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A Brief History Of Ross-On-Wye

Located on the border between Wales and England, Ross-on-Wye is a historic market town.


Located on the border between Wales and England, the historic market town of Ross-on-Wye gets its name from a translation, from either Celtic or Welsh, for a land mass that projects itself into a body of water – Ross. The on-Wye part made an addition back in 1931.

The town’s skyline is dominated by the spire of St Mary’s Church, which can be seen from miles around thanks to its position high upon a large sandstone cliff that looks over the rest of the town.

At the very end of the M50 motorway, Ross-on-Wye sits in the middle of the beautiful Herefordshire countryside, within the famous Wye Valley. The picturesque landscape and ease of access has made the town a magnet for tourists throughout history.

The Wye Tour

However, it was during the Victorian era that the popularity of the town really peaked and became a key part of a route known as the Wye Tour – a cheaper and faster alternative to the more famous Grand Tour.

The Wye Tour was typically taken by 18th century noblemen upon completion of their formal education. Those men who were the most wealthy would complete the Grand Tour, which would take them across the continent through parts of Europe.

The tour allowed the English middle classes to get away from industrialised and thus very dirty cities and into the cleaner air of the Herefordshire countryside, giving them a similar experience to the European trip. The introduction of the railway to Ross-on-Wye further fuelled the popularity of the town, given how easy it was now to get to. This saw lots more working class people coming into the town for tourism.

The Town

Ross-on-Wye is predominantly made up of timber constructed houses from the Tudor era during the 17th century. It was in the year 1138 when the town was given permission to host a market, by the then King of England, King Stephen. However, there were actually markets running in the town prior to this date.

The town has a history and association with the small, spiny mammal known as a hedgehog. There are images of the animal dotted all around the town centre on various different logos and crests. This association dates back some 1,500 years when it was invaded by the Celts and called Ergyng or Land of the Hedgehog. During Saxton times the name of the town was then changed to Arkenfield and then to Archfield.

Earliest History

The first ever reference to the town was made in the year 1016, where the town was mentioned in a document that was presented to the then Bishop of Hereford. After this, it was referred to in the 1086 Doomsday Book and was said to consist of nothing more than a corn mill and a church.

In more recent time, Ross-on-Wye was the very first market town in the county of Herefordshire to have high speed broadband made available to all of its residents and businesses. Today it is still somewhat of a tourist destination.

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