Category Archives: Forest of Dean

Miscellaneous posts about the Forest of Dean

A First Steam Locomotive for the Severn and Wye Tramway?

While I was researching the story of the Penydarren Tramroad, [7][8] I came across a short story which related to the history of the Severn & Wye Railway & Canal Company. [9] The story, while coming predominantly from one source, has an interesting addendum (or postscript) which is based on a comment about “an engineer named Stewart” early in the text below. ….

Mr Keeling Buys a Locomotive [1]

After an earlier attempt by James Teague to introduce a tramroad in the Forest was thwarted by the authorities, between 1809 and 1812 three horse worked cast iron tram roads were successfully constructed which later formed the basis of the railway system that subsequently emerged in the Forest. [6]

The Severn & Wye Railway & Canal Company was the first of these and finally opened as a plateway in 1813. It linked the two rivers between Lydbrook and Lydney on the western side of the Forest, with associated branch lines. [6]

In 1818, the first legal action was taken to force the company to repair the tramroad. [2]

The line was worked by horse power until 1865, and in 1870 powers were obtained to convert it to a passenger-carrying line, and to join it to the Great Western system.

1868 the tramway was converted to broad gauge, and then to standard gauge in 1872.

However, in the middle years of the 19th Century a series of options for the improvement of the Tramroad and its services were being considered.

By 1863 the Severn & Wye Railway & Canal Company possessed a comprehensive system of horse-worked tramroads, of 3′ 8″ gauge angle-plate type, in the Forest of Dean. These lines were the principal means whereby the coal, iron, stone and other products of the major part of the Forest were taken to the rivers and the South Wales Railway for onward transit. The service provided on the tramroads in the Forest of Dean was the subject of regular complaints and discontent amongst traders and the communities of the Forest. These complaints were sustained over a number of years.

The Company did not want to incur the costs of conversion from a horse-drawn tramroad to a locomotive hauled railway without Crown assistance, and their engineer, George William Keeling, decided to make enquiries into the possible use of steam locomotives on the existing tramroad. An engineer named Stewart had tried a locomotive on the line as early as 1814, but had not developed its use. In 1856 T.E. Blackwell, consulting engineer to the Severn & Wye, had asked Daniel Gooch, locomotive superintendent of the broad gauge Great Western Railway, for advice in introducing locomotives, but no trials were undertaken. [1]

Keeling set out on a fact-finding mission to see locomotives at work on different industrial railways and tramroads, and to enquire about their performance and cost. The record of his travels are contained in the Severn & Wye Board Minute Books. His first visit was to the Sheepbridge Ironworks at Chesterfield, in December 1863. He was told that one small locomotive, costing £775, had for upwards of two years performed all haulage. This locomotive was probably ‘Little Nell’, an 0−4−0 saddle tank, the first locomotive built at the Boyne Engine Works, Leeds, by Manning, Wardle & Company, and delivered to Sheepbridge on 5th February 1859.

Keeling later visited Messrs. Brown & Company, London, and in March 1864, made a tour of various South Wales industrial railways, and visited the Blaenavon Ironworks. “The Blaenavon Tramway was about two to three miles long, of 3′ 3″ gauge, laid with L−plates having a slight rib underneath for strength and weighing 45 lbs. per yard. The plates were laid on wood sleepers at 2′ 4″ to 3′ 0″ pitch, and the Company had two locomotives, one of which was working, whilst the larger one was kept as spare or reserve engine in the shed. The smaller one was a four-coupled locomotive with 3′ 6″ wheels at 4′ 5” centres, and weighed nearly 8 tons in working order. It drew 35 loaded trams (66 tons) at 10 m.p.h. on the level, and 30 tons up an incline of 1 in 60. It had worked most satisfactorily for fifteen years. The larger engine (Keeling noted in brackets “Gan−y−Erw” – presumably its name) was comparatively new and more powerful. It had six coupled cast iron wheels 3′ 6″ in diameter at 5′ 3″ centres, with wrought iron tyres having about 23/8″ tread, outside cylinders 12″ by 18″, and weighed 10 tons in working order. It cost between £800 and £900, and could draw 50 loaded trams (90 tons) at 10 m.p.h. on the level, or 25 loaded. trams (45 tons) up an incline of 1 in 60. Both engines were built by the Usk Side Iron Company, of Newport, Mon., the larger one having been designed by Mr T. Dyne Steel.” [1]

At Brynmawr, Keeling found a tramroad of similar gauge to Blaenavon, and worked by locomotives similar to the smaller engine seen there. “At Tredegar and Rhymney there were tramways worked by locomotives of varying sizes, some being similar to those at Blaenavon and others being the “old fashioned ones formerly used by the Monmouthshire Railway and Canal Company”. These were presumably the Tredegar Ironworks’ “vintage” 0−6−0’s which were reminiscent of the early Stockton & Darlington Railway engines.” [1]

