Kenchester, Herefordshire

Extract from Littlebury's Directory and Gazetteer of Herefordshire, 1876-7
with Private and Commercial Residents

Transcribed by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2004

KENCHESTER is a small parish bounded on the S. by the river Wye, and situated about half a mile N. of the main road between Hereford and Hay, and a short distance from Credenhill railway station. It is distant 5½ miles W.N.W. of Hereford, 8 S. of Weobley, 14 S.E. of Kington, and 15 E. of Hay; is in Grimsworth hundred, Hereford union, county court district, and petty sessional division, and Yazor polling district. The population in 1861 was 100; in 1871, 103; inhabited houses, 24; families or separate occupiers, 26; area of parish, 533 acres; annual rateable value, £1,389. Major John Harward Griffiths is lord of the manor and principal landowner. Mrs. Hardwick and Miss Williams also own land in this parish. The soil is loamy and gravelly; subsoil, clay; chief produce, wheat, barley, beans, peas, and roots. There are chemical works in the parish, carried on by Mr. John Jacob, of Hereford. Kenchester is in the diocese and, archdeaconry of Hereford and rural deanery of Weston; living, a rectory; value, £143, with good residence and 53 acres of glebe; patron, the Lord Chancellor; rector, Rev. John Evans, M.A., of Magdalen College, Cambridge, who was instituted in 1836.

The church, dedicated to St. Michael, is an old stone edifice, in the Norman style of architecture. It has no tower, and is a very plain building, consisting of nave and chancel. The parish registers begin with the year 1758. Here is an institution, erected in 1830, and endowed by the late Dowager Lady Southampton, consisting of a chapel, with residence for minister, and also two excellent school-rooms for the education (on the British system) of boys and girls, with separate dwellings attached to each school for master and mistress; the average attendance of each is about 40. Kenchester is extremely ancient, having been a famous Roman town, and the Magna of the Itinerary of Antoninus. The distances, as well as the general regularities observed in the course of the Itinerary, perfectly accord in support of this opinion; and the etymology of the appellation Kenchester itself, from Ken or Kyn, first, or chief; and Chester, from Chestre, equivalent to the Roman Castra, appears equally in favour of this being the real Magna Castra.

"Kenchester", says Leland, "standith a 3 mile or more above Hereford, upward on the same side of the river that Hereford doth; yet is yt almost a mile from the ripe of the Wye. This towne is far more auncient than Hereford, and was celebrated yn the Romans' time, as apperith by many thinges, and especially by antique money of the Cæsars, very often found within the towne, and in ploughing aboute, the which the people there call Duarfes money. The cumpace of Kenchester bath been by estimation as much as Hereford, excepting the castle, the whiche at Hereford is very spacious. Pieces of the walls and turrets yet appear prope fundamenta, and more should have appearid, if the people of Hereford towne, and other thereabout, had not in tyme past pulled down much, and picked out of the best for their buildings. By likelihood men of old time went from Kenchester to Hay, and so to Breknok and Carmardin. The place wher the towne was is all overgrown with brambles, hazles, and like shrubs. Nevertheless here and there yet appear ruins of buildings, of the whiche the foolish people caull on (one) the King of Feyres Chayre."

Great numbers of Roman antiquities, and other vestiges of the ancient consequence of this city, have from time to time been discovered, and may yet be traced in different parts of the parish. Among the chief which have been found are a part of a Roman temple, a hypocaust, tesselated pavements, urns, implements of war, and an aqueduct of considerable extent. Roman coins and pottery are frequently found at the present day. The form of this station is an irregular hexagon, inclining to a parallelogram. The area is raised about four or five feet above the level of the adjacent country, and is now divided into two enclosures; that westward is converted into arable land, and is remarkable for the blackness of its soil: in the eastern enclosure are numerous inequalities, arising from foundations, vaults, and ruins of buildings. This station has been erroneously fixed by Camden as the Ariconium of the Romans. The New Weir, the residence of Major John Harward Griffiths, J.P., D.L., is pleasantly situated near the river Wye, and about ¾ of a mile S. from the church. The Old Weir is the residence of Thomas Jowitt, Esq.

POSTAL REGULATIONS.- Letters arrive by messenger from Hereford about 10.30 a.m.; despatched thereto at 3.30 p.m. Hereford is the nearest money order and telegraph office and post town.
Parish Church (St. Michael's).- Rev. John Evans, M.A., Rector; J.H. Griffiths, Esq., Churchwarden; George Vaughan, Parish Clerk.
Lady Southampton's Chapel.- Rev. Thomas Hughes, Minister.
Lady Southampton's Schools.- Mr. R.P. Powell, Master; Miss E. Jones, Mistress.
Evans Rev. John, M.A. (rector), The Rectory
Griffiths Major John Harward (J.P. and D.L. for the county, and J.P. for the city of Hereford), The New Weir; and Conservative club, London, S.W.
Hughes Rev. Thomas, Chapel house
Jowitt Thomas, Esq., The Old Weir
Jacob John, chemical works; res., River bank, Tupsley, Hereford
Jones Miss E., schoolmistress
Powell R.P., schoolmaster
Price David, manager at the chemical works, Bridge house
Smith John, farmer, Kenchester court
Vaughan George, parish clerk

OCR/Transcription by Rosemary Lockie in May 2004.

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