No better view is obtained of the venerable Cathedral than from the landing-stage below the ancient stone bridge, which is said to have been erected originally by Richard de Capella, Bishop of Hereford and Keeper of the Great Seal in the twelfth century. Old prints of this view show a tower at the west end, and a spire surmounting the central tower. The west tower collapsed in 1786, crushing in its fall a great portion of the west end of the nave. The notorious Wyatt, the architect called in to restore the ruined fabric, shortened the nave by one bay and added a new west front in his own peculiar style of Gothic. (Happily it has been found possible during recent restorations to remove most of his work.) Owing to doubts as to the stability of the foundations it was decided not to re-erect the west tower ; and for the same reason the spire was removed from the central tower.

The Cathedral is linked with the tragic fate of an East Anglian King named Ethelbert, who, coming here to marry the daughter of Offa, King of Mercia, was murdered by his orders. There are many versions of the tale, but the only authentic one is that of the terse Saxon Chronicle : " 792. This year Offa, King of the Mercians, commanded the head of King JEthelberht to be struck off."
After the death of Offa, and of his son Egfrid, Milfrid, Viceroy of 1VIercia, built an admirable stone church at Hereford, which he dedicated to the murdered Ethelbert, and endowed with lands. This church suffered much from Welsh raids, and it was repaired, or rebuilt, by Bishop Athelstane at the beginning of the eleventh century. His exertions were of not much avail, for the outlawed Algar, son of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, in pursuance of his quarrel with King Edward the Confessor, collected a force of Danish pirates and Welsh mountaineers, and sacked Hereford, destroying the Cathedral (1055). The rebuilding was commenced at the close of the same century by the Norman Bishop Robert de Losinga, poet, mathematician, and architect ; carried on by his successor Reynelm ; and completed by Robert de Bethune, William de Vere and other later bishops.

Visitors usually enter the building by the fine north porch built by Bishop Booth (1516-35).

With regard to the architecture generally, so numerous and varied are the styles that a handbook of Norman and Gothic might be compiled, illustrated solely from examples in Hereford Cathedral. Sir Gilbert Scott declared that few of our cathedrals contain a more perfect series of specimens of the great periods of English architecture. It has examples of Norman, Early and Late ; Transitional, in work behind the altar and in the vestibule to the Lady Chapel ; and Early English, in its earliest phase, in the clerestory to the presbytery or choir. An unusual specimen of that style is to be seen in the north transept. Early Decorated is shown in the Cantilupe shrine and the nave aisles ; Decorated of the next phase in the choir aisles, and later Decorated in the central tower, with its profusion of the characteristic ball-flower ornamentation ; Early Perpendicular in the south wall of the south transept, and successively later phases of Perpendicular in the Stanbury Chapel, the Audley Chapel, and Booth's Porch. Wyatt's disastrous meddlings (see above) were to some extent obliterated at the beginning of this century, when the west front was entirely rebuilt in fourteenth-century design by Mr. Oldrid Scott.

Among architectural features of outstanding interest or beauty may be mentioned the massive Norman piers of the nave ; the Norman work in the south transept ; the magnificent Norman arch at the east end of the choir, and the fine modern decoration of the spandrel conspicuous beyond it ; the Lady chapel, especially the beautiful Early English lancet windows of the east end, and the rich Transitional arcading of the exterior ; the very late (thirteenth-century) crypt ; the Decorated north transept, with its unique arcading ; the exquisite Cantilupe shrine, in the east aisle of the north transept ; the late-Norman font ; and the modern wrought-iron screen. The choir-aisle windows and those on the south side of the Lady chapel contain some ancient glass.

With regard to monuments, Hereford is said to contain more memorials to distinguished ecclesiastics than any other cathedral : it was the burial-place of 34 prelates. It is rich, too, in treasures and curiosities. The Mappa Mundi, for example, on the east wall of the south transept, is unique. This is a map of the world by a monkish geographer showing the earth as a round disc with Jerusalem in the centre, " Paradis " (the Garden of Eden) on the top edge, Babel and Noah's Ark intermediately, and so forth. Its date is not much later than 1300.

The Cathedral Library is reached by a covered walk, known as the Bishop's Cloister, entered from the nave close to the south transept. The building contains a valuable collection of MSS. and early printed books, the majority of them secured by chains three or four feet long ; and a priceless thirteenth-century oak and copper reliquary, overlaid with enamels representing Becket's murder and burial. Nearer the river stands the Bishop's Palace, which incorporates a remarkable Norman dining-hall. The picturesque quadrangle of the College of the Vicars Choral is reached from the south transept of the Cathedral by way of the Vicars' Cloister. The Cathedral Grammar School, which is a very ancient foundation ranking to-day as a Public School, stands at the end of Castle Street near the Cathedral gates. It was endowed in 1382, but was in existence long before that date.