Whitney Clifford and Dew

Whitney Clifford and Dew


John Presco

Copyright 2019

An idea for a T.V. series about the people of Clifford. Some of this history is told by a famous family of Gypsies who have made a sport out of capturing the Royal Seed of country manor folks with fantastic genealogies, and giving birth to sub-royalty that worship Fair Rosamond as a Goddess.

“I opened my legs to a gentleamn clever in the arts and stole his seed and child to raise as mine, only. I bid my foundling daughter to open her legs to another stately gentleman, and she took his child as her own. My Gypsey clan of drovers celebrate every year ‘Our Good Fortune Stealing’ in an ancient enampment along the Wye at the stone bridge by the ruins of Clifford castle.”

The Dew family professed to descend from an ancient Roman family of stone bridge builders. They claimed they used augury to erect their masterpieces. However, there were some famous failures. Tomkyns Dew founded ‘Stones and Thorns’ that made stone walls and Roman style rose gardens. One Dew was a Knight of the Shire.

In all seriousness a great series could be made from the ‘Whitney and Clifford Manorial Records’. Tomkyns Dew tried to save Clifford Castle from further ruin. Robert Dew, the father of my grandchild, waiting to come into the world, is a mason who made this lovely arch and walkway. This information will make a great resumé as customers will be connected with some amazing history. Why not another child – due to prosperity?

John Presco

Copyright 2019



415.  1696-1721.         ACCOUNTS of John Williams, Henry
Jones and Thomas Morris, receivers
of rent within the manors of
Whitney and Clifford.

416.  [c. 1699].         RENTAL of the Manors of Whitney
and Clifford; the superscription of
the Clifford Rental reads =
“The Manor of Clifford Castle where
faire Rosamond Daughter to my Lord
Clifford was borne.”

LETTERS to Tomkyns Dew (II) of Whitney Court, concerning the careers and education of his sons Tomkyns (III) the eldest (admitted to the Inner Temple in 1838). Hnery, the second son, (entered Rugby School in 1834), Edward L’Estrange, the third son, (at Shrewsbury School) in 1838), and Roderick, the fourth son (entered the Navy in 1835). One of the letters is from Dr. Arnold, headmaster of Rugby. (1 bundle) 556. 1859-1891. LETTERS to Tomkyns Dew (III) of Whitney Court from various correspondents concerning the payment of chief rents, fishing rights in the River Wye, etc. ( 1 bundle) 557. 1887-1889. CORRESPONDENCE concerning land required from Tomkyns Dew (III) esq., by the Golden Valley Railway Co., for the purpose of an extension of the line to Hay. (1 bundle)

549. 1833. June 27. R. G. Grahm from the Admiralty to Viscount Hereford regarding the admission of Roderick Dew, Tomkyns Dew’s son, to the Royal Naval College.



“The unpredictability of the Wye was shown in 1730, when Whitney old church was swept away by a huge flood, and the river changed its course. The church’s remains were left high and dry on the wrong side of the river.

By the end of the 18th century, local dignitaries were fed up with fording the river, and decided to build a bridge over the Wye at Whitney.  Tomkyns Dew, Lord of the Manors of Whitney and Clifford, had a bill presented to the House of Commons on 9th November 1774. The bill was passed, and a group of local men was given the task of building the bridge in three years, having been allotted land for a tollhouse. They were allowed to take stone, gravel and sand as required from Tomkyns Dew’s property.

The first bridge collapsed owing to a combination of bad foundations and floods. A second bridge soon suffered the same fate. A third bridge was then washed away on February 1795 in a flood two and half feet higher than any previously recorded. The three bridges were built of stone and were composed of five arches. Each arch had a span of 30 feet, and was 15 feet above river level and 12 feet wide.”

Whitney and Clifford Manuscripts

Scope and Content

A collection of 571 items relating mainly to the manors and parishes of Whitney and Clifford in northwest Herefordshire. It comprises deeds and documents concerning lands in Stow, Millhalf and Whitney, 1333-1852; records of the court leet and court baron of the manor of Whitney, including presentments, suit rolls, surveys and valuations, maps and plans, 1676-1874; deeds and documents concerning lands in Castleton and Clifford (alias Llanfair-ar-y-bryn), 1339-1855; records of the manor of Clifford, including bailiffs’ accounts, presentments, rent rolls, surveys, valuations, maps and plans, 1381-1889; deeds relating to lands and properties in the parishes of Winforton and Brilley, 1594-1866; wills, letters and administration, etc., relative to members of the Whitney, Wardour and Dew families, lords of the manors of Whitney and Clifford, 1567-1828; miscellaneous accounts, vouchers etc., 1776-1846 and correspondence, including letters addressed to Tomkyns Dew (II), 1724-1889. The collection also includes a few deeds concerning properties in Ireland (Galway), Hertfordshire (Sarratt), Middlesex and London 1722-1802

Administrative / Biographical History

The manor of Whitney is stated to have been obtained by one Thurstin the Fleming, a companion of the Conqueror, who married Agnes, only child of Alured de Merleburgh, and their son, Eustace, assumed the name de Whitney from this manor. His descendant, Sir Eustace de Whitney, who was M.P. for Herefordshire in 1312-1313, figures as party to the first deed in the collection, dated 1333. It was his grandson, Sir Robert de Whitney who in 1402 received a grant of the castles and lordships of Clifford and Glasbury from Henry IV. They were in consideration of the services of his father, the first Sir Robert, who was killed at the battle of Pilleth in 1401 while opposing the forces of Glyn Dwr.

