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Post-Medieval Herefordshire overview

Country houses

During the later Middle Ages the castles, which had been built so prolifically in the county during the Norman period, began to fall into decline and many were abandoned for good. The country house now became the dominant feature of an ever-changing society within the Herefordshire landscape.

The major stimulus for the construction of these country houses and estates was the Dissolution of the monasteries. Large areas of land that had once belonged to religious orders passed into different hands, and these new owners often wished to create a country seat for themselves as many of them came from London.

The emphasis was now on the aesthetic use of land rather than on practical and economic considerations. This led to many of these new estates having attached landscaped parks. At Berrington Hall, in the north of the county, there are earthworks of a deserted medieval village and ridge and furrow field system within the landscaped park. The famous Lancelot "Capability" Brown was one of the first landscapers to work in the Welsh Border area, and he undertook the ambitious project to landscape the estate of Berrington Hall. This involved mellow grassy slopes broken up with belts of trees with openings to provide magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.

Herefordshire has produced two of the finest landscape designers in Richard Payne Knight, who built the present Downton Castle, and Uvedale Price of Foxley. Both men were members of the influential Picturesque school of landscape design, which sought to enhance the landscape in a natural manner. Often villages were remodelled (or even relocated) to fit around the new county estates, for example Eastnor (near Ledbury) and Stoke Edith (between Ledbury and Hereford).

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2003]