HEREFORDSHIRE, an inland county of England on the south Welsh border, bounded N. by Shropshire, E. by Worcestershire, S. by Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire, and W. by Radnorshire and Brecknockshire. The area is 839-6 sq. m. The county is almost wholly drained by the Wye and its tributaries, but on the north and east includes a small portion of the Severn basin. The Wye enters Herefordshire from Wales at Hay, and with a sinuous and very beautiful course crosses the southwestern part of the county, leaving it close above the town of Monmouth. Of its tributaries, the Lugg enters in the north-west near Presteign, and has a course generally easterly to Leominster, where it turns south, receives the Arrow from the west, and joins the Wye 6 m. below Hereford, the Frome flowing in from the east immediately above the junction. The Monnow rising in the mountains of Brecknockshire forms the boundary between Herefordshire and Monmouthshire over one-half of its course (about 20 m.), but it joins the main river at Monmouth. Its principal tributary in Herefordshire is the Dore, which traverses the picturesque Golden Valley. The Wye is celebrated for its salmon fishing, which is carefully preserved, while the Lugg, Arrow and Frome abound in trout and grayling, as does the Teme. This last is a tributary of the Severn, and only two short reaches lie within this county in the north, while it also forms parts of the northern and eastern boundary. The Leddon, also flowing to the Severn, rises in the east of the county and leaves it in the south-east, passing the town of Ledbury. High ground, of an elevation from 500 to 800 ft., separates the various valleys, while on the eastern boundary rise the Malvern Hills, reaching 1194 ft. in the Herefordshire Beacon, and 1395 ft. in the Worcestershire Beacon, and on the boundary with Brecknockshire the Black Mountains exceed 2000 ft. The scenery of the Wye, with its wooded and often precipitous banks, is famous, the most noteworthy point in this county being about Symond's Yat, on the Gloucestershire border below Ross.
Geology. The Archean or Pre-Cambrian rocks, the most ancient in the county, emerge from beneath the newer deposits in three small isolated areas. On the western border, Stanner Rock, a picturesque craggy hill near Kington, consists of igneous materials (granitoid rock, felstone, dolerite and gabbro), apparently of intrusive origin and possibly of Uriconian age. In Brampton Bryan Park, a few miles to the north-east, some ancient conglomerates emerge and may be of Longmyndian age. On the east of the county the Herefordshire Beacon in the Malvern chain consists of gneisses and schists and Uriconian volcanic rocks; these have been thrust over various members of the Cambrian and Silurian systems, and owing to their hard and durable nature they form the highest ground in the county. The Cambrian rocks (Tremadoc Beds) come next in order of age and consist of quartzites, sandstones and shales, well exposed at the southern end of the Malvern chain and also at Pedwardine near Brampton Bryan. The Silurian rocks are well developed in the north-west part of the county, between Presteign and Ludlow; also along the western flanks of the Malvern Hills and in the eroded dome of Woolhope. Smaller patches come to light at Westhide east of Hereford and at May Hill near Newent. They consist of highly fossiliferous sandstones, mudstones, shales and limestones, known as the Llandovery, Wenlock and Ludlow Series; the Woolhope, Wenlock and Aymestry Limestones are famed for their rich fossil contents. The remainder and by far the greater part of the county is occupied by the Old Red Sandstone, through which the rocks above described project in detached areas. The Old Red Sandstone consists of a great thickness of red sandstones and marls, with impersistent bands of impure concretionary limestone known as cornstones, which by their superior hardness give rise to scarps and rounded ridges; they have yielded remains of fishes and crustaceans. Some of the upper beds are conglomeratic. On its south-eastern margin the county just reaches the Carboniferous Limestone cliffs of the Wye Valley near Ross. Glacial deposits, chiefly sand and gravel, are found in the lower ground along the river-courses, while caves in the Carboniferous Limestone have yielded remains of the hyena, cave-lion, rhinoceros, mammoth and reindeer.
