•	A square-shaped document, written on parchment, with a green lozenge-shaped seal attached to the centre of its base. 

Indulgence of Archbishop Stephen Langton, 1226, to those contributing to the building and maintenance of St Ethelbert’s Hospital, HCA 898

At the core of the cathedral archives are the records of the Dean and Chapter documenting the history of the cathedral and its considerable property, mainly in Herefordshire, from the 12th century to the present day. The collection includes title deeds, manorial and ecclesiastical court records, minutes, accounts, maps, plans, architectural drawings and a few personal papers. The earliest Chapter Acts date from 1512. We also hold the records of the cathedral’s two almshouses, St Ethelbert’s Hospital, Hereford, and St Katherine’s Hospital, Ledbury, of the Hereford College of Vicars Choral (from 1575 to its dissolution in 1937) and of St John’s Parish (dissolved 2012), whose altar was in the cathedral.

The Library does not hold the archives of the Bishop (bar a few strays), which are available with the other diocesan records at Herefordshire Archives and Records Centre (HARC). Parish records other than St John’s are also kept at HARC.

The calendar of the medieval archives and a list of account rolls can be downloaded from the National Archives Discovery catalogue. Under ‘Find an archive’ enter ‘Hereford Cathedral’ and click on the search icon. Then select ‘Hereford Cathedral Library & Archives’.

The medieval archives include a notable collection of seals. For a listing see F.C Morgan and Penelope E. Morgan, A concise list of seals belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Hereford Cathedral (Hereford: Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club, 1966), which can be downloaded here.

Indexes to the more modern records are available in the Reading Room. If you are unable to visit in person, staff will answer enquiries and inform you of material relating to your area of interest, but are unable to undertake detailed research on your behalf.

The Beddoe collection of images includes many historical prints and photographs of the cathedral and people associated with it. We also have thousands of modern digital images.

We also hold on permanent loan the archives of St Michael’s College Tenbury and the Hereford Choral Society.

Please note that the modern Chapter and account records are closed for twenty years. Some other documents may be withheld or redacted for legal reasons. We are exempt from Freedom of Information requests.


Medieval manuscript books

•	Part of a page of a medieval manuscript, with a large decorated initial letter P, coloured in red and green.

Late 12th-century manuscript of sermons by Peter Comestor. Decorated initial ‘P’ with tiny faces peering out from the stylised foliage, O.7.3

The Chained Library includes 227 medieval manuscript books, dating from the 8th to the early 16th centuries. Many of them are in their original bindings. Roughly half were at the cathedral in medieval times; the others were post-Reformation donations. So as well as a significant part of a medieval cathedral’s library we have important collections of books from Cirencester Abbey, St Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester and its daughter house St Guthlac’s Priory, Hereford, and the Hereford Franciscans.

The catalogue of the medieval manuscript books is available in print:  R.A.B Mynors and R.M. Thomson, Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Hereford Cathedral Library by (Cambridge, D S Brewer, 1993).

The medieval manuscript books are also included in the Medieval Libraries of Great Britain 3 (MLGB3) database. Select ‘Advanced search’ and in the ‘Modern location’ box enter ‘Hereford’.

The manuscripts have not been digitised, but microfilms of entire books or digital images of selected folios may be purchased through our reprographics service (please see below).


Early printed books and music

•	An open book showing a printed map of Italy, hand-coloured mainly in shades of brown.

Map of Italy from Ptolemy’s Cosmographia (1486), L.4.13

Details of all our early printed books, including the Chained Library, the library of the Hereford College of Vicars Choral, the historical library of All Saints Parish Church Hereford, the library of the Jesuit College of St Francis Xavier at the Cwm, Monmouthshire (Incorporated into the cathedral library after its seizure in 1679) and about half of the historical music collections can be found on the online catalogue. The music includes both manuscripts and printed editions, the majority (c.450 items) from the library of the College of Vicars Choral.

We also hold on permanent loan the historic libraries of More Parish, Shropshire, and Lady Hawkins’ School, Kington, Herefordshire. These books are also included on the online catalogue: to find them enter ‘More Parish’ or ‘Lady Hawkins’ in the ‘Freetext’ search. 

Reprographics service

The majority of our historical collections have not yet been digitised. We can supply microfilms of medieval manuscript books and digital images of documents or selected pages from books for research and/or publication. To obtain a microfilm or digital image(s), or to find out the cost of publishing material for which we hold the copyright (including the Hereford Mappa Mundi), please complete this image request form and send it to [email protected]