Both manors, together with other lands in the parishes of Winforton and Brilley remained in the possession of the Whitney family until 1692-1693, when William Wardour, of Lincoln’s Inn and Westminster, Clerk of the Pells in Chancery, acquired by purchase the four equal shares in the estate. Previously these shares had gone to the two sisters of Thomas Whitney, son of Sir Robert Whitney (d.1653), following his death without issue. They were, Lucy, wife of Robert Price of Bwlch y beudy, co. Denbigh; Susannah, widow of Henry Williams of Cabalva; Ann, widow of Thomas Rodd of Foxley; and Eleanor, widow of Dr Nathaniel Wright. William Wardour died in 1699 leaving his estate to his eldest son, Col. William Wardour, who died unmarried in 1746, and left it to his only brother, Tomkyns Wardour. In 1767, by the will of Tomkyn’s widow, the Whitney and Wardour property came to her sister, Mary Bourne of St. George’s Hanover Square, Middlesex. She in turn left it to Tomkyns Dew of Lincoln’s Inn, the first of three of that name who feature in the collection as lords of the manor of Whitney from 1780 to the close of the nineteenth century.

Whitney Castle

Whitney Castle was once located along the banks of the River Wye in modern Herefordshire, but was for most of its years located in an area called The Marches, the border region between England and Wales. The original castle was perhaps of the Motte-and-bailey style, common to this area. The original castle was burned and destroyed in 1402 during a Welsh uprising led by Owen Glendower.

In 1404, King Henry IV granted Clifford Castle to Robert Whitney because his property has been burnt and destroyed by our rebels of Wales, so that the same Robert has not any castle or fortress where he can tarry to resist and punish our aforesaid rebels“.

Whitney Castle was rebuilt, but was destroyed again, this time washed away by the River Wye, perhaps in 1730 when it changed course. By 1754, the castle was described as ‘demolished’.

The earliest mention of the location Whitney is in the Domesday Book, created in 1086. It appears that then scarcely any of the land was under cultivation.

In Elsedune hund., Rex tenet Witenie. Aluuard tenuit tempora Regis Edwardi et poterat ire quo volebat. Ibi dimid hida geld. Wasta fuit et est.
In Elsedune hundred, the King holds Witenie. Aluuard held it in the time of King Edward, and was able to go where he pleased. There is half a hide yielding geld. It was and is waste.

Dissolution of Clifford Priory – redistribution of land – the civil war – the drovers – crossing the Wye – Clifford Primary School – St Mary’s Church – the creation of Hardwicke – Holy Trinity, Hardwicke – Thomas William Webb – the railways – Francis Kilvert – Clifford today

Little is recorded of Clifford during this time until King Henry VIII decided to dissolve the monasteries in his battle with the Catholic Church over his divorce. Clifford Priory was dissolved between 1535 and 1540 with all other monastic houses in the country. The buildings of the Priory were converted for use as houses or farms, or demolished for use as stone. Such diligent recycling of building materials was a characteristic of the times, and villagers had already demolished much of Clifford Castle for use in their own properties.

Redistribution of land

When the Priory was dissolved, the advowson (right of appointment of a priest) passed to the Walwyn family together with the ‘greater tithes’ (part of the income from the parish). Meanwhile the Priory’s lands were sold off to powerful local families, in particular to the Middlewood estate, the Whitney estate (by this time, owners of Clifford castle), and the Moor estate owned by the Penoyre family.

These three families were to dominate the local area for the next few hundred years. For example the Middlewood estate was owned by the Higgins family from the early 1700’s until1905. William Higgins is listed on the 1851 census as Attorney and Solicitor, and a holding cell in the property of Middlewood House still exists where prisoners were held.

The civil war

In 1642, at the beginning of the Civil War, Herefordshire was predominantly Royalist, like most of the west of Britain.  By 1645, the royalist forces were coming under increasing pressure from the parliamentary troops, and on June 18th that year, King Charles I arrived in Hereford to try to raise troops and money.  On 22nd June, Barnabas Scudamore, Governor of Hereford and High Sheriff, sent out the following warrant:

“By His Majesty’s express Command at the Unanimous desire of the Gentry and other Inhabitants of this County assembled the 21st June at Hereford, I am to require you Mr Thomas Penoyer and Mr John Higgins gent to cause forthwith to be listed within the parish of Clifford, thirty seaven able bodied men such as you shall judge fittest for Service, and to cause them without fayle to appeare at the gen’all Rendezvous at Wigmarsh the 28 day of this month, and to cause a months contribution of y’r parish to be collected and brought in by you at the same time for the providinge of Muskets Bandoleers etc. for the sayd Souldiers so brought in.”

But the muster was to no avail. By the end of the year, the parliamentary forces had established control over most of the county, and by February 1646 Thomas Penoyer was imprisoned in Hereford charged with forcing people to fight for the king. The charge brought against him read that ‘About midnight being assisted with his servants pulled (this man) out of his bedd and pressed him to be a souldyer for the kinge’ and that ‘Mr Penoyer did beate and wound diverse of them that he did presse for neglecting or refusing the said service and threatened to hang those that disobeyed him therein’.  Many of his goods were confiscated and in September 1648 parliamentary troops plundered the Penoyre family house at The Moor.

James Penoyre, his oldest son, had also fought for the king, despite being only 16, and was wounded.  After the war the family retrieved most of their possessions, and in 1655 James married Dorothy Lloyd and settled at Hardwicke Court, where the family still lives today.

The drovers

Clifford has always been a primarily agricultural parish, and life in the area for most of its residents has been largely shaped by the rhythms and trends of the agricultural cycle.

