Hereford

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Hereford (/ˈhɛrɨfərd/) is a cathedral city, civil parish and county town of Herefordshire, England. It lies on the River Wye, approximately 16 miles (26 km) east of the border with Wales, 24 miles (39 km) southwest of Worcester, and 23 miles (37 km) northwest of Gloucester. With a population of 55,800 people, it is the largest settlement in the county.

Hereford is home to Hereford Cathedral.

The name “Hereford” is said to come from the Anglo Saxon “here”, an army or formation of soldiers, and the “ford”, a place for crossing a river. If this is the origin it suggests that Hereford was a place where a body of armed men forded or crossed the Wye. The Welsh name for Hereford is Henffordd, meaning “old road”, and probably refers to the Roman Road and Roman settlement at nearby Stretton Sugwas.

An early town charter from 1189 granted by Richard I of England describes it as “Hereford in Wales”. Hereford has been recognised as a city since time immemorial, with the status being reconfirmed as recently as October 2000.

It is now known chiefly as a trading centre for a wider agricultural and rural area. Products from Hereford include: cider, beer, leather goods, nickel alloys, poultry, chemicals and cattle, including the famous Hereford breed.

Hereford became the seat of Putta, Bishop of Hereford, some time between AD 676 and 688, after which the settlement continued to grow due to its proximity to the border between Mercia and Wales, becoming the Saxon capital of West Mercia by the beginning of the 8th century.

Hostilities between the Anglo-Saxons and the Welsh came to a head with the Battle of Hereford in 760, in which the Britons freed themselves from the influence of the English. Hereford was again targeted by the Welsh during their conflict with the Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor in AD 1056 when, supported by Viking allies, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, King of Gwynedd and Powys, marched on the town and put it to the torch before returning home in triumph.

The present Hereford Cathedral dates from the 12th century. Former Bishops of Hereford include Saint Thomas de Cantilupe and Lord High Treasurer of England Thomas Charlton.

The city gave its name to two suburbs of Paris, France: Maisons-Alfort (population 54,600) and Alfortville (population 36,232), due to a manor built there by Peter of Aigueblanche, Bishop of Hereford, in the middle of the 13th century.

Hereford, a base for successive holders of the title Earl of Hereford, was once the site of a castle, Hereford Castle, which rivalled that of Windsor in size and scale. This was a base for repelling Welsh attacks and a secure stronghold for English kings such as King Henry IV when on campaign in the Welsh Marches against Owain Glyndŵr. The castle was dismantled in the 18th century and landscaped into Castle Green.

After the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1461, during the Wars of the Roses, the defeated Lancastrian leader Owen Tudor (grandfather of the future Henry VII of England) was taken to Hereford by Sir Roger Vaughan and executed in High Town. A plaque now marks the spot of the execution. Vaughan was later himself executed, under a flag of truce, by Owen’s son Jasper.

During the civil war the city changed hands several times. On 30 September 1642 Parliamentarians led by Sir Robert Harley and Henry Grey, 1st Earl of Stamford occupied the city without opposition. In December they withdrew to Gloucester because of the presence in the area of a Royalist army under Lord Herbert. The city was again occupied briefly from 23 April to 18 May 1643 by Parliamentarians commanded by Sir William Waller but it was in 1645 that the city saw most action. On 31 July 1645 a Scottish army of 14,000 under Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven besieged the city but met stiff resistance from its garrison and inhabitants. They withdrew on 1 September when they received news that a force led by King Charles was approaching. The city was finally taken for Parliament on 18 December 1645 by Colonel Birch and Colonel Morgan. King Charles showed his gratitude to the city of Hereford on 16 September 1645 by augmenting the city’s coat of arms with the three lions of Richard I of England, ten Scottish Saltires signifying the ten defeated Scottish regiments, a very rare lion crest on top of the coat of arms signifying “defender of the faith” and the even rarer gold-barred peer’s helm, found only on the arms of one other municipal authority: those of the City of London.

Nell Gwynne, actress and mistress of King Charles II, is said to have been born in Hereford in 1650 (although other towns and cities, notably Oxford, also claim her as their own); Gwynn Street is named after her. Another famous actor born in Hereford is David Garrick (1717–1779).

The Bishop’s Palace next to the Cathedral was built in 1204 and continually used to the present day.  Hereford Cathedral School is also one of the oldest schools in England.

The main local government body covering Hereford is Herefordshire Council. Hereford has a “City Council” but this is actually a parish council with city status, and has only limited powers.