At the Plymouth Ironworks, near Merthyr, Keeling found the works served by a tramway over a mile long, laid with a combined edge rail and tramplate of channel section in small chairs on sleepers about 3′ 0″ apart. The tram wagons ran on the bed of the plate but the locomotive, “a perfect little model of an engine beautifully constructed by Messrs. Hawthorn & Company, Leith”, had flanged wheels and ran on the outside flange of the channel rail. The engine which so excited the admiration of the engineer had 8″ by 15″ outside cylinders, weighed 7 tons in working order, and cost £650. It was able to pull a train of between 60 and 80 trams (wagons) “varying according to the weather”, equal to a load of 70 to 90 tons up a long incline of about 1 in 200, and made some fifteen trips a day. Formerly a dozen horses had been employed, and the engine was then doing the work of twenty. The Plymouth Ironworks were part-owners of the Penydarren Tramroad, but the tramway Keeling encountered appears to have been independent of this, and was probably laid to a narrower gauge. It is not clear exactly where this ran, many of the tramways in the area werewer relatively steep grades. It is possible that it was the line between Morlais and Penydarren but unlikely. There were a lot of internal tramways around the Plymouth works which may be more likely. The number of trips per day seem to suggest a short tramway that was internal to the Plymouth Works.Keeling travelled round a whole series of different Works and Tramroads which included: Fothergill’s Ironworks at Abernant (owned by The Aberdare Iron Company); and the Neath Abbey Iron Company’s works, an establishment with a history as venerable as its name suggests, having been established in 1792. [1]

When Keeling ended his tour. He reported to the Severn & Wye Board, “I am sure that, if the Blaenavon Tramroad will stand a 10−ton engine rattling over it at a pace of 10 miles per hour several times a day, our tramway will certainly bear a 7− or 8−ton engine at a speed of 4 or 6 miles per hour”. Three firms tendered for the honour of supplying the first locomotive – Neath Abbey Ironworks (£620), Alfred R. Thomas, of Cardiff (£600) and Fletcher, Jennings & Company (£695). In spite of the higher price, the last named secured the order – possibly because they promised to follow up their tender with a personal call and drawings. Severn & Wye locomotive No.1, a humble little 0−4−0 well tank with outside cylinders and flangeless wheels, was delivered at Lydney on 31st October 1864. [1]

Postcript … or is it actually a ‘prescript’?

The first part of this blog is based primarily on an article from the Industrial Railway Society website which in turn was based almost wholly upon extracts from the Severn & Wye Railway & Canal Company Board’s Minute books made available by courtesy of the Archivist, British Transport Commission. But there is more to this story. …

There appears to be an alternative version of the story about what was might have been the first locomotive on the Severn and Wye Tramroad. To follow this story through, we need to travel back to the early part of the 19th Century. ….

It appears that earlier in the 19th Century the Parkend Coal Company entered into a deal with an engineer called William Stewart which seems to have gone sour. The story is related in a letter from William Stewart which is contained in “A History of Railway Locomotives down to the End of the Year 1831” which was written by Chapman Frederick Marshall. [3]

As will be seen, the story does not end well.

Stewart appears to have been stirred into action after listening to a speech by George Stevenson at the opening of the Newcastle and Darlington Railway in June 1944. Stewart wrote to the Practical Mechanic and Engineer’s Magazine (Glasgow):[4]

“In 1814, a Coal Company in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, paid annually three thousand pounds for the haulage by horses of the coal extracted from their mines to Lydney, the place of embarkation. an engineer who was in communication with that company and who knew nothing at that time of Mr Stevenson’s more successful attempts, proposed to make a locomotive engine to do the work of the horses, provided the Company would give him one-half of the sum which they then paid for haulage, that is, he would undertake to perform the haulage at fifteen hundred pounds per annum, in place of the three thousand, the price then paid – the engineer to make and maintain the locomotive at his own expense.” [4]

“This was thought by the Company a very good offer, but they expressed an unbelief in the possibility of making an engine fit to do such work; that, consequently, if they openly encouraged such an attempt by prematurely entering into any written agreement with the engineer, the consequence would be disastrous to the Company, as those employed to do the work by horses would probably abandon it, and thereby cause perturbation in the work, and a consequent loss to the Company, but, said they, if it was shown by an actual trial, that the engine proposed would really move along the line of rails, and function properly, then the Company would accept and ratify the proposal offered by the engineer.” [4]

“Ambitious to succeed, and credulous to believe, the engineer, a resident in Newport, Monmouthshire, commenced his work. Trusting to the specious promise of the Coal Company and having some months after completed the engine, he had it transported to the Lydney railway, and then set it in motion, in presence of the Company’s Directors who had conducted all the concerns, and many other spectators. The result of the experiment was such as to convince the Company’s Director of the practicability of the undertaking, which he admitted  without reserve, and offered to fulfil his promise by giving one-half of what the Company now paid for the haulage.” [4]

However, while the locomotive was being constructed, the Company had talked with its hauliers on the basis that their role may be superseded by a locomotive. The Company had negotiated a significant reduction in their prices from £3000/annum to £2,000/annum — “the one-half of which became one thousand pounds in place of fifteen hundred, making a difference of five hundred pounds a-year less to the engineer, who feeling discouraged and indignant at such unjust and ungentlemanly conduct on the part of the Company, renounced the enterprise and was obliged to abandon the engine to that Company in lieu of a small sum they had advanced to him for to assist in its completion . . . ” [4]