Before the arrival of railways and motor transport, livestock walked to market. Stock was collected into groups of several hundred animals and then herded from the hilly areas of Wales and Scotland to fatten on the lush grazing grounds around London. By the mid 18th century over 30,000 cattle from Wales travelled annually through Herefordshire, including through Clifford, on these so-called droving roads. When the cattle reached the hard roads they had to be shod to protect their feet. One of the main shoeing stations in Herefordshire was at the Rhydspence Inn, just over the river from Clifford.

Wherever possible, drovers tried to avoid tollgates, where a toll had to be paid on each animal. There was a tollgate in Bredwardine, so drovers would take their cattle over Merbach hill to save money. Part of the current Wye Valley walk follows an old drover route. Another local drovers’ route was across a ford near the present-day site of the Whitney toll bridge, which Cardiganshire drovers used to take their cattle to the English markets.

Traditional drovers’ routes are often given away by the width of the road, since cattle needed broad verges, and by the names of places and fields. Little London in Staunton-on-Wye, on the road between Clifford and Hereford, was probably named by a returning drover. Overnight stopping-off places were often situated near three or five pine trees, which acted as B&B signs for drovers.

Crossing the Wye

The unpredictability of the Wye was shown in 1730, when Whitney old church was swept away by a huge flood, and the river changed its course. The church’s remains were left high and dry on the wrong side of the river.

By the end of the 18th century, local dignitaries were fed up with fording the river, and decided to build a bridge over the Wye at Whitney.  Tomkyns Dew, Lord of the Manors of Whitney and Clifford, had a bill presented to the House of Commons on 9th November 1774. The bill was passed, and a group of local men was given the task of building the bridge in three years, having been allotted land for a tollhouse. They were allowed to take stone, gravel and sand as required from Tomkyns Dew’s property.

The first bridge collapsed owing to a combination of bad foundations and floods. A second bridge soon suffered the same fate. A third bridge was then washed away on February 1795 in a flood two and half feet higher than any previously recorded. The three bridges were built of stone and were composed of five arches. Each arch had a span of 30 feet, and was 15 feet above river level and 12 feet wide.

This third disaster was enough for the group of men charged with building the bridge. Having been financially ruined by their efforts, they retired to pursue other activities. “The pertinacity of these gentlemen must arouse our admiration,” commented one local historian.

But in 1796 a fourth effort was made – “courage was shown by these men in tackling a fourth bridge after such rapid disasters to the former three” – and this time it was successful. Tolls were levied on all users of the bridge, with the exception of Whitney residents and their cattle, who were allowed to use the bridge for free.

The present Whitney toll bridge, looking towards Clifford from Whitney.
Photo: Dave Prescott

By the time the bridge was successfully constructed the river had become an important trade route. The large household at Clock Mill demonstrates the importance of the river to trade at this time. In 1793 it consisted of a water corn mill, grist mill, cider mill and clover mill. There had previously been a fulling mill as well, and many neighbouring pieces of land show signs of sheep baths where fleeces were washed prior to shearing.

Also in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century – according to a government hydrological survey carried out in 1965 – coal and other heavy articles from the Forest of Dean and Bristol were brought up the Wye by barge. Cider, bark and timber were sent back by the same conveyance to the River Severn. The river was navigable at that time as far as Hay.

Clifford Primary School

In 1814 the parish started collecting funds for the erection of Clifford Primary School. Thomas Stallard Penoyre of The Moor donated some land, but it took four years to get enough money together to start building. The vicar (Revd. John Trumper, vicar 1805-1855) applied to the National Society (a charitable body) for a grant and work started in 1818. In 1820 the John Smith Charity of Peterchurch agreed to provide the Board of Trustees.

Legal complications in appointing new trustees, and the death of Thomas Stallard Penoyre in 1821 before the land had been conveyed to the school held up any more work until 1834, when a new scheme was drawn up. This time the plans went through and by early 1837 the school was opened, overseen by The Smith Charity. The school was smaller than it is now, since it has been extended several times.

Between 1855 and 1887, the charity also hosted two ‘dame schools’ (infant schools run in private houses) – one in Westbrook and one in Clifford itself

By 1874 the school was called the ‘Clifford Endowed National School’ and in 1889-1890 an extension to the schoolroom and some cloakrooms were built, followed in 1905 by a grant of additional land from the Penoyre family to the Smith charity for a playground.

In 1909 Herefordshire County Council took over the running of the school. New classrooms were added in 1910 and 1914. Cookery was taught from 1927, woodwork from 1934, and gardening after the addition of a further plot in 1936. Students from Peterchurch and Vowchurch came by train to the small halt (Green Sidings) on the Golden Valley line until its closure in 1941, and then they came by bus.

During the Second World War several evacuees from the Bootle area of Lancashire attended the school. This was quite an upheaval both for them and for the locals, but they seemed to settle very well and some returned to visit in later years.

At the split of primary and secondary education in 1947-48, there were no places for secondary pupils in Herefordshire, and so most initially went across the border to Clyro. Some of them received special bicycles for the purpose. It was not until 1963 that Herefordshire provided a local secondary school for its pupils in Peterchurch.

In July 1948 the school became Clifford County Primary School, as it is now. A canteen was opened in 1949, replaced by a new dining hut in 1961. Electricity finally reached the school in 1951, and flush toilets in 1954.

Churches in Clifford and Hardwicke (click here for more)

Of the many churches and chapels in the parish built over the past millennium, only a few now survive. It is possible to trace the history of a church in Middlewood through historical records as follows: Duncomb’s History of Herefordshire/Clifford states: In the year 1200 Walter de Clifford and Agnes De Conde endowed 9 acres of Middlewood Pasture and Middlewood Common to Friar Stephen of Winforton Island for a church.

