NEARLY 150 Americans called Hereford are heading this way, writes Sophie Bignall.

They will visit Herefordshire at the end of the month after donating their dollars to a church restoration project.

When essential repairs to the 12th Century church at Mordiford were estimated to be in excess of £100,000, parishioners appeared to be faced with an impossible task. However, help was at hand from 'across the pond' when the American Herefords stepped in after 'adopting' the church as their own and donated over £10,000 to the project.

A £61,000 lottery grant removed some of the pressure but local residents still needed to raise the balance of £39,000.

Churchwarden and local landowner, James Hereford, contacted Charles Hereford from Texas, a relative that he describes as an 'umpteenth' cousin and the 'greatest living expert' on family history.

In 1999, James Hereford suggested that it would be 'right and proper' to ask whether the American side of the family would like to contribute to keeping a small piece of English heritage intact.

After obtaining pictures illustrating the problem areas of the church, Texan, Charles Hereford sent letters to over 300 Hereford families all over the US.

"They adopted the Church of the Holy Rood as 'our church' and contributed over £10,000 towards the restoration project," said Charles Hereford.

James Hereford originally invited Charles Hereford, along with another cousin, and their wives, to tea back in 1995 and they have been in regular correspondence ever since.

The Hereford family ties date back to 12th Century, and originated with Maurice de Hereford, who was the sheriff of Herefordshire.

It is thought that the Herefords came into possession of Sufton Estate in the 1140s and continued to hold the manor on condition that they presented any Royalty with a pair of gilt spurs whenever they crossed Mordiford Bridge.

Charles Hereford believes that every Hereford Family in the Americas descended from John Hereford, born 1625, a royalist who fled to America during the English Civil War.

Leaving his son in the US, John Hereford later returned to England, and parish records revealed that he was eventually buried at St Cuthbert's Church, Holme Lacy - a site that the American Herefords intend to visit during their stay.

Now, Charles Hereford commented that they have recorded a total of 35,000 descendants of Maurice de Hereford and more are discovered nearly every week.

He maintains that he can 'almost' state that 'If you have a Hereford in your lineage, we are related!'

The Herefords will be jetting over at the end of the month and there will be a celebration lunch party followed by a special service at the church on the Sunday.

Charles Hereford said: "I think Hereford is a beautiful city and I consider it a great honour to have my roots buried so deeply there."

A frenzy of fund-raising also commenced, including quiz nights, coffee mornings, a promise auction and a variety of other activities involving a tremendous number of people.

Local postmistress and chairman of the fund-raising committee, Kathy Forsythe spearheaded the campaign continually coming up with new fund-raising ideas.

The committee hopes that the all of the phase one restoration work will be completed by the time the American visitors arrive. Committee treasurer, Max Hunt, announced that the total raised to date has been £36,661.92.