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Visiting Hereford Cathedral, Hereford: typically English, but with Welsh heritage also

Updated on April 2, 2012
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Hereford Cathedral, from Church Street.
Hereford Cathedral, from Church Street. | Source
Hereford Cathedral, England
Hereford Cathedral, England | Source
Map location of Herefordshire, England
Map location of Herefordshire, England | Source

Welsh and English people; their lives entwined down the centuries

With its fine, Medieval Cathedral, Hereford looks like a typically English Cathedral city. Well, it is, but given its geographical location in the West of England, not many kilometres from the Welsh border, it should not be surprising to learn that a substantial element of Welsh heritage is also associated with the city.

The fact is, a Medieval Welsh army destroyed a previous church building, so a new one was deemed necessary.

This Cathedral was built between 1110 and circa 1250, since a previous church structure, already the seat of a bishop, was destroyed in 1056 by the Welsh ruler Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (born c. 1007). In the Middle Ages, the Earls of Hereford were counted among what were known as the Marcher Lords, responsible for implementing the rule of the English king in the Welsh borderland.

The style of Hereford Cathedral is described as Early English Gothic, but with surviving, massive Norman columns visible in the interior, giving the building a very strong aura of solidity. The height of its tower is 50.3 metres and its total length is 104.2 metres.

One of the Cathedral's treasures is a 13th century map of the world known as the Mappa mundi . Another feature of the Cathedral is a Medieval, chained library.

Interestingly, when the Welsh Bible was translated in 1588 by Bishop William Morgan and distributed from the Welsh cathedrals, the Cathedral at Hereford was counted as one of these. This is because from 1536 Wales had been linked administratively with England and the diocesan boundaries did not coincide with the Welsh-English linguistic boundary; thus, a proportion of Welsh-speakers was resident within the diocese of Hereford.

Composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)(1), known particularly for his Pomp and Circumstance Marches , the Enigma Variations and other works, lived in Hereford. Elgar's music has been regularly played at Hereford Cathedral in the course of the Three Choirs Festival.

Topographically, Hereford is situated in the Wye River basin; indeed, Wales, and the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye is situated upstream from Hereford, 35 kilometres away. A Medieval, stone bridge over the Wye River at Hereford has survived.

April 2, 2012


(1) For the record, Lady Elgar, before her husband became famous and received a knighthood, was disinherited by her family, because of his supposed inferiority. This arguably illustrates the unhealthy nature of English class-consciousness, especially acute in the past.

Also worth seeing

Cusop, Herefordshire (distance: 34 kilometres) has an interesting old church and churchyard; the village is separated from Wales by a bridge over the Dulas brook.

Hay-on-Wye, Wales (distance: 35 kilometres) has a ruined castle, a striking, 19th century clock tower and many, world renowned booktores.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is approximately 197 kilometres from Hereford. A railroad service exists between London Paddington Station and Hereford. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 5 years ago

      Trish M: It is a peaceful and historic Cathedral city; certainly worth getting to know. Thank-you for your comment.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 5 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      Very interesting!

      Hereford is really not that far from me; I really shall have to go and explore!