Related Overviews


Caratacus (fl. 50 ad) king in Britain

Penda (d. 655) king of the Mercians

Athelstan (c. 894—939) king of England 925–39

See all related overviews in Oxford Index » »


More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • British History


Quick Reference

Is a small border county, full of castles, running from the Black Mountains in the west to the Malverns in the east. Hereford itself was for centuries a stronghold against the Welsh, holding the crossing of the Wye.

In the pre‐Roman period, Herefordshire was part of the territory of the Silures, to whom Caratacus appealed in his fight against the Romans. In the mid‐7th cent. it fell to Penda, pagan king of the Mercians. Soon after his death in battle, Hereford was founded as a diocese (676). A hundred years later Offa's Dike marked the limit of Mercian expansion, running through the west of the county from Kington, through Hay, to White Castle.

In the reign of Athelstan Welsh princes did homage at Hereford, but the county remained vulnerable. Almost all the towns were on the east side, out of reach of the Welsh—Hereford, Leominster, Bromyard, Ross, Ledbury. Hereford itself was sacked by Gruffydd ap Llywelyn in 1055 and the new cathedral destroyed. The next bishop of Hereford was a fighting man, Leofgar, who lasted a mere eleven weeks before he was slain. The Normans took the border in hand. William Fitzosbern was given palatine status as earl of Hereford and began the building of a formidable castle there. The shire was only just held against Llywelyn the Great in the early 13th cent. and threatened again by Glyndŵr in the early 15th.

The industrial revolution touched Herefordshire lightly and it remains a quiet rural county. In the local government reorganization of 1972, Herefordshire, the fourth smallest county in population, was merged, despite much protest, with its larger eastern neighbour, Worcestershire. But the forced union was abandoned on 1 April 1998, and Herefordshire reconstituted.

Subjects: British History.

Reference entries