1902 Encyclopedia > Hereford (County), England

Hereford (County)

HEREFORD, an inland English county on the south Plate Welsh border, is bounded on the N. by Salop, S. by XIV. Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire, E. by Worcestershire, and W. by Radnorshire and Brecknockshire. Its circular shape is indented by spurs of adjacent counties, and its outlying parts have by an Act of William IV. 7 and 8 been incorporated with the counties in which they are situated. Its greatest length from Ludford by Ludlow to the Doward Hills, near Monmouth, is 38 miles ; its greatest breadth from Cradley to Clifford, near Hay, 35. Its area according to the census of 1871 is 532,898 statute acres, or 832 square miles. It is divided into 11 hundreds and 221 parishes, and is a bishop's see, of which the cathedral city is the centre of the county.

Its chief rivers are the Wye and Lug. The former, rising near the source of the Severn on the summit of Plinlimmon, forms the boundary between Brecon and Badnor ere it enters Herefordshire near Clifford, and, flowing past Hereford, Boss, and Monmouth, falls into the Severn near Chepstow. A striking feature of the Wye is its sinuosity, especially between Hereford and Monmouth. Its never very effectual navigation has been put an end to by railway enterprise, and its salmon fisheries are now so protected by legal enactment that there is no longer a danger of Hereford apprentices being fed on salmon "ad nauseam." The Lug, a first-rate trout stream, rising in Badnorshire, enters Herefordshire near Presteign, and, passing by Aymestry, Kingsland, and Leominster, joins the Wye below Mordiford Bridge, south-east of Hereford. The Arrow also rises in Badnorshire, and flowing past Kington and Pembridge joins the Lug near Monkland, and the Frome, having its source near Bromyard, joins the same river near Mordiford, while the Ledden runs past Ledbury to join the Severn near Gloucester. All these, as well as the Teme, a boundary line of the north-east of the county, are more or less famous trout streams.

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. The subsoil is mostly limestone, in some parts the Old Bed Sandstone, and a species of red and white veined marble. Where the soil does not rest on lime-stone, it is sometimes a silicious gravel, or contains fuller's earth and yellow ochres. Limestone, quarried at Aymestry and Nash to the north-west of the county, and at Ledbury, Woolhope, and elsewhere, is successfully applied as a manure for arable land and pasture. For the physical history of the county reference must be made to Murchi-son's Siluria, or Symonds's Records of the Rocks, where the upheaval and denudation in the Woolhope valley and over the central dome of Haughwood and similar questions are discussed.

The climate is variable, owing to the damp and fogs, which moisten the earth and account for its great verdure, as well as to its large proportion of timber, not only in parks and on landed estates, but almost on every hedgerow. In spite, however, of the prevalence of rheumatism, Here-fordshire is reckoned healthy, ranks high in the statistics of longevity, and enjoys a comparative immunity from diseases of the respiratory organs.

The surface of the county is undulated in long ridges, as if by subterranean ripples. Ash and oak coppices and larch plantations clothe its hill-sides and crests. Its lowlands are studded with pear and apple orchards, of such productiveness that Herefordshire sometimes, as well as Kent, is called the garden of England. The apple crop, generally large, is enormous one year out of four. Twenty hogsheads of cider, which is the county beverage, have been made from an acre of orchard, twelve being the ordinary yield. 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. On the Worcestershire border above 10,000 acres are taken up in hop-plantations, and about Ledbury the clay lands are noted for wheat and 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 propor-tion 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 Hereford does not rank high. Its small, white-faced, hornless, symmetrical breed of sheep known as '' the Rye-lands," 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 pre-sent 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, especially Orleton, Brampton Bryan, and Huntington. Herefordshire has progressed greatly in farming within the last half century. Turnip and green-crop husbandry, with improved rotation, is the general rule, and an average yield of wheat is from 28 to 30 bushels an acre, while about Ross and the "Old Red" districts a yield of 40 bushels is obtained. 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.

The county has no manufactures to speak of. Woollen goods have never been a successful staple of trade at Hereford ; yarns and coarse woollens are made, however, in small quantities at Leominster and Kington. There are iron foundries for agricultural implements at Kington and Ross.

The agricultural returns of Great Britain for 1879 give the following statistics for Herefordshire :—

Corn crops (two-thirds being wheat and barley).... 103,252 acres. Green crops (of which two-thirds are turnips and
swedes') 34,671 ,,
Grasses under rotation 40,092 ,,
Permanent pasture 246,533 ,,
Hops 5,947 „
Bare, fallow, and uncropped arable land 11,098 ,,
Live Stock.
Horses 21,206
Cattle.. 77,402
Sheep 340,741
Pigs 24,169

In all but the last item the live stock presents a marked increase on 1878 ; in corn crops there is a decreased acreage, in green crops and permanent pasture a considerable increase, and the area in hops is the same as in the previous year.

