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Free mining in the Forest of Dean

Posted on 19th May 2017

The ancient title of ‘free miner’ has long been attached to the Forest of Dean area and has had a complicated history that has seen off industrial revolutions, invasions and royal interferences.  A free miner is a title given to those who eligible to mine their own gales (portion of land), paying royalty to the crown for each tonne of material raised. Dean Miners Laws and Privileges, a document known locally as the Book of Dennis dating from the early 1600’s, references much earlier originsinsinuating there was an original free mining charter.

Clearwell Caves Cart

The Dean Forest Mines Act of 1838 states the eligibility of a free miner must be:

“All male persons born or hereafter to be born and abiding within the said Hundred of St Briavels, of the age of twenty one years and upwards, who shall have worked a year and a day in a coal or iron mine within the said Hundred of St Briavels, shall be deemed and taken to be Free Miners.”

This was stated after the Industrial Revolution shook the traditions of the free miners to the core. The Industrial Revolution ensured that coal and iron were much sought-after materials, making the untapped reserves in the Forest of Dean enticing. Though the parliamentary act changed little in terms of eligibility, it did allow the free miners to sell their gales (personal plots of land) to non-free miners and thus open the area to outside investors.

During the 18th century, The Free Mining Law Court – the system that had regulated free mining for centuries – was put under enormous pressure as other coal mining families wanted access to the Forest of Dean. The court became inundated with disputes as well as constant stress to allow outside interest. This all culminated with the theft of the Mine Law Court records. Without these, the Free Mining Law Court was unable to continue. The records were later recovered in the possession of Crown Officials.

Since the tumultuous times of the 18th century, the Forest of Dean free miners have continued to this day. There have been recent pushes forward as the first female free miner was accepted in 2010 and since other applications for female free miners have been considered.

A great day trip while staying in a holiday cottage in the forest of dean is to Clearwell Caves where you can discover more about the area’s history of free mining. The working iron ore mine is open to the public and is a great educational experience for children, who can wander the museum and discover the industry of the Forest of Dean.

Image Credit: Ben Coulson (Flickr)

World Heritage status bid for bridge linking Gloucester with Wales

Posted on 27th January 2016

The Old Wye Bridge will be celebrating its 200th anniversary in July, with one local councillor wanting to mark the occasion alongside an even bigger milestone.

Old Wye Bridge

However, the status could be a big ask with the likes of Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal and the Acropolis just some of the big names that Old Wye Bridge, linking Tutshill to Chepstow, is up against.

The man behind the challenge is Councillor Gethyn Davis (C, Tidenham) and is calling for the historic river crossing to be rated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If the bridge does receive the prestigious status, the area will gain a huge boost in tourism and visitor numbers, with many already making the crossing for their Forest of Dean cottage holidays.

Speaking to the Gloucester Citizen, Davis commented: “This is an issue worth fighting for. My fellow councillors don’t seem interested but that isn’t going to stop me.”

“It’s a wonderful piece of work. There was some repair work done recently but members of the public can’t see the amazing lattice work underneath.”

The bridge opened in 1816 with beautiful, unique construction work beneath the bridge making it an original linking landmark between the village and the town.

Image Credit: Ed Webster (Flickr.com)

Historical attractions in the Forest of Dean

Posted on 17th November 2015

While the Forest of Dean is renowned for its natural beauty, it is also home to many historical attractions, which all tell a story about the area’s past. From the remains of grand castles to beautiful houses and stately homes, there’s plenty to discover on a Forest of Dean cottage holiday. It may even be that the property you’re staying in is a listed building itself!

Here is a selection of our favourite historical attractions in the Forest of Dean, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire.

Berkeley Castle

Belonging to the Berkeley family for more than nine centuries, this castle is particularly significant to history, as it has played an important part in numerous power struggles. What is most impressive is that the castle is still intact, including all of its contents and 12th century archives.

It looks just like one you would find in a fairy tale, with a warm pink stone that glows soft in the sunset light, surrounded by battlements. Those visiting the castle can take a tour of the inside, while also admiring its grandeur from outside in the surrounding gardens and butterfly house.