In 1657, when one Silas Taylor undertook inventories for Cromwell, he states: There is ye church of Middlewood and seven chapples of ease as well as Saint Oswald’s.  In ye church is ye tomb onely of a fryer cut exquisitely in wood under an arch on ye north side and nothing else as I could meet with”.

In the nineteenth century, John Webb mentions in his diaries that the remains of the church in Middlewood were pulled down by a local landowner, William Higgins.

Meanwhile there has been a church on the site of St Mary’s for well over a thousand years. When the monks of the Priory built St Mary’s church in the 13th century, they were probably replacing an older building. Some original stonework remains from the monks’ building, although major alterations were made in the 19th century.

During the first restoration of 1839 the church was enlarged. The north wall was taken down and a baptistery and vestry built on either side of a central porch. In a second restoration of 1888 these were pulled down and the present north aisle, porch, vestry and organ chamber erected.

The nave stonework dates mainly from the 13th century, though the window above the blocked-up south porch doorway is part of the 1839 restoration.  The pews, lectern, pulpit and rood screen are of the 1888 restoration.  The fontbowl is possibly 14th century work.

The west tower is entered through a door given in memory of Thomas William Walwyn Trumper (Vicar, 1874-1924).  The Walwyns and their successors, the Trumpers, have held the advowson of Clifford since 1536.

On the roof of the belfry are the shields of four local families, the Penoyres, Cliffords, de Whitneys and Walwyns. The belfry (not normally open to visitors) houses a peal of eight bells. Four are the originals cast by William Evans of Chepstow in 1736. The fifth bell of this peal was recast in 1897 and the same year three more bells were given to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

The creation of Hardwicke

In the late 1840s the Penoyre family obtained permission to split Clifford in two and create a new parish on the south side of the Bredwardine road – namely the hamlets of Hardwicke, Middlewood, Broadmeadow, Newton and Westbrook.  Construction of Hardwicke church began in 1849 and a separate parish was created in 1853.

Holy Trinity Church, Hardwicke

Holy Trinity Church in Hardwicke serves the areas of Archenfield, Hardwicke Green, Middlewood and Westbrook, although these remain part of the civil parish of Clifford. The church was consecrated on 3rd September 1853 by the bishop of Hereford.

Holy Trinity Church, Hardwicke, in 1860.
Photo: Penoyre family records

The roof in the nave, and the pews, were built with oak from The Moor Estate, belonging to the Penoyre family. The Rev. W. T. Napleton Stallard Penoyre became the first vicar of Hardwicke. On his death in 1856, Thomas William Webb took the ministry of the parish (see below).

Thomas William Webb

The Reverend Thomas William Webb, born in 1806, was the only son of Revd John Webb.  Educated by his father before going to Magdalen Hall, Oxford, he was ordained in Hereford Cathedral in 1830. Thomas married Henrietta Montague Wyatt of Mitcheltroy, Monmouth in 1843. They had no children.

Thomas served in a number of parishes in the south of Herefordshire, sometimes as curate to his father, as well as at Gloucester Cathedral. In 1856 he became vicar of Hardwicke. He remained there until his death in 1885.

Thomas Webb is most remembered for his interest in astronomy and the meticulous observations that he made from a small observatory in the garden of Hardwicke Vicarage. He took a great interest in encouraging the younger generation to take up astronomy and published many articles in popular scientific magazines as well as writing books.  Most notable of these was Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes, which became a standard resource for astronomers across the world until well into the 20th century.

The railways

Clifford hosted two railway lines in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The Hereford and Brecon Railway (1864 – 1962) served Whitney, while Clifford was on the Golden Valley Railway Extension (1889-1949) from Dorstone to Hay.

The course of the Golden Valley railway extension was from above Hay, across the Whitney road at Grove Wood (where one side of the road bridge and embankment can be seen), across the southern road up the hill to the church above Upper and Lower Courts, on to Clifford station, which was by the northern road to the church, and then round the hill, halfway up the slope, in a right-handed curve.

There were three stations within the parish, one in Clifford village, one at Westbrook, and one at Pen-y-park Green’s Siding. The line of the track is easy to see, and signals and station buildings were present within the memory of all but the youngest residents of the parish. There was a siding at Green Farm where the line ran under the Bredwardine road at Pen-y-park, and where children were dropped off on their way to Clifford Primary School. After Green’s Siding, the line passed under the Ross road just past the former Royal Oak pub at Hardwicke. The train stopped at Westbrook station before it went on to Dorstone and Pontrilas.

An in-depth description of the railways through Clifford is available in ‘The Golden Valley Railway’, written by WH Smith.

A train arriving at Westbrook Station, August 1932.
Photo: Mike Tom

Francis Kilvert

Well-known diarist Francis Kilvert was born in 1840 and after school and university helped his father Robert at Langley Burrell (near Chippenham, Wilts.) until his ordination in 1864.  His first appointment was as curate of Clyro, just across the Wye from Hay, where he remained from 1865 until returning to Langley Burrell in 1872, again as his father’s curate.  In 1876 he was appointed to St Harmon (near Rhayader) and upon the sudden death of John Houseman in 1877 was appointed vicar of Bredwardine with Brobury in November of that year. He died in September 1879, five weeks after his marriage, and only a few days after returning to Bredwardine with his bride.  His grave is on the north side of Bredwardine church.  His widow Elizabeth lived until 1911 and is buried in the southwest corner of the newer graveyard on the south side of the church.

