You may have noticed that for the last few weeks our Cycle of Prayers on this newsletter’s back page has been for parishes in Herefordshire. So why are we in Wales praying for parishes in a county in England?
Herefordshire is an integral part of our diocese – and has been since the Catholic dioceses of England and Wales were erected in 1850 at the so-called ‘Restoration of the Hierarchy’. The then Diocese of Newport and Menevia spread right across from Hereford to west Wales. However, Wales did not yet have any churches deemed suitable to be made into a cathedral, and so the newly founded Belmont Abbey served that purpose -in Hereford, of course. In 1895 west Wales left us to join the north, leaving Glamorgan with Herefordshire – and Monmouthshire, itself often seen as part of England rather than Wales. The cathedral was still at Belmont. Sometimes we were even seen as an English diocese with a bit of Wales tagged on!
Our far-sighted Bishop Hedley realised that Cardiff was going to be the major city, and moved down to live in our very own Station Road. You can still see his house, now the Court School. He prepared for us to become an archdiocese based in Cardiff, but it did not happen until after his death in 1916. St David’s in town now became our cathedral, jointly with Belmont, but this strange arrangement did not last. When the first archbishop, Bilsborrow, resigned in 1920, St David’s became the sole cathedral, and Belmont got on with being a Benedictine abbey, as it does to this day.
So Herefordshire is part of our diocese partly through the presence of Belmont, and partly, I suspect, by some pen-pushers drawing a few lines on a map back in 1850! However, as a former parish priest of Ledbury there, I know that it is good to have this quiet rural part of our diocese alongside the big cities of Cardiff and Newport, the Valleys and the Vale of Glamorgan. Variety is the spice of a diocese…