Two Pocket Books about the Forest of Dean

In the Autumn of 2019 we spent a week in the Forest of Dean. I came across two books about the Forest which are both quite small. Both are facsimile copies of much older works.

A Week’s Holiday in the Forest of Dean

The first appears in the featured image above. It is a copy of a book written by John Bellows, a well-known publisher based in Gloucester. “A Week’s Holiday in the Forest of Dean” was first published in the 1880s and facsimile copy was prepared and published in 2013 by Holborn House Publishing. [1] A preface has been added, written by Ian Standing, it gives some biographical details about John Bellows and covers the publication history of the book.

Bellows chose to travel from the Midland Station in Gloucester to Berkeley Road and then through Sharpness along the Severn and Wye Joint Railway. His journey took him across the Severn Railway Bridge and on through Lydney into the Forest.

He describes the station at Speech House Road and the walk up to Speech House from the Station.

Then, the following morning, Bellow’s party travelled down the hill from Speech House to Cannop Brook. Crossing the bridge, they spent a short while viewing the chemical works which were at that location before pungent odours chased them away. Their route, for a short way, was then along an old tramway. [1:p25] Might this tramway have been the Bixlade Tramway or part of the route of the Severn and Wye Tramway which was the fore-runner of the later standard-gauge railway?

Perhaps the more likely tramway is that which ran up Wimberry Slade, the route of which ran through what became Cannop Colliery and in much more recent times a Highway Depot for the Forest and a Cycle Hire Centre.

There are references throughout the text to the railways in the Forest. … In Bellows journeys around the Forest, trains were used, as were the railway lines which carried them. Bellows casually remarks that the route to Trafalgar Pit from Speech house involved his party walking, “straight across the open turf and down the path across the Beechen Hurst, til [they] strike the Railway in the Valley, mount the embankment, and walk along it to the right as far as the signal-box, where we leave it for a forest path on the left, running parallel to the line, which brings us to the huge ‘dirt-heap’, on which the rubbish of the pit is shot.” [1:p59]

Bellows party goes on to visit St. Briavels. He comments: “The train from Speech House Road would deposit us at Millwall Station, with no fewer than nine important iron ore mines within the circuit of a mile.” [1:p61]

This little facsimile book is a pleasure to read and a excellent way if getting a feel for what the Forest of Dean was like in the late 19th century.

Fine Forest of Dean Coal

The second little book was originally published by the Forest of Dean Colliery Owners’ Association, Cinderford. It carries a lot of contemporary advertising and is itself a publicity booklet for the coal mining industry in the Forest of Dean. It has been reproduced in the Lightmoor Facsimile Series and is No. 2 in that series.

The booklet contains a short history of mining in the Forest, clarifies the status of Free Miners, explains the arrangement of the different coal measures underground.

The Fuel research board had just completed a survey of the coalfield focussing on the Coleford Highdelf Seam which was worked by the remaining large collieries. The moisture content of the coal prior to extraction and treatment was 3.4%. Once air-dried, the moisture content reduced to 2.8%. The volatile matter in the coal amounted to close to 40%.

All of the collieries in operation in the forest were fitted with modern screening arrangements and picking belts. Cannop had recently had a Dry-Cleaning Plant installed for small coal below 2″.

The booklet focusses on each of the collieries in the Forest in turn: Cannop, Lightmoor, Eastern United, Northern United, Lydney & Crump Meadow, Parkend Deep Navigation (New Fancy), Princess Royal, Park Collieries. Each has at least one photograph.

References

1. Ian Standing and David Harris; A Week’s Holiday in the Forest of Dean; facsimile copy of a publication with the same title written by John Bellows; Holborn House, 2013.

2. J. Burrow, Ed.; Fine Forest of Dean Coal; Forest of Dean Colliery Owners’ Association, Cinderford; facsimile published by Lightmoor in the series … Lightmoor Facsimile Series, No. 2.

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