Hereford City Heritage

The Mayor’s Chain


Hereford (or Caerfawydd or Trefawidd as it was known) was a Saxon town. Some thousand years earlier men settled nearby at Credenhill - an Iron Age town of perhaps four thousand souls.The Romans preferred lower ground and settled at Magnis - about three miles away. Today’s city foundations were first laid by the Saxons in the seventh century AD. Yet here for centuries past was a safe crossing, a ford over the Wye.

The tops of the surrounding hills then, were crowned by Iron Age forts - Aconbury and Dinedor to the south, Sutton Walls to the north and Credenhill to the north-west. This last was occupied from c390BC until c75AD - the first town.The Romans probably joined Kenchester(Magnis) with Gloucester and the is a good east-west road of that period forming the present northern boundary of the city. The road from Viriconium (Wroxeter) via Bravonium (Leintwardine) came down from the north and may have crossed Widemarsh Common to a ford below the present Bishop’s Palace.

Evidence of a Saxon settlement has been found along the western section of the city walls.

Cuthbert, Bishop of Hereford from 736-740 set up a cross commemorating Milfrith, king of the Magonsaete and three earlier bishops. This suggests that Milfrith, grandson of the last heathen king of Mercia, Penda, and himself a semi-independant king, founded a cathedral city at Hereford, and that makes it one of the earliest in western Europe. Clearly by 700 there was a proper community here. In 760 the surrounding area was attcked by the Welsh and it is from this period that the administrative boundary of the city seems to have been established.

The main street of the 8th and 9th century city possibly ran along the line of King Street, across the present cathedral site and along the modern Castle Street. This would place the Saxon cathedral to the south of the present building. The city is classed as a burh in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

|The massive rampart, defences of the tenth century, included the area now bounded by Victoria Street,West and East Streets and Mill Street - about 50 acres. Inside it was a regular pattern of streets, still the basis of today’s plan. Indeed, from St John Street west to Berrington Street, and the line of Bridge Street and part of Gwynne Street, leading to the central line of St Nicholas and King Streets, virtually preserve the layout of the 8th century Saxon city.

During the episcopacy of Athelstan a new stone cathedral was built; c1050 a castle of Norman type was being built also, by Ralph, Earl of Hereford and nephew of Edward the Confessor. However, in 1055, the Welsh attacked and destroyed everything. Under the new earl, Harold Godwinson, later King Harold of Hastings fame, new defences were built al,ong the line of the medieval walls, enclosing some 93 acres. It was from Hereford that Earl Harold made his great retaliatory invasion of Wales in 1063.

B y 1155 the main market area had moved from Broad Street to High Town. For 200 years there is constant reference to the walls and castle. The growth of the castle encouraged the city’s increase in size and wealth. The city grew outside the walls to the north and east and across the Wye, but not so much to the west.There were extensive open fields -to the north, Widemarsh Port ield-and to the east, Prior’s Port Field. John Leland, visiting the city in 1538, estimated that’..the castel...be of as great circuite as Windsore’

In the 1660s Hearth Tax was paid on 364 houses. This excludes the smallest houses worth less than 1 per year. The largest number in one ward was 118 in Bysters(the Commercial Street area).The largest houses appear to be in the St Owens Ward, which included the Cathedral and Castle Street, and th Wigmarsh Ward, the Wiidemarsh Street area. Late in the 18th century the gateways were taken down, thus opening out the streets. Change continued, with new houses being built and older ones being demolished. In 1818 part of Butcher’s Row occupying the middle of High Town was taken down and, after further public subscription. the remainder of it in 1837, leaving the Old House. The Bridewell, the last remaining building of the castle, was sold for 500 in 1800 and still remains as a private house.

The canal came in 1845 and the railway in 1854. Many of the old streets and lanes were renamed in 1855. The population in 1901 was 21,382, in 1931 it was 24,163, in 1971 it was 46,950 and in 2003 it was 56,000.


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Guided Walking Tours of Hereford
Conducted by the City of Hereford Mayor’s Guild of Guides

The Guides

The Guild was formed in 1981 as a non-profit making body to assist tourism in the City. The guides are unpaid volunteers who have made a study of the origins and development of Hereford. They have been accepted as the Mayor’s Official Guides and are proud to wear a badge with the city’s coat-of-arms.

Each guide prepares his or her own route, varying it to suit the walkers and the weather. Every walk will take in places of particular interest in the centre; and though it is not usual to go into buildings, those of special importance that are open will be pointed out. The guide will tell you about the history of the City and suggest other places you may care to visit on you own.

We are also glad to welcome local people who want to know more about their City. Even Herefordians say that they have learnt something new from our walks.

Please ‘click’ on the link below to visit the Guides’ web site