HEREFORDSHIRE has always been a very secret county.

So says David Phelps, the author of a new book that sheds light on little-known aspects of local history.

He concentrates on Hereford itself, a city whose strategic position on the border with Wales made it a place of skulduggery and mayhem throughout the Middle Ages.

Later, it was the scene of strange stories, some of which were of national significance.

Here are just seven things you may not know about Hereford's secret history:

1. The Rotherwas Ribbon

In 2008, during the building of a road two miles to the south-east of the city, a mysterious serpentine trackway of fire-cracked pebbles interspaced with white quartz was found curving up the hillside from the river Wye to Dinedor Hill, the site of a later hill fort.

It was only one stone deep, so could not be a pathway. But it must have looked spectacular, glinting in the light of the sun or moon, Dated to around 2,000BC it was unique in the world. Despite this it was covered up and the road built over it.

Hereford Times: Last visible remains of the Saxon Wall around Hereford. Picture: David PhelpsLast visible remains of the Saxon Wall around Hereford. Picture: David Phelps

2. Saxon Wall

Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great, continued her father's work in building defences around key towns to resist attacks from Vikings and the Welsh. Part of those Saxon defences can still be seen behind a block of flats at the corner of St Owen Street and Cantilupe Street. They are the only Saxon stone defence works currently visible in England.

Hereford Times: The friars' preaching cross, Hereford. Picture: Becky MillmanThe friars' preaching cross, Hereford. Picture: Becky Millman

3. The Preaching Cross

The Dominicans, the so-called Black Friars, had a substantial priory in Widemarsh Street until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. One important remainder is the preaching cross in what was the friars' cemetery. It is the only surviving example of a friars' preaching cross in England.

Hereford Times: Part of the Ten Commandments paintings in the Black Lion, HerefordPart of the Ten Commandments paintings in the Black Lion, Hereford

4. Black Lion

Built in 1575, it is the oldest existing pub in Hereford. In a room of the first floor are some wall paintings from that period depicting the breaking of the Ten Commandments. It is also said to be the most haunted building in the city.

5. Finest wooden building in Europe

At the cusp of the 16th-17th century Hereford was noted for the brilliance of its woodcarvers, and the greatest of their achievements was the Market Hall that once stood in High Town.

Built in 1576, it had three storeys and was supported by 27 walnut pillars. It rivalled any of the fine structures that can still be found in Europe.

By the middle of the 18th century it had fallen into disrepair, the upper floor was removed and its was re-modelled in a drab classical style. Few liked the result, and in 1861 the whole building was demolished.

Hereford Times: The tribute to Admiral Lord Nelson in Castle Green, HerefordThe tribute to Admiral Lord Nelson in Castle Green, Hereford

6. Nelson's Column

Hereford had a Nelson's Column 30 years before the more famous one in London.

The county took Nelson to its heart after he visited the city in 1802, staying at the Duke of Norfolk's house in Broad Street.

After his death at the Battle of Trafalgar a public subscription raised funds for a memorial in Castle Green.

Unfortunately, the money was used up before the planned statue was made, so the column was topped instead by a simple urn.

7. King Anthony

Anthony Hall, who liked to be known as Anthony I or Anthony Tudor, was born in London but the family moved to Herefordshire at the turn of the century.

He served in the First World War as an ambulance driver and later joined the police in Shropshire. The death of his father left him with enough money to pursue his claim to the English throne.

He claimed to be a direct descendant of an illegitimate son of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

He wrote an open letter to George V ordering him to vacate Buckingham Palace, and at one point challenged the king to a duel, the loser to be beheaded.

Psychiatrists who talked to Mr Hall found him perfectly lucid.

During the Second World War the nation had other things on its mind. Mr Hall fell silent about his claims, going to work instead as a shell inspector at Rotherwas Munitions Factory.

He died in 1947 and is buried in the village churchyard at Little Dewchurch.

Secret Hereford by David Phelps, Amberley Publishing, £14.99