If someone had told you that Hereford had once been troubled by the living dead who brought a plague which had ravaged the population would you believe them? What about vampires in Hereford? No? Well maybe you should. Back in the middle ages when the bishop was none other than Gilbert Foliot and Herefordians were suspicious of the Welsh, (mainly because they had burnt down the cathedral in by gone years) there were some very strange occurrences indeed!
It was difficult being a Welsh man in Herefordshire
Heuno a welsh man living in Hereford wasn’t particularly popular on account of being Welsh but less so because he was a tanner and given the amount of urine needed for the trade. Therefore his poor personal hygiene made him a pariah.
Heuno tended to be active during the night time hours as towns folk would leave him a cup of vinegar and a full bucket outside their door which he then collected in exchange for a penny. Due to his strange appearance, Heuno had very prominent teeth, think Freddie Mercury and then some, he looked quite predatory and people were very scared of him.
After many years of service Heuno died, most folks sighed in relief, he wasn’t particularly liked but would be missed on account of the pennies that would no longer be available. His neighbour a baker however was probably the most pleased to hear the news of his death, he had lived with the foul smell of urine far too long. That was until three days later when he was woken from his slumber to hear Heuno’s voice through his door asking to be let in so that he could warm himself by the fire. The baker told Heuno to go away but as he did so a spine chilling cackle came out of the dark.
Next morning no fire had been lit in the bakery and the familiar aroma of bread was absent. The baker was found gravely ill in his bed, feverish with staring red eyes and suspicious teeth marks on his neck. After three days he was dead and buried in the cathedral graveyard.
Is it really a Vampire?
A plague then beset Hereford, many people fell ill and died mirroring the symptoms of the baker and the rich began to worry. So much so that a knight Sir Walter Laudan visited the bishop for advice. Sir Walter was advised to dig up the body, to cut off the head with a spade, douse the body in holy water and then rebury it. And so it was done. Well nothing is ever certain is it not even in death, that night Sir Walter was awakened by scratching outside of his door, hearing Heuno’s voice he knew he was in mortal danger. So he drew his sword and ran out into the night wearing only his shirt to see a shrouded figure running towards the cathedral. The shroud was moth eaten, Heuno’s limbs were flapping uncontrollably and his head flopped backwards and forwards.
Sir Walter caught up with the figure and swiftly beheaded it and as the head flew off the body, the torso dropped to the ground. The plague disappeared, life in Hereford returned to normal and Sir Walter was a hero.
The connection to Elgar’s Statue
Just one more thing you well may ask, where was Heuno’s body buried? Well have you ever stood with Elgar admiring Hereford Cathedral in the sunlight and had a shiver run down your spine or the hairs on the back of your neck stand proud and put it down to the crispness of the autumn air? It is said that Heuno was buried directly beneath where Elgar’s statue stands today. Spooky eh? Who would have thought that according to folklore vampires once existed in Hereford!
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Feature Image: Sarah Payne