Historically Hereford has been the county town of Herefordshire. In 1974 Herefordshire was merged with Worcestershire to become part of the county of Hereford and Worcester, and Hereford became a district of the new county. Hereford had formed a historic borough and was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. On 1 April 1998 the County of Hereford and Worcester was abolished, and Herefordshire and Worcestershire were re-established as separate counties, although with slightly altered borders. However the new Herefordshire was a unitary authority without any districts, and so Hereford lost its district status (although, confusingly, the authority’s full legal name is the County of Herefordshire District Council). Charter Trustees were appointed to preserve mayoral traditions until a civil parish council could be set up, which happened in 2000. Hereford is one of only seven civil parishes in England which have city status.

There have been plans for many years for a north–south bypass and currently the plan is for a nine-mile (14 km) dual carriageway; however, HM Government as yet has refused to grant permission or supply funds. Until then the A49 Trunk Road, A465, and A438 continue to run through the city centre.

Hereford is served by a 4-platform railway station on the Welsh Marches Line which opened in 1854. There was also another station in Hereford which is now closed, this was Hereford Barton. Services regularly connect to Worcester, Birmingham, London, Manchester and settlements in south Wales.

RAF Hereford was a non-flying station of the Royal Air Force located nearby to Hereford. It was the home of a wide variety of training schools from 1940 until it closed for RAF training in 1999. Subsequently the Special Air Service (SAS) moved their base to there from its previous location in the city. There’s a clocktower in Hereford where the names of the dead SAS officers are inscribed.

The main public service employers in Hereford include:

In 2005 Hereford was granted Fairtrade City status.

Major employers in the city include:

  • BulmersCider and alcoholic beverages producer. Brands include Woodpecker Cider, Strongbow and Bulmers Cider
  • Special Metals Wiggin Ltd – Manufacturers of nickel alloys
  • Cargill Meats Europe (formerly Sun Valley) – Manufacturers and suppliers of food products for retailers and foodservice operators
  • Painter Brothers – Manufacturers of galvanized steel towers including The Skylon

Other major companies based in Herefordshire include:

  • Spinning Dog Brewery – Brewers of traditional beers in Hereford City
  • Wye Valley Brewery – Producers of such beers as Butty Bach and Hereford Pale Ale (HPA) and other real ales.
  • Weston’s Cider – Award-winning cider and perry producer based just outside Hereford

Herefordshire is a centre for cider production as it supports many acres of orchards, so many breweries and associated organisations exist here, along with other heavy and light industries. Within the city, many are based at the Rotherwas Industrial Estate.

For much of the 20th century, Hereford City remained structurally stagnant with no major investment. Since the council became independent from Worcester in 1998, much has changed in that regard.

A major regeneration project is planned in Hereford city centre, formerly known as the Edgar Street Grid, it is now managed by Hereford Futures. This covers an area of around 100 acres (0.40 km2) just north of the old city walls. Work started on the 8th October 2012, and should take around 15 years to complete the whole project. The regeneration includes the rebuilding of the canal basin at the end of the currently disused Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal. The £80 million phase 1 will include a supermarket, multiplex cinema, shops, restaurants, and other facilities. The Butter Market is due for refurbishment.

A proposed bypass has been drawn up to circulate the city, which suffers from rush hour traffic, with potential routes either to the east or west of the city. Both routes would connect with the Rotherwas Access Road which was recently completed, connecting the Rotherwas Industrial Estate to the A49. Rotherwas itself has recently been awarded an Enterprise Zone status by the government which is expected to boost the economy and bring in thousands of new jobs.

Hereford is due to receive half of the 20,600 new homes expected to be built in the county by 2026 as part of the Regional Spatial Strategy.

Hereford is home of Hereford United Football Club, best known for beating Newcastle in the FA Cup in January 1972, when they were still a non-league side and Newcastle were in the top division of English football. They had a spell in the Football League from 1972 to 1997 reaching the second tier of English football in 1976, and were relegated to non-League status in 1997 before returning to beat Halifax Town A.F.C. 3–2 in the Nationwide Conference play-off final in 2005-06 to book a return to the Football League. They were again promoted, this time automatically, during the 2007-08 season, projecting them to this level of football for the first time since the late 1970s. As part of the regeneration of Hereford City Centre, the football club are renovating their ground.

Football within the county is administered by the Herefordshire Football Association

Hereford Rugby Club is also a popular local team. The club has just announced a major £6 million move to a new home.

The city is also home to Hereford Racecourse, a traditional National Hunt course to the north of the city centre which hosts around twenty meetings a year. Within the racecourse is a municipal Golf course owned by HALO Leisure, who plan major improvements. Many other golf courses surround the City at Belmont, Burghill and Brockington.