Since the publication of the three edited volumes of his diaries in 1938, three other parts of the diaries have been found and published.  In addition a biography and many other books and pamphlets concerning his life and works have been published.

Because five or six of the original diary notebooks were destroyed by Mrs Kilvert long before publication, and the remainder (except for three which form the additional volumes referred to above) were destroyed afterwards in the 1950s by his niece, the account is not continuous. Therefore, although it is extremely likely that Kilvert visited Clifford quite often, only the occasions mentioned in the diaries can be set down with any certainty.

In the following extract, from 12th July, 1870, Kilvert describes a visit to Clifford Priory:

Walked to Clifford Priory across the fields with Crichton and Barton. Bevan and Morrell walked on before faster and got there before us. I had some pleasant talk with Barton, who is a clever well-read man, about Tennyson, Wordworth, Mr Monkhouse, the Holy Grail, and at last we got to Clifford Priory, very hot, a few people out in the sun on the lawn, and Lucy Allen came to meet us. A crowd in the drawing room drinking claret cup iced and eating enormous strawberries. Gradually people turned out on the lawn. Everyone about here is so pleasant and friendly that we meet almost like brothers and sisters. Great fun on the lawn, 6 cross games of croquet and balls flying in all directions. High tea at 7.30 and croquet given up. More than 40 people sat down. Plenty of iced claret cup, and unlimited fruit, very fine, especially the strawberries.

After tea we all strolled out into the garden and stood on the high terrace to see the eclipse. It had just begun. The shadow was slowly steadily stretching over the large bright moon and had eaten away a small piece at the lower left side. It was very strange and solemn to see the shadow stealing gradually on till half the moon was obscured. As the eclipse went on the bright fragment of the moon seemed to change colour, to darken and redden. We were well placed for seeing the eclipse and the night was beautiful, and most favourable, not a cloud in the way. We watched the eclipse till all that was left of the moon was a point of brightness like a large three-cornered star. Then it vanished altogether. Some people said they could discern the features of the moon’s face through the black shadow.

Meantime we strolled about in different groups and William Thomas and Crichton ran a race up the steep slippery terrace bank. The ladies’ light dresses looked ghostly in the dusk and at a little distance it was almost impossible to tell which was a lady in a white dress and which was a clump of tall white lilies.

� Penguin Books Ltd., 1977

Clifford today

Today the main industry in Clifford, apart from agriculture, is tourism, driven by the neighbouring town of Hay-on-Wye’s bookshops and literary festival. As everywhere in the country, farming is changing. Many farms have diversified and traditional farm buildings are being redeveloped.

Despite all the changes, Clifford’s population remains steady. There are few empty houses in the parish, the community centre thrives with events, there is an annual village show, and the primary school recently added a fourth class. The Parish Plan process of 2006-7 found that people are generally happy with life in Clifford, perhaps due to some of the same attributes that attracted the original settlers six thousand years ago.



Sources and further information
Some of the information on these pages comes from local residents and is unreferenced.  Known sources are as follows:
Alexander W Allison, Herbert Barrows, Caesar R Blake, Arthur J Carr, Arthur M Eastman, Hubert M English, Jr. (1970) Norton Anthology of Poetry, 3rd edition, WW Norton and Co., Inc.
Kenneth R Clew (1982), Clifford, Herefordshire: a brief guide
Josephine Jeremiah (2004), A Pictorial History of the River Wye, Phillimore & Co. Ltd
Robert Francis Kilvert (1971) Kilvert’s Diary, Jonathan Cape
Robert Francis Kilvert (1977) Kilvert’s Diary: A Selection Edited and Introduced by William Plomer, Penguin Books Ltd.
JA Millardship and JF Morris, (1995) The history of Clifford School 1836-1986
John Marius Wilson (1870-72), Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales
Who’s Who in British History, H. W. Wilson Company

Further research on families in Clifford

Many people visit this site looking for information about relatives and family members who have lived in Clifford in the past. In addition to the books mentioned above, a number of further sources of information may help you:

– Herefordshire Council’s Sites and Monuments Record contains a great deal of information about Clifford’s history, including the remains of quarries, obelisks, mills, the site of a second castle, a medieval deer park, a post-medieval tramway, a couple of suspected henges, a deserted village in Castleton, archaeological summaries of local buildings, and details of unearthed discoveries at the castle such as a boar’s tusk and wolf vertebrae.

– Official records relating to families in Clifford are available from the Herefordshire Records Office, tel. 01432 260750, or by e-mail.

– The Woolhope Club in Hereford was founded in 1851 and has a large archive relating to local history, archaeology and architecture of Herefordshire as well as natural history and geology. The Club’s records are available from Hereford library on Thursdays.

– A local resident has reconstructed a map of Clifford in c. 1840, based on tithe maps, showing lists of landowners and field names. The map is available for a small fee, click here to e-mail the author.

– A number of farm surveys and old aerial photographs are available on the Clifford archive page. More (copyrighted) maps, farm surveys and old photographs are available from Dave at the address below.

– For a registration fee you can access censi, births & deaths, military records etc from ‘Family Tree Maker 2008’, available via http://www.ancestry.co.uk

Best of luck with your research.

About Clifford
Location of Clifford
Pre-Norman Clifford (4000BC – 1066AD)
Mediaeval Clifford (1066-1538AD)
Next page

Bibliographical note: Written records about Herefordshire – still the UK’s most rural county – are relatively scarce. Saxon manorial records stored in Hereford Cathedral were destroyed by by Welsh marauders during the 11th century. Some mediaeval documentary records are currently stored at the University of Wales at Aberystwyth, though these require translation from the old English and Latin script.

