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Herefordshire, England - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer (1868)]
"HEREFORDSHIRE, an inland county situated in the W. of England, on the borders of Wales, between 61° 49' and 52° 24' N. lat., and 2° 20' and 30' 7" W. long. It is bounded on the N. by Shropshire and Worcestershire, on the E. by Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, on the S. by Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire, and on the W. by Radnorshire, Brecknockshire, and Monmouthshire. By the Act 7 and 8 Vict. c. 61, several detached portions of this county, which were locally situated in Shropshire, Worcestershire, Radnorshire, and Monmouthshire, were taken from it, and a detached portion of Worcestershire, locally situated in Herefordshire, was added to it.

The extreme length of Herefordshire is 40 miles, and the extreme breadth 34 miles. Its area is 838 square miles, or 534,823 statute acres, and includes within its limits 26,129 houses, of which 25,134 are inhabited, and 815 uninhabited. Its population in 1861 amounted to 123,712, and in 1851 to 115,489, showing an increase of 8,223 in the decennial period.

In the earliest periods of our history Herefordshire formed part of the territory of the Silures, a tribe of the Iberians, in whose possession it remained until its conquest by the Roman general, Julius Frontinus, about the year 73. Of its occupation by the Silures, a record still remains in the names of several of the streams in the county. Numerous traces of Roman roads and entrenchments exist in various parts. Of the former, Watling Street, one of the most important in England, passed by Brandon and Wigmore to Kenchester, and by way of Dore and Kington to Abergavenny.

During the period of the Heptarchy, Herefordshire was included in the province of Mercia. In 819 the Danes, who had previously occupied the county for a short time, regained possession of it, and elected Cenolph their king. This second occupation of the Danes was also of short duration, for they were defeated by the West Angles, under Alured, and Cenolph was slain.

Herefordshire, from its situation on the borders or "marches" of Wales, was peculiarly exposed to the ravages committed by the Welsh in their inroads into England. In the year 1055 it was invaded by Gryffyth, a Welsh prince, at the head of an army of his countrymen. He defeated the English under Ranulph, Earl of Hereford, captured the city of Hereford, and after setting fire to the cathedral, and plundering and slaughtering the inhabitants, retired with a large booty into his own territory.

To avenge this outrage, Harold, son of Earl Godwin, was sent by Edward the Confessor into the Marches. The Welsh were defeated, and a treaty was concluded, the conditions of which were so repeatedly violated by the Welsh, that Harold, on ascending the throne of England, issued a decree that any Welshman found on the English side of Offa's Dyke (part of which ran through Herefordshire) should lose his right hand. Even this stringent measure did not deter them from continuing their inroads, and for several centuries afterwards Herefordshire was still subjected to the attacks of bands of marauders from Wales.

In 1087 an insurrection took place in the county, headed by the Earl of Hereford, Lord Mortimer, and Odo, Bishop of Bayeux. On the king promising to redress grievances, and Odo consenting to leave the kingdom, tranquillity was restored. In the dispute between Maud, daughter of Henry I., and Stephen, Herefordshire was the scene of several contests. In the reign of Henry II., the Welsh, invited by the defenceless condition in which the garrison towns had been left on the demolition of the castles by that monarch, committed great depredations in the county, which they continued until the arrival of an English army, sent by Henry, to restrain them.

From this period to the time of Owain Glyndwr, when Herefordshire, like the rest of the counties on the borders of Wales, was greatly disturbed by his incursions, few events of importance occur in the history of this county. During the wars of the Roses, a great battle was fought (in 1461) at Mortimer's Cross. In the 27th year of Henry VIII. a statute was passed for incorporating England and Wales, by which the extent of Herefordshire was increased.

In the civil war between Charles I. and the parliament, this county did not escape the commotions which prevailed in the other parts of the kingdom; the city of Hereford was besieged by the parliamentarians and captured, was retaken by the royalists, was afterwards besieged by the Scots, and was relieved from them by the king on his retreat from Naseby.

The surface of Herefordshire is hilly. The principal elevations are - in the W. the Hatterel range of the Black mountains, commanding fine views; and two ranges running parallel to the Hatterel, one of which commences at Mynydd-Ferdinn, and terminates at the Vagar Hill; the other runs from Mornington Stradle to Middlewood; in the S.E. a range of hills extending from Lea to Woolhope and Stoke Edith; in the E. the Malvern hills; in the N. the hills about Downton, Leintwardine, and Ludlow; and a range running south-westwards towards Kington.

The chief rivers of Herefordshire are, the Wye, the Lugg, and the Teme. The Wye rises in Cardiganshire, near Plinlimmon, and entering Herefordshire, runs northwards, forming part of the boundary between Radnorshire and Herefordshire. It then flows in an easterly direction to Hereford, thence southwards to Ross, forms part of the boundary between Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, and finally quits Herefordshire at the Leys. The scenery of the Wye during the greater part of its course is very picturesque. This river is only navigable for barges.

The Lugg rises in Radnorshire, and entering Herefordshire, flows eastwards to Leominster, thence in a more southerly direction to Mordiford, where it joins the Wye. The Teme rises in Radnorshire, enters Herefordshire, then flows into Shropshire; again enters Herefordshire at Ludlow, and finally quits it near Burford. Other streams are - the Arrow, Fromie, Leddon, Doyer, and Munnow. All these streams abound with trout, and are remarkable generally for the beauty of their scenery.

