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Hereford in 1838

HEREFORD, an ancient city, and parliamentary and municipal borough, situated upon the left bank of the river Wye, about 115 miles in a direct line west-north-west of London. The name is probably derived from the British Hen-efford, signifying the ‘old road.’ The city or liberties (these words are used indiscriminately) extend far beyond the mass of the town, and their boundaries are perfectly well ascertained. The liberties comprise the parish of All Saints ; part of the parish of St. John the Baptist ; part of the parish of St. Martin ; part of the parish of St. Nicholas ; part of the parish of St. Owen ; part of the parish of St. Peter ; the township of Huntington to the parish of Holmer ; another part of the parish of Holmer ; part of the township of Tupsley in the parish of Hampton Bishop ; and small portions of the parishes of Bullingham and Breinton. The city contains 2,320 statute acres, and a population of 10,280. The borough council consists of the mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors. The following courts are or may be held within its limits :- the Quarter-Sessions ; the Petty Sessions ; the Mayor’s Court; View of Frankpledge ; and Court of Pie Poudre. The income of the corporation arises from real property, tolls, and fees : in 1832 it amounted to £1,176.

History and Antiquities.
In early times this city was important as a garrison to restrain the Welsh. The principal events of its history are its pillage by the Welsh in 1055 ; its capture by King Stephen in 1141 ; the execution of Owen Tudor, who was beheaded here in 1461 ; the surrender of the city during the rebellion, in 1643, to the parliamentary troops, headed by Sir William Waller ; and the siege of Hereford by the Scotch under Lord Leven.

A house of Grey Friars stood at the southern extremity of the city ; a house formerly belonging to the Black Friars, the picturesque arms of which have been engraved in the book of Mr. Grose and other antiquaries, may be seen in the suburb of Widemarsh St. ; and adjoining it was a chapel and building belonging to the Knights Hospitallers of Jerusalem. There was also a Benedictine cell, belonging to the abbey of St. Peter, at Gloucester. The castle consisted of two wards of different dimensions, having a keep within the smaller : the Wye formed its defence on the south side ; on other points it was defended by moats. It was taken possession of by Sir William Waller in 1643, and was garrisoned till 1652 ; but at that time the parliamentary commissioners returned it as ‘ruinous,’ and its materials worth no more than £85.

Hereford is situated in a broad, fertile, and well-cultivated valley, and at sufficient elevation above the river Wye to be free from fogs and damp. It has always been esteemed a healthy town. The principal streets are broad and straight, and have all been macadamized. The private houses, with few exceptions, are built of red brick, and the public buildings of stone. The shire-hall was built after a plan of Sir Robert Smirke, and is remarkable for the unassuming beauty of its exterior, as well as the good general arrangement of the interior. Besides the courts and rooms necessary for the transaction of assize and magisterial business, it contains a large room, which is used at elections and other public meetings, and occasionally as an assembly-room. The town-hall, a large wood and plaster building supported by oaken pillars, stands in the High Town, and the fruit and vegetable market is held underneath and around it : additional markets have also been built between this site and the guildhall, a brick building in a remote situation. The Union workhouse, first inhabited in 1838, stands just beyond the north-east limits of the city. In the county gaols, which are in the same neighbourhood, the silent system is in force, the regulations rigid, and the superintendence of the visiting magistrates is vigilant and discreet.

One of the gateways of the ancient walls has been fitted up as a city prison. There are several hospitals or almshouses. A large infirmary, supported by contributions and benefactions, stands south-east of the city, near the Castle-green. The principle churches are those of All Saints, St. Peter, St. Nicholas, and St. John. All Saints Church faces Broad-street on the north; the steeple is tall and well-proportioned, but its external structure is generally uninteresting. A parapet of brickwork on the south side, which has been added to the original stone wall, greatly disfigures the elevation. The vicarage of St. Martin’s and All Saints, which is in the gift of the dean and canons of Windsor, is returned of the annual value of £380. St. Peters Church, founded by Walter de Lacy in 1085, is a plain building, with a spire. The annual value of the vicarage, as returned in 1835, is £366. The rectory of St. Nicholas is valued at £188 a year.

