Like the other great Border cities, Carlisle, Chester and Shrewsbury, Hereford is a place full of interest for the historian and the lover of the past. For centuries it led a life of tension amid a clash of arms. There may have been some settlements here which participated, under Caratacus, in the Silurian resistance to the Romans, but there are fairly good grounds for believing that Hereford began its existence soon after the departure of the Romans, and that the first town here was built partly with materials taken from the neighbouring Roman town of Magna (Kenchester). The name is probably Saxon, and means " Ford of the Army " : the derivation from the Welsh Hen-ffwrdd (" old road ") seems etymologically unlikely, and the actual Welsh name for the city is Cae-ffawydd ("the field of beeches ").
During the Heptarchy it soon became an important centre. It was made the head of a new Mercian see in 676, with Putta as its first bishop, and was the capital of Mercia long before King Offa built his famous dyke. The first stone Cathedral was built here as an act of atonement for Offa's murder of King Ethelbert of East Anglia. Then or later were built the city walls, which in King Athelstan's time were a good mile in length, with six gates. In 1055 the city was sacked by the Welsh, and the Cathedral was burnt to the ground. Harold, afterwards King of England, was sent by Edward the Confessor to avenge this disaster. He suppressed the rebellion, rebuilt the walls, and, it is supposed, built the Castle.
This stronghold, then one of the largest in England, figured prominently in the disturbances of Stephen's reign. Prince Edward, the future Edward I, was imprisoned here after the battle of Lewes, but effected a clever escape. In the Civil War Hereford declared for King Charles, and after the Castle had been taken and retaken, the garrison was surprised by the Parliamentarians under Colonel Birch, and the Castle demolished, only a small portion being left standing. This is incorporated in the Keeper's house, on the present Castle Green. Remains of the city walls are still to be seen in various parts.
The Castle Green was laid out by Bishop Beauclerk, a grandson of Charles II and Nell Gwynne. According to a very doubtful tradition, " Sweet Nell of Old Drury " was born at Hereford, the supposed site of her birthplace being marked by a brass tablet set in the wall of an exit from the Cathedral Close. The inscription reads :-" Site of the birthplace of Nell Gwynne, founder of Chelsea Hospital, and mother of the first Duke of St. Albans. Born 165o ; died 1691." In the Castle Green now are beautifully-shaded walks, with vistas of the Wye, and here, during the summer months, a band plays on certain days of the week. The New Gardens adjoining were added in 1893. Across the river, beyond the pretty Suspension Bridge, is the Bishop's Meadow, recently made over to the city by the ecclesiastical authorities at a peppercorn rent. It contains a recreation ground and many public tennis courts, and is a great asset to Hereford.
The Cathedral is described in a special section (see p. 35). Of Hereford's other two ancient churches, St. Peter's, built originally in io85 by Walter de Lacy, a companion of the Conqueror, has been extensively restored, but retains some good Perpendicular choir-stalls.
All Saints' Church, which faces Eign Street, a little to west of the broad and central High Town, is a building of the Early English and later periods, with a conspicuous spire 212 feet high. It has a fine timber roof and interesting fourteenth-century carved stalls and misericords, and possesses a chained library of nearly 35o volumes, which narrowly escaped being transplanted to America. In this church the immortal David Garrick was baptized. Near the door is a brass plate with the following inscription :-" In memory of David Garrick, who was born in this parish, and baptized in this church, 28th February, 1716, and was interred in Westminster Abbey." He was born in Widemarsh Street, in what is now the " Raven " inn, over one door of which is a plate inscribed : " David Garrick, born 1716." Other names associated with Hereford are those of Nelson, who was made a Freeman of the city in 1805, and to whom a monument was erected on the Castle Green ; Mrs. Siddons, the great tragic actress, and the sprightlier Kitty Clive ; and David Cox, who lived in Hereford for many years as an art teacher.
At the Town Hall, which is well worth a visit, are kept the records of the city, which was an important one at a time when the sites of many great modern towns were occupied by villages or fields. Many interesting municipal documents, including several royal charters, can be seen on application to the Town Clerk.
Hereford has many of those fine old black-and-white houses which give such a distinctively picturesque character to the towns and villages of the Welsh Border. The Old House, which has recently been presented to the city by Lloyds Bank, is one of the most beautiful and perfect specimens of this style of architecture in the country. It was built about 1621 by the famous John Abel, and formed part of the now-vanished Butchers' Row, being the ancient Guild House of the Butchers. A narrow passage opposite leads to the " Booth Hall " Hotel, in which is a splendid oak Banqueting Hall, only recently discovered after centuries of concealment by later work. This has been well restored by the owners.
The Coningsby Hospital, off Widemarsh Street, was erected about 1614 on the site of a Commandery of the Knights Hospitallers, of which a Norman arch remains. It was founded as a retreat for old soldiers and serving-men by Sir Thomas Coningsby, of Hampton Court, near Leominster. The inmates wear scarlet uniforms. In the grounds of the Hospital (open to visitors) are the ruins of the Blackfriars Convent, which include the preaching-cross (restored) from which the Dominican friars used to preach in the open air.
Dinedor Hill Camp, lately purchased by the Corporation of Hereford, is a famous beauty-spot commanding fine views of the City nestling at its foot, the winding Wye, and the imposing Black Mountains.