The text on these pages is adapted from Clifford’s Parish Plan, edited by Oliver Bullough and researched by Dave Prescott with the support of Mary Morgan, Will Bullough and Gordon Rye. A full list of sources appears at the end of these pages.

About Clifford
Clifford may appear a typical Herefordshire parish, but its rural calm belies a history of war, faith and trade.

Huddled around its castle on a cliff above the river Wye, this village has in the past played host to both the Romans and the great English lords as they strove to subdue the independent Celtic tribes of the uplands.

Monks owing allegiance to the monastery in Cluny, Europe’s richest monastic order in early mediaeval times, lived tucked away from the main river valley in Clifford Priory.

Later on the ford that gives Clifford the other half of its name made it a stage on the drovers’ routes that linked Wales to the livestock markets in London and elsewhere.

Bordered on two sides by the Wye, which is one of the country’s largest and most beautiful rivers, the parish contains hills, commons, and areas of rich agricultural land. It is possible to see five counties from the top of one of the hills (Merbach – which at over 1000 feet is technically a mountain).

Clifford has had its moment in the national spotlight. In one historian’s phrase it was “the birthplace and early home of one of the most beautiful women the world has ever seen”, of whom more below.


Location of Clifford
Clifford lies in the bend of the River Wye between Hay-on-Wye and Bredwardine, and is located mainly on and around a headland looking over the river.  The parish boundary extends for 27 kilometres (km) and encompasses a diamond shaped area of 253sq. km (for comparison, the city of Hereford covers 20sq. km). There are 48km of public roads and 71km of bridleways and public footpaths.

Two disused railway lines straddle the parish. The river Wye, fed by numerous streams, forms much of the northern boundary. A toll bridge crosses the Wye on the Whitney road, and a small nature reserve is situated adjacent to the river by Clifford village.

clifford map

This map was drawn by Alison Alcock.

A – St Mary’s Church
B – Holy Trinity Church
C – Priory Farm and site of Clifford Priory
D – Clifford Primary School and Community Centre
E – Clifford Castle
F – Toll bridge
G – Middlewood
H – Westbrook
I – Castleton
J – Archenfield
K – Pen-y-Parc
L – Summerhill golf course



‘A land of bloodshed and lawlessness’
Pre-Conquest Clifford (4000BC – 1066AD)

Neolithic remains – Roman conquest – Saxon conquest – Welsh presence

The area now known as Clifford has been settled for at least six thousand years, and is home to two known Neolithic burial chambers (dating to c.4000BC), one on Little Mountain and one near Bullens Bank above Archenfield. The area has probably been occupied from the Neolithic era until the present day. In its early days it was unenclosed, uncultivated and heavily wooded.

The Romans appreciated the value of the Wye valley as a route into the uplands of what is now Wales, where they battled in the first century to quell resistance from tribes under the legendary British leader Caratacus. A 6.5-hectare camp was built in Clifford and the ditches of a larger fortified Roman camp are still clearly visible in Boatside, on the other side of the river. A Roman road led along the Wye to another, larger camp outside Hereford.

The Romans may also have built some kind of settlement near the site of Clifford castle. In 1929, the then-owner of the castle Dr Oscar Trumper discovered a Roman brooch, a wild boar’s tusk and part of a wolf’s backbone during an excavation.

The Romans brought peace and civilisation to Britain, and on their departure in the 5th century, under pressure from the Germanic invaders who were to become the English, the land was plunged into a period of ‘bloodshed and lawlessness’ (in Rev. Trumper’s phrase) popularly known as the dark ages.

In Herefordshire this age was darker than in most places and was the frontline between the aggressive Saxon invaders of the east and the resisting British tribes, now beginning to be called the Welsh.

In the 8th century the Saxon King Offa of Mercia built his famous dyke to defend his gains from the Welsh. A law was passed in the 9th century punishing every Welshman found with weapons on the east of the dyke with the loss of his right hand. At that time, Clifford was still deep in the Welsh kingdom of Powys and the dyke meets the Wye 15 miles to the east of the parish.

Sadly, all of the Saxon records relating to Herefordshire were destroyed when Welsh raiders burned Hereford cathedral in the 11th century. Any attempt to recreate what life was like for those 500 or so years is therefore speculative at best.

In the absence of written records we turn to place names for clues and they show that the Welsh influence in Clifford remained strong. Until the conquering Normans compiled the Domesday Book in 1086, Clifford was known as Llanfair-ar-y-bryn (St Mary on the Hill) and Llanfair-yn-y-cwm (St Mary in the Valley).

The first reference to the name Clifford, which probably derives from the twinned geographical features of a cliff by a ford, appears in the Domesday Book itself. As late as 1615 the name Llanfair-ar-y-bryn was used in a deed instead of Clifford. The farm below the church is still called Llanfair, suggesting a Welsh presence in the parish long after the marcher lords expanded their holdings up the Wye valley to Clifford.

This stone in one of Lower Court farm’s outbuildings is believed to date from Saxon times. The picture comes from the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, 1929

One part of Clifford, which is still called Archenfield, also holds a clue to the region’s past. Its name harks back to a now-vanished area of Herefordshire known in Welsh as Ergyng. This wedge of land south of the Wye retained Welsh laws and customs even after they were eradicated in Wales itself. Few traces of it now remain, although Welsh place names are still scattered across the countryside south of Hereford. The last legal trace ended in 1911 when the rights of local residents to fish a seven-mile stretch of the river Wye were abolished. Local myth holds that no snakes are to be found within the limits of Archenfield, although at least one local resident claims to have seen one there.


