I went up to Cusop Village Hall on Saturday - Cusop History Group had a visiting speaker who was talking about Dark Age Herefordshire, starting just before the Romans legions left, and going up to the death of King Offa.
It's useful to look at history sometimes on a local level. Herefordshire is tucked away from the coasts, so the early incursions of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes on the eastern side of the country, and the Irish from the west, didn't make much impression on the area which would eventually become the county at first. The Roman roads were not maintained, and the iron smelting in the south of the county with ore from the Forest of Dean stopped being economically viable. Meanwhile, Celtic Christianity produced St Dubricius in the south of the county - who may possibly have crowned King Arthur at Caerleon before he went off to become Bishop of Llandaff. And St David may have been born at Much Dewchurch. There's even a church which claims to have a chair made for St Augustine when he came to visit the Welsh bishops, in an important meeting between Roman and Celtic Christians (the Welsh bishops weren't too impressed by Augustine).
The River Wye split the area in two, with one side eventually being taken over by the Mercians, and the other becoming the Welsh commote of Archenfield.
One thing which was really useful was seeing the map of the area, with the names at different periods, and the locations of the towns. Hereford itself wasn't built until quite late in the period, but when it was it seemed to become the pattern for boroughs elsewhere in Mercia, with a grid iron layout of streets surrounded by a stout wall. Some of the streets in Hereford still follow the original Saxon lines.
The hall was full, and I think we all found the talk very interesting - and there was time to chat over tea and biscuits afterwards. I found myself discussing the course of the Wye, and whether the Roman road went to the north or south of the river near Hay - and was it really the Silures who attacked the Roman fort at Boatside? Nobody was sure. And I learned that a Roman coin was found, years ago, in the garden of Rest for the Tired on Broad Street in Hay, the only trace of Roman occupation in Hay itself.
Cusop History Group and Hay History Group are quite different in the focus of their activities, even though there's some overlap of membership. The border really does divide things up so that Cusop looks to the east and Hay looks to the west and Welsh history much more.
Cusop History Group costs £5 for a year's membership, and £5 to attend a talk for non-members "so you may as well join!" they said. Members pay £3 for a talk, which includes the tea and biscuits.
The next Cusop History Talk will be at Cusop Church next month, talking about the history of the church.