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Hereford, diocese of

Hereford, diocese of. Around 679 Theodore created the bishopric, conterminous with Herefordshire and south Shropshire, for the Magonsaetan tribe, out of the Mercian see. Despite the Danish invasions its westerly position enabled it to maintain continuity of bishops. Hereford was, by contrast, vulnerable to the Welsh, who sacked the cathedral in 1055 and killed the bishop, Leofgar. William I strengthened the region's defences by making it (until 1076) a Norman palatine earldom. Notable bishops include Thomas de Cantilupe (1275–82), canonized in 1320, chancellor of England during baronial rule in 1265 and adviser to Edward I; Herbert Croft (1662–91), stabilizer of the see after the Restoration; and James Beauclerk (1746–87), Charles II's aristocratic grandson, a conscientious 18th-cent. bishop. The cathedral, dedicated jointly to the Virgin Mary and Æthelbert, the martyred East Anglian king (753), is mostly Norman and its 15th-cent. College of Vicars is still intact. There are many fine Norman churches on the borders of Wales. The diocese was famed liturgically for ‘the Hereford use’ which rivalled Sarum before the Reformation. In 1716/17 Thomas Bisse, brother of Philip Bisse (bishop 1713–21), founded the Three Choirs Festival (with Worcester and Gloucester).

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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