Rise and fall
Mediaeval Clifford: 1066 – 1538

Clifford is named – Clifford Castle – Clifford Priory – wooden effigy – Fair Rosamund – the Clifford family – John Giffard – Clifford as a market centre – Clifford’s collapse

Clifford is named

At the time of the Norman conquest, the fertile Herefordshire plain was one of the most valuable and dangerously situated of all the English acquisitions on the Welsh border. William the Conqueror despatched one of his most trusted and able lieutenants, William FitzOsbern (also the first Earl of Hereford), to keep peace in the area.  He built Clifford Castle as part of a line of defensive positions, which served to hold the area for these ‘Marcher’ lords, and formed bases for the future conquest of the Welsh. The Castle was built near a ford in the river on the Devonian red sandstone cliff that gave it its name. It had a good view over the major river crossing point that had been used by the Romans.

Other major castles were built at Wigmore, Ewyas Harold, Monmouth and Chepstow — all strategic sites along what is now the border between England and Wales – from 1067 to 1070. The Normans were following the same defensive lines that the Romans had built against the British tribes a millennium earlier.

Remains of another castle (a simple motte and bailey) survive at Castleton further down the river Wye. Its provenance is little known, although it may have been part of a line of crude forts built to supplement the defensive might of the castles in Clifford and Hay. It was not mentioned as a manor in the Domesday Book, so it was probably of later construction and built to guard a ford across the river, as did the main castle.

Between Middlewood and Bach is another motte and bailey castle at Newton. The angular layout of the bailey points to a late date for its foundation and there are indications of the bailey having been defended by stone walls.

The name Clifford first appears in the Domesday survey of 1086, when the conquering Normans also gave names, in French or English, to many other towns and places. For example, they may have called the nearby valley of the River Dore “golden”, when they misheard the Welsh word “dwr” (water) as “d’or” (golden). They bestowed a French name on Hay (La Haie), but Clifford was named in English. Perhaps they were unable to twist the names Llanfair-ar-y-bryn and Llanfair-yn-y-cwm into anything Gallic.

The Domesday Book also mentions Middlewood and Harewood:
These lands in valle Stradlie lie on the northern boundary of Dorstone, but mostly in the parish of Clifford. They were held by Gilbert the son of Turold.
At Middlewood (Midwede) were 2 hides. Earl Harold held it.
At Harewood (Harewde), now represented by Hardwick, where there is still a wood bearing the name, were four hides.

Clifford Castle

In order to attract settlers from Normandy, FitzOsbern established a code of laws and customs based on privileges in his hometown of Breteuil in Normandy. People of French birth who settled in the border towns as burgesses were entitled to live under “the customs of Hereford and of Breteuil”.

Following William FitzOsbern’s death, Clifford Castle changed hands many times.

castle 1
Artist’s impression of Clifford Castle at the time of construction. This picture was commissioned by former owner of Clifford Castle, Betty Parkinson, and now belongs to current owner Paul Rumph. Visits to the castle are occasionally allowed: please contact the website manager for details.

FitzOsbern’s son, Roger de Breteuil, rebelled against William II (‘Rufus’) and in 1075 forfeited all his lands, including Clifford. The lands were granted to Ralph III de Tosny of Normandy, who was a cousin of William I and brother-in-law of William FitzOsbern. Ralph de Tosny held Clifford at the time of the Domesday survey (1086), and among his tenants was Dru FitzPons whose nephew Walter married Margaret de Tosny, Ralph’s daughter, and received Clifford castle by this marriage.

Walter took the name of ‘de Clifford’ in about 1127 and was the head of a family often to be found fighting in France or in Scotland, a family whose boast it was that “of half a score of successive barons only one had been unhappy enough to die in his bed”.

Walter’s brother Simon FitzRichard was of a more peaceful disposition, and founded Clifford’s Cluniac Priory in 1129-30.

The priory is believed to have been quite a small cell, possibly subordinate to Lewes in Sussex. A farmhouse of the same name still stands below St Mary’s church, which was presumably built by the monks as a parish church.  The priory seems to have provided the Rector for the church from its own members.

It was part of the Cluniac order, which was founded in Cluny, France, in the tenth century and diverged from the original Rule of St Benedict, drawn up five centuries before, in that all its houses were part of the whole Order with the one Abbot at its head. Thus, unlike Benedictine houses, the prior was head of his community instead of second-in-command to an abbot. He was in turn responsible to the abbot of the ‘mother’ house.

The priory owned much of the farmland in the present-day parish, and the main building itself was well situated by a brook. The monks ate mutton, beef and poultry, as well as fish from their well-stocked fishponds. This impression of luxury, however, is offset by the constant threat from Welsh raiders. A wooden effigy can still be seen in St Mary’s Church that is said to commemorate a monk who died defending the Priory’s food stocks from the marauders.


The wooden effigy in the recess on the north side of the chancel of St Mary’s church is one of the earliest in the country, and may date from the late 1200s.  It is of a priest in Eucharistic vestments, and there are only about a hundred of these medieval wooden monuments left in Britain. The only other one in Herefordshire is at Much Marcle where the carving retains its original bright paintwork. Only tiny remnants of colour remain on the Clifford example.

Photo: Will Bullough

There is a legend that the effigy was brought to the church for preservation when the monasteries were dissolved in the 16th century. Another legend states that it was carried in procession round the church on the founder’s day. A third legend holds that it was always carried into the church before funeral processions.

It was mounted in its present position in 1892 after restoration.  It is 6ft. 4ins. in length, 19ins. wide at the shoulder and 18 ins. at the feet.  It must have been carved from a fine oak tree and well seasoned.  The effigy is still in a good state of preservation, only one side of the cushion and part of the slab being missing.  At some time it was exposed to damp, probably from lying on a wet floor.