The church dedicated to St. Owen, and destroyed during the civil wars, was consolidated with St. Peter’s in the reign of Charles II : that of St. John the Baptist has probably been at all times an appendage to the cathedral. The latter is a vicarage, of which the dean and chapter are patrons.

Hereford Cathedral stands upon the south side of the city, not far from the Wye. It is probable that this situation was occupied in very early times by a church of considerable importance. Polydore Virgil mentions that there was a large church (templum magnificum) at Hereford, in the reign of Offa, king of Mercia. Ethelbert, who was murdered at the instigation of Offa, was buried in this cathedral, and gifts were offered at his shrine, where it was asserted that miraculous appearances had been shown. Milfrid, the governor of the province in the time of Egbert, was attracted to the spot, and he determined to erect in honour of St. Ethelbert a new church, which is referred to as ‘lapidea structura,’ a distinction which makes it probable that the former was a wooden building. The date of the building is fixed at 825. We are ignorant what were the causes of the rapid decay of this edifice ; the whole however, says Grose, was rebuilt by Bishop Athelstan about the year 1030. This cathedral was entirely demolished in 1055. No renewal was attempted until the latter years of William the Conqueror’s reign, when Bishop Lozing and others commenced the present building in the Saxon style. In 1786 the western portion of the cathedral fell, and alterations were subsequently made, the spire was removed, and a new western end added by Wyatt : either from want of funds or want of taste the architect has sadly marred the beauty of the original structure. The cathedral contains many monuments of great antiquity, some of which are highly ornamented. For a minute description of this cathedral, see Duncomb’s ‘History of Herefordshire,’ and Britton’s ‘Cathedrals.’

In the chapter-room there is a curious map of the world, probably one of the oldest original maps in existence ; a copy of it was made, a few years ago, for the London Geographical Society. At the east end of the church is the library, which contains many valuable books and manuscripts. The ‘college’ is a quadrangle, which contains the residences of the vicars of the cathedral. At the west end there formerly stood two chapels, the one above the other, and a cloister communicating with the bishop’s palace. The elevation of these chapels, destroyed long since, may be seen in Gough’s edition of Camden. Part of the cloister which remains has lately been rendered more visible by the removal of a school-house which obscured it. Triennial music-meetings have for many years been held in the cathedral, in rotation with those of Gloucester and Worcester.

The members of the cathedral are the bishop ; the dean, who holds a canonry, and is appointed by the crown ; two archdeacons ; one golden prebendary, whose office appears to have been that of confessor to the bishop ; five other residentiary canons (including the dean); also a lecturer ; these are all chosen from the prebendaries by the chapter, the bishop having the casting vote. Besides other dignitaries, there are twenty-eight prebendaries appointed by the bishop, and twelve vicars choral nominated by the dean and chapter. The vicars have rooms allotted to them in the ‘college,’ a gloomy building at the east end of the cathedral, which was built for their accommodation in the time of Edward IV.

In addition to the churches belonging to the establishment, there are places of worship for the principal denominations of dissenters. A Roman Catholic chapel of considerable dimensions is now (1838) erecting in Broad Street.

No manufacture or important wholesale trade is carried on here, unless it is the manufacture of gloves, of which a considerable quantity are made. The establishment of an iron-foundry has been consequent upon the reduction of the price of coal caused by the Abergavenny railroad. Before this project was completed, coal was sold here at from 30 shillings to 40 shillings a ton ; the price now varies from 17 shillings to 22 shillings Gasworks have also been established, so that the streets and shops are well lighted. A literary and scientific society holds its meetings periodically, papers are read, and a collection for a museum is in progress ; this useful institution is well attended, and if sufficient funds can be raised, it is intended to build a museum, library, and suitable apartments. A bill is now (1838) before parliament for enabling the citizens to dispose of certain lands belonging to them, and for the curtailing to two days St. Ethelbert’s fair, which has heretofore been held on nine days in May. The principal fairs here are held on the first Tuesday after February 2, for cattle, &c.; the Wednesday in Easter week, for cattle ; May 19-28, for diversions ; July 1, October 26, horned cattle, cheese, &c. The February and October fairs are the most largely frequented ; the latter is one of the most considerable cattle fairs in England. The market-days are Wednesday and Saturday ; the ‘Great Market’ is on the Wednesday after St. Andrew’s day.