Agriculture and Industries. The soil is generally marl and clay, but in various parts contains calcareous earth in mixed proportions. Westward the soil is tenacious and retentive of water; on the east it is a stiff and often reddish clay. In the south is found a light sandy loam. More than four-fifths of the total area of the county is under cultivation and about two-thirds of this is in permanent pasture. Ash and oak coppices and larch plantations clothe its hillsides and crests. The rich red soil of the Old Red Sandstone formation is famous for its pear and apple orchards, the county, notwithstanding its much smaller area, ranking in this respect next to Devonshire. The apple crop, generally large, is enormous one year out of four. Twenty hogsheads of cider have been made from an acre of orchard, twelve being the ordinary yield. Cider is the staple beverage of the county, and the trade in cider and perry is large. Hops are another staple of the county, the vines of which are planted in rows on ploughed land. As early as Camden's day a Herefordshire adage coupled Weobley ale with Leominster bread, indicating the county's capacity to produce fine wheat and barley, as well as hops.
Herefordshire is also famous as a breeding county for its cattle of bright red hue, with mottled or white faces and sleek silky coats. The Herefords are stalwart and healthy, and, though not good milkers, put on more meat and fat at an early age, in proportion to food consumed, than almost any other variety. They produce the finest beef, and are more cheaply fed than Devons or Durhams, with which they are advantageously crossed. As a dairy county Herefordshire does not rank high.
Its small, white-faced, hornless, symmetrical breed of sheepknown as " the Ryelands," from the district near Ross, where it was bred in most perfection, made the county long famous both for the flavour of its meat and the merino-like texture of its wool. Fuller says of this that it was best known as " Lempster ore," and the finest in all England. In its original form the breed is extinct, crossing with the Leicester having improved size and stamina at the cost of the fleece, and the chief breeds of sheep on Herefordshire farms at present are Shropshire Downs, Cotswolds and Radnors, with their crosses. Agricultural horses of good quality are bred in the north, and saddle and coach horses may be met with at the fairs. Breeders' names from the county are famous at the national cattle shows, and the number, size and quality of the stock are seen in their supply of the metropolitan and other markets. Prize Herefords are constantly exported to the colonies.
Communications. Hereford is an important railway centre. The Worcester and Cardiff line of the Great Western railway, entering on the east, runs to Hereford by Ledbury and then southward. The joint line of the Great Western and NorthWestern companies runs north from Hereford by Leominster, proceeding to Shrewsbury and Crewe. At Leominster a Great Western branch crosses, connecting Worcester, Bromyard and New Radnor. From Hereford a Great Western branch follows the Wye south to Ross, and thence to the Forest of Dean and to Gloucester; a branch connects Ledbury with Gloucester, and the Golden Valley is traversed by a branch from Pontrilas on the Worcester-Cardiff line. From Hereford the Midland and Neath and Brecon line follows the Wye valley westward. None of the rivers is commercially navigable and the canals are out of use.
Population and Administration. The area of the ancient county is 537,363 acres, with a population in 1891 of 115,949 and in 1901 of 114,380. The area of the administrative county is 538,921 acres. The county contains 12 hundreds. It is divided into two parliamentary divisions, Leominster (N.) and Ross (S.), and it also includes the parliamentary borough of Hereford, each returning one member. There are two municipal boroughs Hereford (pop. 21,382) and Leominster (5826). The other urban districts are Bromyard (1663), Kington (1944), Ledbury (3259) and Ross (3303). The county is in the Oxford circuit, and assizes are held at Hereford. It has one court of quarter sessions and is divided into 1 1 petty sessional divisions. The boroughs of Hereford and Leominster have separate commissions of the peace, and the borough of Hereford has in addition a separate court of quarter sessions. There are 260 civil parishes. The ancient county, which is almost entirely in the diocese of Hereford, with small parts in those of Gloucester, Worcester and Llandaff, contains 222 ecclesiastical parishes or districts, wholly or in part.
History. 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, with which kingdom they soon became incorporated. 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. In the 8th century Offa extended the Mercian frontier to the Wye, securing it by the earthwork known as Offa's dike, portions of which are visible at Knighton and Moorhampton in this county. In 91 5 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 Caldecot were all the sites of Norman strongholds. The conqueror entrusted the subjugation of Herefordshire to William FitzOsbern, but Edric the Wild in conjunction with the Welsh prolonged resistance against him for two years.
In the wars of Stephen's reign Hereford and Weobley castles were held against the king, but were captured in 1 138. 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 isth 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 antipuritan feeling induced the county to favour the royalist cause. Hereford, Goodrich and Ledbury all endured sieges.
