Herefordshire, a county on the borders of England and Wales, was named after an army ford, quite apt perhaps, when you consider the part battles played in its rich history.
Records date back to Pre-Roman times when the county was under control of a tribe called the Silures, who British King Caratacus appealed to for help when faced with a Roman invasion. The pagan king of Mercia also had control of Herefordshire in the 7th century, before he died in battle. It was around this time, in 676, that religion began to play its part in the county, and a diocese was formed in Anglo-Saxon times. The Bishop was given a seat in Hereford, which became a fully-fledged town in 700 AD.
The turbulent nature of Herefordshire’s history continues into Norman times, due to an invasion by the Welsh in 1055, which all but destroyed the new Cathedral in Hereford. The Earl of Hereford was out of luck too. Following his coronation as King of England in January 1066 AD, his reign was short lived, as William Duke of Normandy, defeated and killed him near Hastings later that same year.
After the Norman conquest, further work took place to fortify the vulnerable borderlands of Herefordshire against Welsh attack. The building work included fortresses and castles, strategically located close to the Welsh border. Although many of the castles are now ruins, some of these are open to the public, such as Longtown Castle, which is under the control of English Heritage, and Kinnersley Castle. The latter was once a Norman Fortress, but as it changed hands, slowly evolved into an Elizabethan Manor House. Other testaments to the built history of the county include Eastnor Castle, a grand mock castle built in Ledbury, and Goodrich Castle in Ross-On-Wye, which saw action during the civil war.
The history of Herefordshire cannot be explained away in a few paragraphs, but nor can it just be limited to civil unrest. Industry played its part too, with sizable wool and cloth trade in the middle- ages, and a notable cider trade building up by the 18th century. Due to its rural location, it was and still remains, an agricultural county. Herefordshire cattle were mentioned in agricultural texts as early as the 1600’s, and today around 25 countries keep records, or herd books, detailing the ancestry of this breed.
In a not wholly unrelated vein, there’s also the Woolhope Naturalists Field Club. Set up in 1851, this society was set up for those interested in the natural history, geology and archaeology of Herefordshire. Along with a regular programme of events for its members, they also have a room in Hereford Library. This room has stock of local and natural history books, journals from local and national field societies, and a collection of publications. These include ‘Herefordshire Birds’, and a ‘Guide To Prehistoric and Roman Sites in Herefordshire’.
It just goes to show, history is everywhere you look in Herefordshire, whether it’s examples of Norman Castles, historic cattle breeds, or details of the famous House of York v House of Lancaster battle in 1461 at Mortimers Cross. It’s easy to find, if you do a little research.