Fair Rosamund

Walter de Clifford’s daughter Joan was ‘one of the most beautiful women the world has ever seen’ (according to local historian Rev. Walwyn Trumper writing in1889) and was nicknamed the ‘fair rose of the world’, or Fair Rosamund. At this point we can hand over to Rev. Trumper, whose colourful descriptions are worth reproducing intact:

We may picture King Henry II coming to Clifford Town to hunt, and no doubt the Lord of the Castle found him magnificent sport, to say nothing of the society of his bewitching daughter…what a contrast she must have offered to the grand artificial ladies of the Court, who of course wore high shoes, dyed their hair, tight-laced, and painted their faces, like the silly fashionable women of our own or any other age…And can we blame fair Joan for liking the boisterous stranger, with his athletic form and handsome face?  And besides he was a king…(Trumper, 1889)

Fairly soon Henry II whisked Rosamund off to his home in Woodstock, where allegedly he was so frightened that his wife would discover his mistress that he had a huge maze built and installed Rosamund in the middle. However this was not enough to keep the queen away. We can only imagine what happened next. After her death she was buried in the nunnery of Godstow. Her story has inspired poets and artists ever since.

The Clifford family

Walter’s son, also called Walter, was a man of even more power and influence than his father. In the mid-13th century the family had holdings across the Marches (in Dorstone, Nantglas, Llandovery and Rochford) and across the southern part of England to Whitstable in Kent. In Clifford itself, the family owned a deer park and hunting ground extending right across the parish. It included the fields known as ‘Lodge Wood’ and ‘Lodge Park’ (near Castleton), and those of Pen-y-Park’ and ‘St Anthony’s Park’ (near modern-day Clifford Primary School). The grounds extended along the bank of the Wye (which then ran with a much straighter course), towards Merbach Hill.

The second Walter rebelled against King Henry III in 1233, forfeiting his lands for a year. His grand-daughter Maud was the last Clifford heiress. She married her first cousin, William de Longue-Epee (longsword), great-grandson of Fair Rosamund. William de Longue-Epee was killed in a tournament at Blythe. Maud’s second husband was the violent John Giffard of Brimsfield, who carried her off, and obtained the King’s permission to marry her.

John Giffard

Giffard was a man of some power. At his death he was 27th in line to the throne, and he had obtained Brunles Castle (Bronllys), the Manor of Glasbury, as well as the Manor and Castle of Clifford. He was active in the barons’ wars of the 13th century. He opposed Simon de Montford, and assisted Prince Edward (later Edward I) to escape from Hereford. He also, with the help of Edmund Mortimer and Sir Ely Walwyn, defeated and killed Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native Prince of Wales, effectively ending Welsh independence.

Giffard was given a licence to hunt wolves in the year 1280. When excavations were undertaken to build the railway through Clifford in the 19th century, a huge pile of wolves’ bones were found, although it is not known if they were all down to Giffard’s efforts.

When Giffard died, Clifford castle passed indirectly to the earldom of Lincoln, and then to the Mortimer family of Wigmore, out of the Clifford family. This marked the beginning of the decline of Clifford as a place of national significance.

Clifford as a market centre

Between the 11th and 13th centuries Clifford was a local trading centre of some importance. Before the Norman Conquest, the threat of Welsh onslaughts, such as those of 1052 and 1055, hindered the full exploitation of the rich countryside and the development of trade.

However the gradual conquest of the Welsh, and the establishment of the Marcher lordships in places such as Clifford, meant that Herefordshire’s agriculture and commerce were able to flourish. According to a former Woolhope Club historian, “the early 12th century is the age of economic growth and borough foundation par excellence in Herefordshire”.

Herefordshire Council’s archaeological team plans to determine the extent of mediaeval Clifford in a survey due to start in late 2008. Existing archaeological evidence shows a deserted village at Castleton, and suggests an extensive settlement, including a street system, at the bottom of the hill around the castle.

Clifford had collapsed as a local centre by the 15th century, and most traces of its pomp have vanished, but its inclusion on the earliest known map of Britain testifies to its lost importance.

The ‘Gough Map’, named after the man who discovered it in the 18th century, dates back to the 1350s and shows forest cover, roads, and the site of castles (including Clifford). The only other local towns that seem to appear on the map (place names can be hard to discern) are Clyro, Painscastle, Wigmore and Hereford. Hay does not appear, suggesting that its rise to local prominence occurred some time after the 14th century.

The destruction of Clifford

Following the departure of the Clifford family from the castle, Clifford’s decline set in rapidly. The Black Death of 1349 devastated the local population, and without labour there was little surplus produce to support a market. Flocks and herds wandered about at will, and the whole pattern of farming changed. It is estimated that one-third to a half of the local population died.

Meanwhile, without a well-armed castle to defend itself, Clifford was at the mercy of the inhabitants of neighbouring towns. On one occasion the men of Hay destroyed over 200 houses in Clifford. Clifford’s ruinous state has also been blamed on the attacks of Owain Glyn Dwr, who had proclaimed himself Prince of Wales in 1400 and defeated English forces at Pilleth in Radnorshire and elsewhere in the early 15th century. It is debatable whether he ever attacked Clifford (the castle was reinforced around this time), but the instability certainly helped to hasten the village’s decline.

castle 2











View of Clifford Castle during the late 19th Century.  This picture is taken from ‘The River Wye: A Pictorial History’ and reproduced here with kind permission of the book’s author, Josephine Jeremiah

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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