Berkeley Castle

Image Credit: Smoobs flickr.com)

Brockhampton Estate

This medieval manor house is owned by the National Trust, and sits in the heart of a 1,700-acre farmed estate, in a location near to Hereford. Visitors enter the estate via a romantic timber-framed gatehouse dating back to the 1500s, with the building itself surrounded by a charming and pretty moat. There are miles and miles of walks through parks and woodlands, where a rich variety of wildlife, ancient trees, and a picturesque Lawn pool can be discovered. There are also many sculptures throughout, which depict the history of the estate and the local area and will delight those with a passion for history as well as the creative arts.

Brockhampton Estate

Image Credit: Tony Hisgett (flickr.com)

Gloucester Folk Museum

As one of the oldest established museums dedicated to social history, this attraction is certainly worth visiting when in Gloucestershire, mainly due to its fascinating collection of materials. The building itself is more than 500 years old, and is particularly attractive due to its Tudor timber-frames, which are a signature of this period. Exhibitions range from a reconstructed Victorian classroom to an insight into the life of a dairy, which will be sure to keep all ages entertained. Visitors can also enjoy the cottage garden and folk tea rooms for a light snack in the charming setting.

Gloucester Folk Museum

Image Credit: Jim Linwood (flickr.com)

Hereford Cathedral (The Chained Library)

Those finding themselves close to Hereford should make sure to look out for the remarkable cathedral, which stands tall in the city centre, just a few minutes’ walk from the High Street. As a fine example of architectural excellence from the Norman times, there’s so much to see, including the beautifully restored Shrine of St Thomas of Hereford, and the Chained Library. The latter is worth visiting in its own right, as the collection of books were put together, long before ‘libraries’ in the modern sense existed. What is so spectacular is that the books are protected by chains, which was once the most widespread and effective method for securing costly items in the middle ages.

Hereford Cathedral

Image Credit: Chris Moore (flickr.com)

Tintern Abbey

Many will have heard of Tintern Abbey due to the influence it has had on inspirational writers and artists, such as William Turner and William Wordsworth. This is just one of the numerous reasons why thousands flock to see the remains each year, which also happen to be set in the picturesque Wye Valley, overlooking the famous river in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The abbey is currently undergoing conservation work, in order to preserve the iconic 13th century west front, which is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Britain.

Tintern Abbey

Image Credit: Stewart Black (flickr.com)


Roman coins to go on display in the Forest of Dean

Posted on 28th July 2015

A unique collection of Roman coins that were discovered in a Gloucestershire field has gone on display in the Forest of Dean.

Roman Coin

The 500 bronze coins, which date back to the 4th Century AD, have become affectionately known as the Yorkley Hoard and are currently on display at the Dean Heritage Centre after the centre bought the collection for £1,600.

The centre is now expecting the special display to attract visitors who are in the area on Forest of Dean cottage holidays this summer.

These visitors will get to see coins that are dated AD 330-335 as well as two coins that date from AD 294-340 and one coin that dates back as far as AD 271-274.

Speaking to the BBC, Gavin Warren, the metal detector enthusiast who found the collection, said, “My detector went absolutely crazy and when we dug holes into the ground, they were just falling off the spade from the soil.

“We collected about half and went back the next weekend and found the rest.”

Image Credit: Kevin Dooley (flickr.com)

The Past Comes Alive in Gloucestershire in July

Posted on 03rd June 2015

For over 30 years, the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival has been capturing the historical spirit of the region in one of Europe’s largest free gatherings. Entertainers, artisans and re-enactment enthusiasts from all over the world will descend upon the Gloucestershire community on 11-12 July.


A new feature has been added this year as the town will host a Medieval-style carnival parade through the Tewkesbury High Street on Sunday. A short distance from many of our holiday cottages in the Forest of Dean, the event is perfect for families seeking a bit of adventure. Entry to the festival is free.

The event remembers the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. It was there the Yorkists successfully captured the throne of England, ending the War of Roses. The original battle site serves as the festival’s main campground. There will be battle re-enactments on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The festival includes a children’s area, food, arts and crafts, and displays throughout the weekend.


Image Credit: Wolfrage (flickr.com)