Marden is one of the largest parishes in Herefordshire, and lies just off the main Hereford to Leominster road, six miles from Hereford.

History of Marden

The Britons under Uther Pendragon and Arthur, having been driven into the Black Mountains and the other fastnesses of Wales by the numerous hordes of Saxon barbarians, Herefordshire became incorporated with the Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

King Offa

Herefordshire arrived at its greatest renown under Offa, who built a palace at Sutton (or South Town), and who caused the famous Dyke, known as Clawdd Offa, running through parts of Radnorshire, Monmouthshire and Shropshire, to be cut as a line of demarcation.  Some historians say the Palace of Offa was built on a hill and was strongly defended by entrenchments, and the celebrated Sutton’s Walls, extensive remains of which still exist, attest the importance of that place as a means of defence.

Others were sure that the Palace of Offa was built in the valley where  stood the mansion of T. Price Williams, known as Marden Court, and this view is strengthened by the discovery, through a mid 19th century extension of the mansion, of very extensive foundations of buildings of importance of some considerable age.

The Evil Queen Quendreda and King Ethelbert

Offa’s principles had been corrupted by wealth and power, and he invited Ethelbert to his Palace at Sutton Walls under the pretence of giving him his beautiful daughter, Elfrida, in marriage – Offa and his queen Quendreda appeared to be kindly to Ethelbert, but Quendreda was a nasty and ambitious woman and had her sights set on procuring a new kingdom for her family.  She persuaded Offa to forget honour and hospitality and to have Ethelbert killed.  Some say that he was beheaded, and others are sure that he was put into a hole under the floorboards of his bedroom and suffocated.  The first theory is supported by the legend that where the head of Ethelbert fell, a well sprang up to constantly remind his murderers of their guilt, and this well still exists at the east end of the Church, having been preserved along with the niche in which the effigy of the king formerly stood.

People flocked to the well, thinking the water had miraculous powers, but these days the people of Marden are somewhat sceptical.

The Pope’s Orders

Ethelbert was buried first in Marden, but later Offa, on the orders of the Pope, removed the body to Hereford Cathedral where a glorious tomb was erected to his memory.  The Pope had other orders too which Offa had to comply with in order to gain his pardon – first he had to build the church mentioned above over the grave of Ethelbert, and dedicate it to the Virgin Mary.

Secondly, he had to build or repair the Cathedral Church of Hereford and dedicate it to St. Ethelbert, and then transfer his body there.

Thirdly, “to give a Virgate of his Demesne Lands” next to his own house, and give the great tithes of all his tenants within the Manor, (doubled), the tenth ridge of land ploughed and sowed by the occupiers, as well as the tenth Cock or Sheaf of corn and grain, to the Canons of the Cathedral.

So, instead of acquiring a new kingdom, Quendreda caused anarchy and the ultimate annihilation of their own kingdom.

Following the collapse of the Offas, there were successors to the throne of Mercia who lived at Marden, until the rise of Prince Egbert, the first Monarch of the English nation.

Later, Mercia was given to Alfred, and during his life, his son Prince Edward reigned absolute in Mercia from his seat in Marden.

The Manor of Marden

The Manor of Marden changed hands over the ages many times, being called variously Maurdine;  Mawurthin, Mawerdin, Marwardyn and Maurdyn.

Soon after the Conquest, William I granted Marden to William Fitz Osborne but it reverted to the crown by confiscation in William IIs reign.

Edward I granted the Manor to Roger Mortimer, but when his grandson, another Roger, was convicted of high treason, the crown took it back before Edward III gave it to Maurice de Berkeley who held Marden for seven years.

Maden went through a great many changes of ownership through the years,  until The Earl of Essex sold the Manor of Marden in 1809, as well as the Mansion house and park at Hampton Court, to Richard Arkwright.


Churches of Marden

News from the Past Marden