An Introduction to Marden

Marden is one of the larger civil parishes in the rural district of Herefordshire, situated about a mile east of the main A49 Hereford-Leominster road, six miles north of Hereford.

Marden is the traditional site of the palace of the Kings of Mercia. Once a Royal manor, Marden is still a thriving agricultural and residential parish with a population of approximately 1400. A development scheme, started in 1961, saw the building of many modern attractive bungalows and houses. Now, with their mature gardens alongside the old black and white cottages, Marden is a delightful blend of ancient and modern living happily together.

There are three places of worship in the village: Marden Chapel; Amberley Chapel, a small stone chapel once privately owned by Lady (Coutts) Lindsay of Amberley Court but which now goes with the living of Marden; and the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin. The parish church dates from 1220 to 1230 with a bell tower and spire being added about 1340.

The church is situated on the bank of the River Lugg about a mile from the new centre of the village. The site is rather puzzling to the visitors until they learn that the original church was built over the traditional spot where Saint Ethelbert was first buried after he was murdered by King Offa in AD 794. A Holy Well, which is said to have sprung up at that time, can still be seen in the church today.

The River Lugg forms part of the western boundary of the parish and is well loved by fishermen. It is also the home of a mythical mermaid who is said to hold down one of the church bells which accidentally fell into the river. A walk along the riverbank may be rewarded with sightings of kingfisher, heron, sandpiper or sand-martin and even the flowering rush in due season.

On the south border of the parish lies the Iron Age hill fort of Sutton Walls, which was occupied until Saxon days. From 1948 until 1951 the site was excavated by Miss Kathleen Kenyon, the distinguished archaeologist and visited by Sir Mortimer Wheeler. Many interesting artefacts were found at that time and these can be seen in the Hereford Museum.

The village’s old school is a pleasant Victorian building built in 1874 which educated children until the age of eleven. Education was first promoted in Marden in 1610 by the generosity of a wealthy widow, Jane Shelly. She established an educational foundation with the object of assisting poor and needy children. Students today still benefit from the trust she founded. The old thatched school house, now privately owned, can still be seen at the Sutton Walls approach to the village. The current primary school was opened in 1994 and the complex incorporates the village community centre which provides the village with facilities for local social activities.

There are a number of recreational facilities in Marden. The playing fields include a football pitch, swings for children and a very active tennis club. The riding school attracts all age groups and beginner riders.

The village has two shops. The MACE general store which incorporates the post office and the second is the Minimarket catering for Europeans, particularly fruit pickers employed by S&A Davies. Next to the Minmarket is a chiropodist practice.

In recent years, agriculture has seen an increase in arable crops such as potatoes and wheat, sweet corn, soft fruit and, under polythene tunnels, strawberries, while livestock and dairy farming has declined. The strawberry business is operated by S&A Davies and includes a packing and distribution facility. Much of the work, particularly fruit picking, is undertaken by East European temporary staff who generally live on the site and whose numbers fluctuate depending upon the time of year.

Marden also has a newsletter ‘Marden News and Views’ set up by a voluntary organisation which provides the village with information on events and local interest and is distributed by hand to each household.