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 Bohuns until the death of Humphrey de Bohun in 1373; in 1397 Henry, earl of Derby, afterwards King Henry IV., who had married Mary Bohun, was created duke of Hereford. Edward VI. created Walter Devereux, a descendant of the 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 abo had important seats in the county, Sir James Scudamore of Holme Lacy being the original of the Sir Scudamore of Spenser's Faery Queen. Sir John Oldcastle, the leader of the Lollards, was sheriff of Herefordshire in 1406.
Herefordshire probably originated as a shire in the time of .lEthelstan, and is mentioned in the Saxon Chroncile in 1051. In the Domesday Survey parts of Monmouthshire and Radnorshire are assessed under Herefordshire, and the western and southern borders remained debatable ground until with the incorporation of the Welsh marches in 1535 considerable territory was restored to Herefordshire and formed into the hundreds of Wigmore, Ewyas Lacy and Huntingdon, 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. 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 Lords Marchers until the reign of William and Mary.
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 in order 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 noted for its orchards and cider.
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.
Antiquities. There are remains of several of the strongholds which Herefordshire possessed as a march county, some of which were maintained and enlarged, after the settlement of the border, to serve in later wars. To the south of Ross are those of Wilton and Goodrich, commanding the Wye on the right bank, the latter a ruin of peculiar magnificence, and both gaining picturesqueness from their beautiful situations. Of the several castles in the valleys of the boundary-river Monnow and its tributaries, those in this county include Pembridge, Kilpeck and Longtown; of which the last shows extensive remains of the strong keep and thick walls. In the north the finest example is Wigmore, consisting of a keep on an artificial mound within outer walls, the seat of the powerful family of Mortimer.
Beside the cathedral of Hereford, and the fine churches of Ledbury, Leominster' and Ross, described under separate headings, the county contains some churches of almost unique interest. In that of Kilpeck remarkable and unusual Norman work is seen. It consists of the three divisions of nave, choir and chancel, divided by ornate arches, the chancel ending in an apse, with a beautiful and elaborate west end and south doorway. The columns of the choir arch are composed of figures. A similar plan is seen in Peterchurch in the Golden Valley, and in Moccas church, on the Wye above Hereford. Among the large number of churches exhibiting Norman details that at Bromyard is noteworthy. At Abbey Dore, the Cistercian abbey church, still in use, is a large and beautiful specimen of Early English work, and there are slight remains of the monastic buildings. At Madley, south of the Wye 5 m. W. of Hereford, is a fine Decorated church (with earlier portions), with the rare feature of a Decorated apsidal chancel over an octagonal crypt. Of the churches in mixed styles those in the larger towns are the most noteworthy, together with that of Weobley.
The half-timbered style of domestic architecture, common in the west and midlands of England in the 16th and 17th centuries, beautifies many of the towns and villages. Among country houses, that of Treago, 9 m. W. of Ross, is a remarkable example of a fortified mansion of the 13th century, in a condition little altered. Rudhall and Sufton Court, between Ross and Hereford, are good specimens of 15th-century work, and portions of Hampton Court, 8 m. N. of Hereford, are of the same period, built by Sir Rowland Lenthall, a favourite of Henry IV. Holme Lacy, 5 m. S.E. of Hereford, is a fine mansion of the latter part of the 17th century, with picturesque Dutch gardens, and much wood-carving by Grinling Gibbons within. This was formerly the seat of the Scudamores, from whom it was inherited by the Stanhopes, earls of Chesterfield, the gth earl of Chesterfield taking the name of Scudamore-Stanhope. His son, the loth earl, has recently (1909) sold Holme Lacy to Sir Robert Lucas-Tooth, Bart. Downton Castle possesses historical interest in having been designed in 1774, in a strange mixture of Gothic and Greek styles, by Richard Payne Knight (1750-1824), a famous scholar, numismatist and member of parliament for Leominster and Ludlow; while Eaton Hall, now a farm, was the seat of the family of the famous geographer Richard Hakluyt.
See Victoria County History, Herefordshire; ]. Duncomb, Collections towards the History and Antiquities of the County of Hereford (Hereford, 1804-1812); John Allen, Bibliotheca Herefordiensis ( Hereford, 1821); John Webb, Memorials of the Civil War between Charles I. and the Parliament of England as it affected Herefordshire and the adjacent Counties (London, 1879); R. Cooke, Visitation of Herefordshire, 1569 (Exeter, 1886); F. T. Havergal, Herefordshire Words and Phrases (Walsall, 1887); J. Hutchinson, Herefordshire Biographies (Hereford 1 , 1890).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)