The climate of this county is variable, but extremely healthy. Herefordshire belongs to the Old Red sandstone formation. The soil consists for the most part of a deep, heavy, red loam, with substrata of clay or gravel. The principal productions are - wheat, barley, oats, turnips, peas, and vetches. The chief wheat-growing districts are in the centre of the county, and between Hereford and Ledbury. The best barley is grown in the S.E. Large crops of oats are produced on the high grounds in the E. and W. Orchards are numerous in all parts of the county, and large quantities of cider are made.

Hops are extensively grown in the eastern and central parts of the county. Herefordshire is very celebrated for its breed of oxen. Many horses, especially draught, of moderate quality, are bred. The breed of sheep which thrives best in this county, is a cross between the' Leicester and the Ryeland. A considerable supply of Welsh mutton is sent to the Herefordshire markets. The county is well wooded, and possesses a large quantity of good oak.

Herefordshire is divided for civil purposes into the hundreds of Broxash, Ewyas Lacy, Greytree, Grimsworth, Huntingdon, Radlow, Stretford, Webtree, Wigmore, Wolphy, Wormelow, Hereford City, and Leominster Borough, and contains 221 parishes, and 7 market towns - Hereford, Leominster, Weobley, Ross, Ledbury, Kington, and Bromyard. The county is divided into 8 Poorlaw Unions - viz: Bromyard, Dore, Hereford, Kington, Ledbury, Leominster, Ross, and Weobley.

Herefordshire is in the Oxford circuit; the assizes and quarter-sessions for the county are held at Hereford; county courts are held at Bromyard, Hereford, Kington, Ledbury, Leominster, and Ross. Three members are returned to parliament for the county, two for the city of Hereford, and two for the borough of Leominster. For ecclesiastical purposes, with the exception of a few parishes, which are in the diocese of St. David's, the whole county is included in the diocese of Hereford, of which it forms an archdeaconry.

The manufactures of Herefordshire are of very little importance: gloves and woollen stuffs were formerly made to some extent, but very few hands are now employed upon them. The greater portion of the labouring population is engaged in agriculture and in the making of cider; a very small portion is employed in malting, brewing, and coal-mining.

The principal railways which traverse Herefordshire are the Shrewsbury and Hereford - a continuation of which, the Shrewsbury and Crewe, joins the London and North-Western railway at Crewe; branch lines of the Shrewsbury and Hereford railway exist between Leominster and Kington, between Craven Arms and Knighton, and a third runs to Tenbury; the Worcester and Hereford, running from Hereford by way of Ledbury to Worcester, from which point there is direct railway communication with all parts of the kingdom; the Newport, Abergavenny, and Hereford, connecting Herefordshire with South Wales; and the Hereford, Ross, and Gloucester railway.

From Hereford the principal roads are - to Ross, 14 miles; to Ledbury, 15 miles; to Hay, 20 miles; to Kington, 19 miles; to Abergavenny, 24 miles; to Monmouth, 20 miles; to Leominster, 13 miles; to Ludlow, 24 miles; to Bromyard, 14 miles. The principal canals are the Ledbury and Gloucester and the Leominster and Tenbury.

Of the many forts and castles which Hereford anciently possessed, there are but few traces. Of the castles of Hereford, Goderich, Clifford, and Bredwardine, and of the fort at Brampton Bryan, some portions still exist. There are a few British remains, the most remarkable of which are the Herefordshire Beacon, Offa's Dyke, and a pile of stone called Arthur's Stone. Of Roman roads and entrenchments there are numerous remains. The great road Watling Street entered this county near Leintwardine, passed by Kenchester, and left it near Longtown.

There were other Roman roads from Gloucester and from Worcester to Kenchester. Traces exist of Roman entrenchments between the Malvern hills and Whitbourn, Thornbury Croft, Brandon and Cawall Knoll; and of an encampment near Downton. The monastic institutions of Herefordshire were about 21 in number, and were situated at Aconbury, Barton, Clifford, Carswell, Dewlas, Dore, Ewyas, Flanesford, Hereford, Kilpeck, Ledbury, Leominster, Limebrook, Monkland, Shobdon, Titley, Wigmore, and Wormesley.

The principal seats of the nobility and gentry in the county are - Eywood, near Titley, of Lady Langdale; Gartons, near Mansel Gamage, of Sir H. G. Cotterel, Bart.; Goodrich Court, Colonel W. H. Meyrick; The Hall, Brampton Brian, of the Countess of Oxford and Mortimer; Hampton Court, near Hope-under-Dinmore, J. Arkwright, Esq.; Hardwick, near Clifford, of Colonel Powell; Harewood House, of Sir Hungerford Hoskyns; Heath House, Leintwardine, of Sir W. Clark, Bart.; Holme House, near Holme Lacy, of Sir E. F. S. Stanhope; Kentchurch Court, of Colonel J. L. C. Scudamore; Knill Court, of Sir G. Walsh, Bart.; Moccas Court, of Sir V. Cornewall; Putley Court, of Major J. R. Stock; Shobdon Court, of Lord Bateman; Stoke Edith Park, of Lady E. Foley; Titley Court, of Admiral Sir T. Hastings; Yatton Court, near Aymestrey, of Lady F. Harcourt."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]