According to the parliamentary return of 1873 the county was divided among 13,731 proprietors, owning a total area of 506,559 acres, with a rental of £924,640. Of the proprietors, 9085 (66 per cent.) held less than 1 acre, and 2478 (18 per cent.) between 1 and 10 acres. The owners of the largest holdings are—J. H. Arkwright, Hampton Court, Leominster, 10,559 acres; A. R. Boughton Knight, Downton Castle, 10,081 ; R. D. Harley, Brampton Bryan, 9869; Sir George H. Cornewall, Moccas, 6946; Lord Bateman, Shobdon Court, 6815 ; Earl Somers, Eastnor Castle, 6668 ; Lord Ashburton, 6583 ; Major Meysey Clive, Whitfield, 5799; Lady Emily Foley, Stoke Edith Park, 5660 ; Sir Henry Cotterell, Garnons, 5066; Sir Henry E. Scudamore Stanhope, Holm Lacy, 5039 ; Major Peploe, Garnstone, 4928.

In Herefordshire inland navigation was represented in the early part of the century by the Gloucester and Newent and Ledbury canal ; but this has been bought up for railway purposes, and the canal from Leominster to Woofferton, and thence eastward to Tenbury and Stourport, has also ceased to exist. Hereford is an important railway centre: the Hereford, Ross, and Gloucester line is now amalgamated with the Great Western ; the Shrewsbury and Hereford railway traverses the county southward from Woofferton, via Leominster, to Hereford. The Worcester line from Hereford, via Malvern, connects the county town with Oxford and London by an alternative route of the Midland and Great Western ; and the west of the county is served by the Midland line from Hereford to Brecon, while the Hereford, Abergavenny, and Newport line accommodates the south-west. Branch lines run from Eardisley to Kington and Presteign, from Ross to Monmouth, from Worcester to Bromyard, and from Leominster to Kington.

The latest statistics of public elementary schools show about ] 35 Church of England national or parochial schools, 6 board schools, 3 British and Foreign and 3 Roman Catholic schools in the county. Its population, which was 115,489 in 1851, had increased in 1871 to 125,370. Herefordshire is represented in parliament by 6 members—3 for the county, 2 for Hereford city, and 1 for the burgh of Leominster. Its towns, besides Hereford, are Ross, Leominster, Ledbury, Kington, and Bromyard ; of these, Ross and Leominster are the most considerable, though Kington, from its position on the Welsh border, drives a brisk trade. In Kington, Bromyard, Ledbury, and Ross, and such larger villages as Weobley and Orleton, survive many picturesque timber and plaster houses of the 15th and 16th centuries.

History.—The earliest known inhabitants of the county were the Silures, whose stout resistance to the Romans provoked the emperor Claudius to the war of extermination in which Ostorius Scapula took Caraetacus prisoner. Coxwall Knoll, Caer Caradoc, and other heights contest the claim to have been the final stand-point against the Romans. Traces of the Danes are found at Wigmore ; and in 912 they sailed up the Wye, and carried off from Archenfield the bishop of St David's, who had to be redeemed with a large ransom. By the Normans the county was held on the tenure of repelling the Welsh, and for centuries the Marches of Wales were a debatable ground for Welsh and English. In the struggle between Maud and Stephen there was fighting in and around Herefordshire. When the barons rose against Henry III. their hostilities affected this county, and it was the success of a plot of the earl of Gloucester, Boger Mortimer, and others to effect Prince Edward's escape out of De Montfort's hands that led to his flight to Wigmore, and the subsequent defeat of the barons at Evesham. In the Wars of the Roses a battle was fought on February 2, 1461, at Mortimer's Cross, near Kingsland, between Edward, earl of March (afterwards Edward IV.), and Jasper Tudor and James Butler, earls of Pembroke and Wiltshire, in behalf of Queen Margaret, which resulted in the victory of the Yorkists. The Marches were incorporated in the reign of Henry VIII. In the war between Charles I. and his parliament Herefordshire suffered severely for its loyalty, and Hereford, Goodrich, and Ledbury en-dured sieges, all but the last ending in disaster to the king's party.

Antiquities.—The only pre-historic memorial in the county is the cromlech of Arthur's Stone on the hill above Bredwardine. A line of British entrenchments stretches from the Severn and from Malvern, where an earthwork is still known as the " Herefordshire Beacon," to Wapley, Croft Ambrey, and Coxwall Knoll, in the north of the county. A branch of the Watling Street road from Uriconium and South Shropshire crosses Herefordshire from Mar-low to Longtown. Another Roman road came direct from Gloucester (Glevum) to Ariconium or Weston-under-Penyard, and thence by a short route under Caplar Hill to Magna or Kenchester, but by a longer route to Monmouth, Usk, Abergavenny, and so through Magna to Shrewsbury. Offa's Dyke, the Saxon ruler's line of defence against the Welsh, is still traceable at Moorhampton, near Lyonshall, and beyond Kington. Offa's traditional palace, the scene of his murder of Ethelbert, was at Sutton Walls, a little north of Hereford. The ruins of several Norman castles still exist at Wigmore, Clifford, Goodrich, and Brampton Bryan. Among the most interesting churches of that period are one or two remark-able structures of rare Irish Norman architecture, viz., Kilpeck, Moccas, and the arches of old Shobdon church ; besides the Cis-tercian church of Abbey Dore, and the fine old churches of Ledbury and Leominster. (j. DA.)

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