Hereford’s public leisure facilities are managed by a not-for-profit trust called HALO Leisure, which runs the Hereford Leisure Centre (that includes huge sports halls, gymnasium, squash courts, and an outdoor athletics facility), and the Hereford Leisure Pool (which includes a gymnasium, full size swimming pool, leisure pool, diving pool, and learners pool).

The Hereford Rowing Club (along with the Kayak Club) uses the River Wye; it is a popular club with a strong junior group. The stretch of river is also used for other water sports. The Wye is the third largest river in Britain.

Hereford has a thriving nine pin skittle league, formed on 24 October 1902, and today consisting of five divisions. Hereford has other well attended set of clubs and societies including the Liberal Club, Railway Club, Farmers Club, Welsh Club, Military Club, and the Whitecross Squash & Lawn Tennis Club.

Herefordshire is one of only three English counties not to have a university.

Farming has played a major part in the history of the county of Herefordshire, and for many years the City of Hereford was the epicentre, playing host to the Cattle Market; a major market site for many years. Sadly with the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak the market suffered and trade reduced. Established by Act of Parliament, the market must be provided, and so a new Bill was introduced in 2003 to move the site to the outskirts of the city. The inner city site would then be available for redevelopment, a process that has now begun. The new Hereford Cattle Market opened its doors in August 2011 on a new site just outside the city and has already proved so successful that trading and business is up on the previous sites record.

The annual Three Choirs Festival, originating in the 18th century and one of the oldest music festivals in Europe, is held in Hereford every third year, the other venues being Gloucester and Worcester.

Composer Sir Edward Elgar lived at Plas Gwyn in Hereford between 1904 and 1911, writing some of his most famous works during that time. He is commemorated with a statue on the Cathedral Close. One of his Enigma Variations was inspired by a bulldog named Dan falling into the River Wye at Hereford, and the dog is similarly honoured with a wooden statue beside the river.

Hereford is home to the Hereford Police Male Voice Choir who competed on the BBC TV show “Last Choir Standing”, and the Railway Choir.

H.Art, or Herefordshire Art Week, is an annual county-wide exhibition held in September, displaying the work of local artists. Many places usually closed to the public are opened during this week, such as the Bishop’s Palace at the Cathedral.

There are numerous little galleries and places to find artworks in Hereford.

The troops of the fictional commando squad Rainbow were based at RAF Hereford, as detailed in the novel Rainbow Six.

Hereford is briefly mentioned, though mispronounced, in Ronin as a ploy by Sam (Robert De Niro) to expose Spence (Sean Bean) as a liar.

The Hereford Times is the major weekly newspaper, with the ‘Hereford Journal’ and ‘Hereford Admag’ also in circulation. The Council produces a regular magazine called “Herefordshire Matters”.

The city’s main theatre and cultural venue is the Courtyard Centre for the Arts which was opened in 1998, replacing the New Hereford Theatre.

There is also a single screen Odeon cinema in Commercial Road, although the nearest multiplex facility is some distance away in Worcester. This is set to change when the new city centre development is complete, with a new multiplex being built by 2015.

The Old House, Hereford is an historic black and white house in the centre of High Town in Hereford City. It is now a museum about life in the Jacobean era of the 1600s when it was built.

The Hereford Museum and Art Gallery, housed in a Victorian Gothic building and opened in 1874, presents artefacts, fine art, and decorative art associated with the local area.

The Hereford Cider Museum is located in the City, with a shop and a fully interactive guide to how to produce the drink. H C.Mus. is a reg Charity Trust founded in the early 1970s by people who wanted to record the past and rapidly disappearing traditional art of cider making as had been done for generations on the farms in the “Cider Counties”. Situated in an old cider factory, it opened in 1980 and 1981. Annually it holds a large display of named cider apples, during the cider festival, when the apples are pressed in the old way. In the spring/summer there is the International Cider festival, started in the mid 1980’s, by the Friends of the Museum with the advice of Long Ashton Research station Nr Bristol (sadly no longer in existence). The Museum also holds in its recent Pomological Archive, a number of records pertaining to apples and cider.

Hereford Cathedral dates from 1079 and contains the Mappa Mundi, a medieval map of the world dating from the 13th century which was restored in the late 20th century. It also contains the world famous Chained Library.

Holme Lacy House is now a hotel for a major national chain was built by John Scudamore in the 1500s. It has played host to many famous historical figures in its time.

Hereford is twinned with Dillenburg, Germany and Vierzon, France.

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