Herefordshire, whilst a sparsely populated county, is a lively and vibrant community with Hereford City at its centre. It is also a border county and like all borderlands has a certain element of mystery. It is part of the English Marches where Norman barons fiercely guarded their lands, based in numerous castles, many of which can still be seen. Hereford City abounds with history having received many Royal Charters and seen gory battles from the Roman period to the Civil War.
The River Wye has always played a major rôle in the city’s fortunes and indeed the name Hereford means the crossing point for armies. Like many towns in the mid-Victorian period its citizens succumbed to water-borne diseases and in 1854 the Hereford Improvement Act was passed to enable the City Fathers to provide paved streets, gas lighting and a piped supply of potable (drinking) water. Because Herefordshire has no lakes, or the right geography for reservoirs, and no significant underground aquifers, the River Wye was seen as the only effective source for large quantities of drinking water.
The Victorian engineers lost no time in selecting a site some 1km west, and upstream, of the city centre where the pumping station (now the Museum main building) could be constructed above the flood plain and with Broomy Hill behind for the treatment works and supply reservoir. This enabled them to supply the original centre of Hereford, known as Hightown, with water by gravity.
The county is now also the source of many of the Museum’s volunteers. Most are people who have retired to the county because it is such a beautiful place to live. However, some volunteers live further afield, including the Welsh border counties. The Museum has a warm place in the hearts of many people in the local community and you will hear it talked about in positive terms wherever people meet. It remains the only working museum in Herefordshire.
Hereford is in the midst of the wonderful Wye Valley, an area of rare natural beauty. The Museum is situated just to the west of the city centre close by the river. It can be reached by taking the Riverside Walk, part of the nationally acclaimed Wye Valley Walk. The river plays a part in many aspects of Herefordshire’s life, providing leisure activities such as angling, rowing and canoeing and the life sustaining water supply for the population. In days gone by the river was also a transport artery.
The Museum is within easy reach of the Midlands, Cotswolds, mid and south Wales. By road follow the brown tourist signs from the main Wye Bridge on A49. On foot follow the paths along the banks of the river. Hereford train and bus stations are some 1.5km from the Museum.