May is said to be a time of love and romance. It is the time of year when warmer weather begins and flowers and trees start to blossom. Historically, it is when people celebrate the coming of summer with expressions of joy and hope after a long winter. May Day and dancing around the May Pole are some of the most quintessential expressions of traditional Englishness.
And with that in mind, we want to take this opportunity to celebrate all those things that we love about Herefordshire. We take a joyful look at the peculiarities of the county that bring us such pride, and hope that together long may we protect the uniqueness and beauty of our county in all its heritage and, of course, in its ancient religious buildings.
What better place to start than with the Mappa Mundi. This medieval treasure, also known as the Hereford World Map, is the finest and largest in existence. Scholars believe it was made around the year 1300; it shows the history, geography and destiny of humanity as it was understood in Christian Europe in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
As well as the world’s most famous map, Hereford is also home to the Great Charter of Liberties or ‘Magna Carta’, one of the most famous documents in all history. Considered the foundation of English common law, it was agreed between King John and his barons at Runnymede near Windsor in 1215, and much of its worldwide importance lies in the interpretation of clauses from which have grown the right of the freedom of the individual.
In commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, Hereford Cathedral is celebrating throughout 2015 with a program of special exhibitions and events, featuring the Cathedral’s own 1217 version. The exhibitions tell the story of Magna Carta, its legacy, and the part Hereford and the people of the Marches played in its making, looking at life in the 13th century and charting the turbulent conflict between the Plantagenet kings and their subjects. Herefordshire’s links to royalty don’t end there. HRH The Prince of Wales is a staunch supporter of the Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust and the bones of the last Plantagenet King of England, Richard III, were reburied in a Herefordshire oak coffin taken from Duchy of Cornwall woodland at Harewood End.
From Medieval England to Hollywood, it’s a little-known fact that the creator and voice behind Yoda in the Star Wars trilogy, Frank Oz, was born in Herefordshire in 1944. And did you know that our own football team Hereford United set a record when they had the most players ever sent off from a single team? Four players were sent off in a Football League Division Three game against Northampton Town at the County Ground in 1992. Despite this unprecedented loss to the side, The Bulls amazingly managed to equalise with nine players; the game ended in a 1-1 draw and they finished with only seven players.
If world domination continues to elude us on the football pitch, at least our livestock have achieved what we cannot. Originally from Herefordshire, more than five million pedigree Hereford cattle now exist in over 50 countries. Today, Hereford cattle dominate the world scene from Australasia to the Russian steppes.
Bringing us back to May Day, most of you will know that Herefordshire has more orchards than any other county, and this means that we produce well over half of the UK’s cider (63 million gallons a year). But did you also know that in ancient times the apple was regarded as sacred, and an Apple God is known to have been worshipped? In fact, during the 14th Century, young children were actually baptised in cider! Enjoy Herefordshire’s spring countryside and head over to The Big Apple to check out what’s on this May Day bank holiday weekend in the orchard-heavy parishes up on Marcle Ridge.
And finally, just a little reminder that the Catholic Historic Churches Committees’ conference will take place on Thursday 21 May in the Lutyens Crypt of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. The Conference will focus on C20th churches and the challenge of their repair. There will be opportunities to learn more about Dalle de Verre glass and tour the Cathedral. There will also be an interesting visit to the Anglican Cathedral the evening before. Full details and information on how to book here.