A history of Herefordshire

A history of Herefordshire — from Anglo-Saxon times to the present

Herefordshire is mentioned in an Anglo Saxon chronicle of 1051. It is thought the name ‘Here – ford’ derives from the Old English for ‘Army crossing’ being the location of the settlement on the river Wye.

At various times Herefordshire has been controlled by the Welsh, Anglo-Saxons, Danes and Normans.

In the Doomsday survey, parts of the Welsh Marches were assessed under Herefordshire. The border between England and Wales has for many centuries been quite flexible and is one of the reasons so many castles abound in the region. The chained library in Hereford Cathedral contains a unique source of Herefordshire and some of the earliest printed books in Europe.

Herefordshire was historically seen as a rich agricultural county and was slow in adopting industrial development and manufacturing, with canals and railways arriving much later than elsewhere in England.

In 1110, in Hereford a stone bridge was built across the Wye replacing a wooden one. Later stone walls were constructed around the city and parts of the wall are visible today.

The year 1642 saw Hereford strongly support the king in the civil war and the city fell to the Parliamentarians in 1643 but they withdrew. A Parliamentary army laid siege to Hereford in 1645 but they were unable to take the city. However, they were eventually successful in retaking Hereford as the king’s army weakened.

It was in the 17th Century that Hereford became known for brewing and making cider. In the late 1700s the streets of the city were paved and provision was made for street lighting.

In 1845 the railway finally reached Hereford and a canal was dug from Gloucester to Hereford but it closed in 1880.

In the 20th century, the County Hospital and Technical College were opened as was a Cider Museum and the Mappa Mundi Library. The manufacturing industry grew to include food processing, brewing, furniture making and metalworking.

Illustration of Hereford Cathedral from the book, 'Picturesque England', published in 1891.
Hereford Cathedral from the book 'Picturesque England', published in 1891.