History of Herefordshire
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The History of Herefordshire starts with a shire in the time of Aethelstan (895–939), and is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1051. In the Domesday Survey some adjacent areas of the Welsh Marches are assessed under Herefordshire. The western and southern borders remained debatable ground ("Archenfield") until, with the incorporation of the Welsh Marches in 1535, considerable territory was annexed to Herefordshire. These areas formed the hundreds of Wigmore, Ewyas Lacy and Huntington, while Ewyas Harold was united to Webtree. At the time of the Domesday Survey the divisions of the county were very unsettled. As many as nineteen hundreds are mentioned, but these were of varying extent, some containing only one manor, some from twenty to thirty. Of the twelve modern hundreds, only Greytree, Radlow, Stretford, Wolphy and Wormelow retain Domesday names. the others being Broxash, Ewyas-Lacy, Grimsworth, Huntington, Webtree and Wigmore. Situated on the Welsh border, Herefordshire shares historic and linguistic affinities with Wales, the Welsh name for Herefordshire is Sir Henffordd.
Prior to the arrival of the West Saxons, the region roughly corresponding to modern Herefordshire lay under the control of earlier Welsh kingdoms, principally the minor kingdom of Ergyng. Welsh origins in Herefordshire are evident in the survival of the Welsh language in parts of the county until the 19th Century, the survival of many Welsh place names and the historic Welsh commote of Archenfield.
- Archenfield was still Welsh enough in the time of Elizabeth for the bishop of Hereford to be made responsible together with the four Welsh bishops for the translation of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer into Welsh. Welsh was still commonly spoken here in the first half of the nineteenth century, and we are told that churchwardens’ notices were put up in both Welsh and English until about 1860.
Welsh was spoken by individuals until comparatively recently.
At some time in the 7th century the West Saxons pushed their way across the Severn and established themselves in the territory between Wales and Mercia, and established the minor kingdom of Magonset, which was later absorbed into Mercia. The district which is now Herefordshire was occupied by a tribe the Hecanas, who congregated chiefly in the fertile area about Hereford and in the mining districts round Ross-on-Wye. In the 8th century Offa extended the Mercian frontier to the Wye, securing it by the earthwork known as Offa's Dyke.
Danish and Norman control
In 915 the Danes made their way up the Severn to the district of Archenfield, where they took prisoner Cyfeiliawg, Bishop of Llandaff, and in 921 they besieged Wigmore, which had been rebuilt in that year by Edward. From the time of its first settlement the district was the scene of constant border warfare with the Welsh, and Harold, whose Earldom included this county, ordered that any Welshman caught trespassing over the border should lose his right hand. In the period preceding the Conquest much disturbance was caused by the outrages of the Norman colony planted in this county by Edward the Confessor. Richard's castle in the north of the county was the first Norman fortress erected on English soil, and Wigmore, Ewyas Harold, Clifford, Weobley, Hereford, Donnington and Caldicot were all the sites of Norman strongholds. Then William the Conqueror entrusted the subjugation of Herefordshire to William FitzOsbern, but Edric the Wild in conjunction with the Welsh prolonged violent resistance against him for two years.
Return to English control
During "The Anarchy" – the prolonged civil war of Stephen's reign – Hereford Castle and Weobley castle were held against the King, but were captured in 1138. Edward, afterwards Edward I, was imprisoned in Hereford Castle, and made his famous escape thence in 1265. In 1326 the parliament assembled at Hereford which deposed Edward II. In the 14th and 15th centuries the forest of Deerfold gave refuge to some of the most noted followers of Wycliffe. During the Wars of the Roses the influence of the Mortimers led the county to support the Yorkist cause, and Edward, afterwards Edward IV, raised 23,000 men in this neighbourhood. The Battle of Mortimer's Cross was fought in 1461 near Wigmore. Before the outbreak of the civil war of the 17th century, complaints of illegal taxation were rife in Herefordshire, but a strong anti-puritan feeling induced the county to favour the royalist cause. Hereford, Goodrich and Ledbury all endured sieges.
Earls of Hereford
The earldom of Hereford was granted by William I to William FitzOsbern, about 1067, but on the outlawry of his son Roger in 1074 the title lapsed until conferred on Henry de Bohun about 1199. It remained in the possession of the de Bohuns until the death of Humphrey de Bohun, 7th Earl of Hereford in 1373; in 1397 Henry, Earl of Derby, afterwards King Henry IV, who had married Mary de Bohun, was created Duke of Hereford. Edward VI created Walter Devereux, a descendant of the de Bohun family, Viscount Hereford, in 1550, and his grandson, the famous earl of Essex, was born in this county. Since this date the viscounty has been held by the Devereux family, and the holder ranks as the premier viscount of England. The families of Clifford, Giffard and Mortimer figured prominently in the warfare on the Welsh border, and the Talbots, Lacys, Crofts and Scudamores all had important seats in the county, Sir James Scudamore of Holme Lacy being the original of the Sir Scudamore of Spenser's Faerie Queene. Sir John Oldcastle, the leader of the Lollards, was sheriff of Herefordshire in 1406.
Herefordshire has been included in the diocese of Hereford since its foundation in 676. In 1291 it comprised the Deaneries of Hereford, Weston, Leominster, Weobley, Frome, Archenfield and Ross in the Archdeaconry of Hereford, and the Deaneries of Burford, Stottesdon, Ludlow, Pontesbury, Clun and Wenlock, in the Archdeaconry of Shropshire. In 1877 the name of the Archdeaconry of Shropshire was changed to Ludlow, and in 1899 the Deaneries of Abbey Dore, Bromyard, Kingsland, Kington and Ledbury were created in the Archdeaconry of Hereford.
Herefordshire was governed by a sheriff as early as the reign of Edward the Confessor, the shire court meeting at Hereford where later the assizes and quarter sessions were also held. In 1606 an act was passed declaring Hereford free from the jurisdiction of the Council of Wales, but the county was not finally relieved from the interference of the Marcher Lords until the reign of William and Mary. Herefordshire was first represented in parliament in 1295, when it returned two members, the boroughs of Ledbury, Hereford, Leominster and Weobley being also represented. Hereford was again represented in 1299, and Bromyard and Ross in 1304, but the boroughs made very irregular returns, and from 1306 until Weobley regained representation in 1627, only Hereford and Leominster were represented. Under the act of 1832 the county returned three members and Weobley was disfranchised. The act of 1868 deprived Leominster of one member, and under the act of 1885 Leominster was disfranchised, and Hereford lost one member.
Herefordshire has always been esteemed an exceptionally rich agricultural area, the manufactures being unimportant, with the sole exception of the woollen and the cloth trade which flourished soon after the Conquest. Iron was worked in Wormelow hundred in Roman times, and the Domesday Survey mentions iron workers in Marcle. At the time of Henry VIII the towns had become much impoverished, and Elizabeth to encourage local industries, insisted on her subjects wearing English-made caps from the factory of Hereford. Hops were grown in the county soon after their introduction into England in 1524. In 1580 and again in 1637 the county was severely visited by the plague, but in the 17th century it had a flourishing timber trade, and was also noted for its orchards and cider.
- Transactions Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club, 1887, page 173