The Medieval Undercrofts of Hereford
After a quite crazy week in London seeing some of the most wonderful behind the scenes sights, it was nice to get back to Hereford for the weekend. A quick blast on out the bike this morning and coffee with friends. Continuing the Scholarship impetus I decided that I would try and get into some buildings in the city, on a busy Saturday non the less.
I knew of the stone under crofts on Widemarsh Street in Hereford having read about them in the Houses of Hereford 1200-1700 (1) Which I cannot recommend enough for a Herefordian building buff. My first port of call was Symonds clothing store, they did not look busy and I asked if they had a stone under-croft under their property, they said they did, but didn't have access for it which was quite unfortunate. I thought that it might run under more than one property so I gave the Blue Cross Charity shop on the corner a quick try. I explained who I was and after some formalities they very kindly allowed me to have a look, Jackpot!
The stone undercroft is in lovely condition, although it has to be noted that it has quite a modern concrete floor and some cement pointing but this does not appear to be causing any detriment to the structure at this point. The stonework is in fantastic condition and the four centred arches are a thing of beauty. Although we only had two minutes to poke our heads around it was apparent the quality of the structure with the evenly coursed with a well dressed wall to the rear and in our very quick scout, I would say is earlier than the four pointed arch. The stone looks to have weathered well and to be of a limestone, much harder than the usual Hereford Raglan type mudstone so typical in the area.
The cellar is attributed to being 15th Century although it has been dated earlier by others. There is an door to the right hand wall as you enter as well as a small opening 400mm square with wrought iron grill. I am going to have to do a bit more digging to get into the rest of the cellar as it has some decorative plaques and heraldic carvings.
To the right hand side of the cellar to the rear is a two pointed gothic arch with recessed door jamb and its original hinge pintles and rebate which appears to have been for a locking brace. The way the gothic arch intersects into the main cellar is quite a thing of beauty. After speaking to the custodian of the shop, she told us that it used to be a pub in the 1970's and with a bit of digging I came up with the image below.
The cellar was used as a bar called The Pippin and presumably, the room which i could not enter to the right hand side was for the storage of beer or wine. Whether or not the undercroft was always used for this, it is yet to be determined but an interesting snapshot in history nonetheless.
One other thing to note is the opening to Bewell street looks to have been blocked up and made smaller. The quality and type of stone appears to be different to the rest of the building.
The undercroft was quite a find and especially nice to get some documentary photographs with it being empty. It just goes to show that just knocking on a door and asking to look at a building or suchlike can produce good results. Next time I need to make sure I take my SPAB letter to explain who I am, as it might take less explaining!
(1) Baker, N., Hughes, P., Morriss, R., Shoesmith, R., Byron, B., Hoverd, K., Davies, J. and Baker, N. (2017). The houses of Hereford 1200-1700. oxbow books.
(2) 'Hereford', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, Volume 1, South west (London, 1931), pp. 90-144. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/heref/vol1/pp90-144 [accessed 23 March 2019].