665, and is devoted to the support of native freemen. Williams' Hospital, founded in 1601, supports six aged men. Trinity Hospital was built by subscription in 1824, has an endowed income of £217, and supports three men and twelve women. There are several other almshouses and charities, an infirmary, an eye and ear hospital, a dispensary, and a county and city lunatic asylum. The infirmary stands a little SE of the Castle Walks, was first opened with capacity for seventy patients in 1776, and is now a great institution, aided by considerable endowments, but mainly supported by subscriptions.

Trade, &c.-Hereford has a head post office and two railway stations, is a seat of assizes and quarter sessions, and publishes four weekly newspapers. Markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and fairs on the Wednesday after 2 Feb., Easter Wednesday, the first Wednesday after 2 May, the first Wednesday of July, the third Wednesday of Aug. and Oct., and the second Wednesday of Dec. Much business is done in cider, hops, malt, grain, bark, timber, and wool. There are also manufactories of encaustic tiles, leather, turnery, nails, &c. It is the headquarters of the Herefordshire Militia, now the 4th battalion of the Shropshire Light Infantry. The city was chartered by Henry III., sent two members to Parliament from the time of Edward I. down to 1885, and is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors. The borough has a separate commission of the peace, and is divided into three wards. Acreage, 5031 ½ population, 20, 267. The parliamentary borough is co-extensive with the municipal borough, and since 1885 returns one member to Parliament, having been deprived of its second representative by the Redistribution of Seats Act of that year.

The Diocese.-The bishopric of Hereford is said by some writers to have been founded in the time of the ancient Britons, and to have been subject first to the metropolitan see of Caerleon, afterwards to that of St David's; but, if it really existed in such early times, it has left no distinct trace of its limits, and none whatever of its bishops. It cannot be said, on the authority of any very credible record, to have been founded till 680; and it is recorded to have' then had for its first bishop Putta, under Sexulfus, Archbishop of Lichfield. It has undergone many mutations, and it is now, in point of population, the smallest in the province of Canterbury, excepting only the bishopric of Bangor. The most notable among its bishops have been Leofgar, who was more soldier than priest, and went to battle with Prince Gryffydd at Glasbnry; Robert of Lorraine, De Cliva, Foliot the enemy of Thomas a Becket, Cantilupe who was canonized, Cherlton the lord treasurer, Castello the cardinal, Godwin the historian, Herbert Croft, distinguished for bravery against the Cromwel-liaus; Bisse, Hoadley, and Huntingford the scholar. Richard Baxter was offered the bishopric and refused it. Among the-dignitaries have been two cardinals, Baron Saye and Sele, Poly-dore Virgil the chronicler, Adam de Mnrimuth the chronicler,. and Simon de Frene the poet. The cathedral establishment includes the bishop, the dean, four canons, a precentor, a treasurer, two archdeadons, twenty-eight prebendaries, and a chancellor. The income of the bishop is £4200, of the dean £1000,. of each of the canons £500, of each of the archdeacons, £200. The diocese is divided into the archdeaconries of Hereford and Ludlow, and comprehends the entire county of Hereford, excepting parts of the ecclesiastical parishes of Cowleigh and West Malvem (in the diocese of Worcester); Cwmyoy and Dixton (in the diocese of Llandaff), and Holy Trinity, Dean Forest East, Gorsley-with-Clifford's Mesne, Lea (entire parish), and Preston (in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol). It also includes part of the ecclesiastical parish of Kentchurch-with-Llangua (Monmonthshire); the ecclesiastical parishes. of Criggion, Forden, Montgomery, and Trelystan-with-Leigh-ton, and parts of Alberbury, Cburchstoke, Hyssington-with-Snead, Lydham, Mainstone, Middleton-in-Chirbury, and Great Wollaston (Montgomeryshire); the ecclesiastical parishes of Evancoyd, Rnighton, Norton, and New Radnor, and parts of Brampton Bryan, Brilley-with-Michaelehurch-on-Arrow, Presteigne-with-Discoyd, and Old Radnor-with-Rinnerton (Radnorshire); the deaneries of Bridgnorth, Stottesdon, and Wenlock, and parts of the deaneries of Burford, Clun, Ludlowy Montgomery, and Pontesbury (Salop); parts of the ecclesiastical parishes of Bobbington and Tuck Hill (Staffordshire), and that part of the deanery of Burford in the county of Worcester, and parts of the ecclesiastical parishes of Stoke Bliss and Old Wood (Worcestershire). Population, 217, 699.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyHerefordshire 
Poor Law unionHereford 
Registration districtHereford1932 - 1974

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Directories & Gazetteers

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Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Herefordshire is available to browse.


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Newspapers and Periodicals

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RegionWest Midlands
Postal districtHR4
Post TownHereford