“The construction and trial of the engine is well known to many persons now residing in Newport and in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, and at Lydney in Gloucestershire . . The Company alluded to was known by the name of the Parkend Coal Company; and the Engineer was, Your most obedient humble Servant, William Stewart.” [4]

“It would have been interesting to hear the Company’s version of the affair; still more so, to know what the engine was like. The line on which it was tried must have been the Severn and Wye Tramroad, from which a short branch led off to the Parkend Colliery, almost in the centre of the Forest of Dean. Nothing more is known about it.” [3]

“Two further letters have been discovered in the archives of the Great Western Railway,’ which suggest either that he retrieved the engine from the Colliery Company, or that he was proceeding with the construction of a new one in 1816.” [3]

This all happened well before Keeling’s time at the helm of engineering developments on the Severn and Wye Tramroad. It seems that immediate financial concerns prevented the tramroad being at the forefront of developments in the early 19th Century.


1., accessed on 1st February 2019.

2., accessed on 4th February 2019

3. Chapman Frederick Dendy Marshall; A History of Railway Locomotives down to the End of the Year 1831; Salzwasser-Verlag GmbH, 2010, p99-102, sourced from, accessed on 7th February 2019. … The book was originally written in 1953 and the available source is a copy and relatively badly reproduced. However, “the very nature of his subject, though crying out for new research, is probably more accurate for having been written then, nearer the time he is recording, than now, some 60 years later, if that is not an oxymoron. He covers, character by character, everyone he could find reference to, from the immortal legends like the Stephensons and Richard Trevithick, to the not so well known William Hedley and John Blenkinsop, to the downright obscure, such as Robert Wilson, John M’Curdy and the magnificently named Goldsworthy Gurney. The technical descriptions are very thorough, as are the profuse illustrations. Alas the latter suffer in quality due to the manner of their reproduction in this reprint. To criticise Dendy Marshall at all is difficult, but if one had to then it would be his failure to realise that many of the men covered in this book were simply standing on the shoulders of giants, copying there designs and not contributing to the evolution of the steam locomotive at all. Of course, one might argue that Dendy Marshall set out to record every mention of a locomotive up to the end of 1831 and the story of the people connected to them. If that is the case then one can only heap praise upon the author, for this he has certainly achieved.” [5]

4. Practical Mechanic and Engineer’s Magazine (Glasgow), Volume IV, October 1844, p24.

5. P.J. Nock; Amazon Book Review;, accessed on 8th February 2019.

6., accessed on 8th February 2019. … The other two tramroads were:

A “second, … built by the Bullo Pill Railway Company and was designed to run from Churchway Engine via Broadmoor, Coal Pitt Green, Cinderford Tump, Ruspidge Meend, Sewdley Coppice, Sleepers Hill and Bradley to Bullo Pill. The line included a pioneering 900 yard tunnel under Haie Hill which was reported completed in Hereford Journal of 20th September 1809; “the tunnel is completed to the Forest of Dean, which is connected with the River Severn, and a channel thus established, by which the valuable productions of the Forest may be brought to market with a feasibility hitherto unknown”. Renamed the Forest of Dean railway in 1826, it was replaced by a broad gauge railway in 1854.”

A “third, … built by the Monmouth Railway Company to link Coleford and the Forest with Monmouth, and opened in 1812. The Coleford, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway Company purchased most of the line in 1853 but did not convert the tramroad into a railway. This was latterly done by the Coleford Railway Company in 1883. The line was relatively short lived and closed in 1916.”




Cannop Colliery

My wife and I were in the Forest of Dean on 30th August 2018 and visited a small garden centre that we have been to many times before – the Pigmy Pymetum. Later in the day I was reading an older copy of “The New Regard” – Number 23 from 2009. [1] The first article in that edition of the magazine was about Cannop Colliery and was written by Ian Pope. The colliery was just north of the location of the garden centre. It is the present location of a cycle-hire firm which services the cycleways of the Forest of Dean and a Council Depot. Cannop is one of the collieries represented in my collection of N-gauge wagons from the Forest of Dean.This view is one of the aerial views of the Colliery included in the magazine article [1] It shows the backs of the Cannop Villas in the lower left-hand corner. The railway sidings into the colliery are also clearly visible. They ran alongside the old Wimberry Branch of the Severn and Wye Railway. This was the original terminus of the railway when built as broad-gauge in 1868. It served the collieries and quarries in the Wimberry Slade. An interchange wharf existed off the top left of the picture where the old Wimberry Tramway was truncated and terminated. The later Severn and Wye ‘mainline’ can be seen in the bottom right of the image. It did not arrive until 1872, having been built as part of the Mineral Loop. The colliery slag heap can be seen on the left of the picture. [1]

The Cannop Coal Co. Ltd was formed in June 1906, taking over the Union & Cannop and Prince Albert deep gales from Henry Crawshay & Co. Ltd. The aim was to work the Coleford High Delf Seam in the Pennant Group (middle Upper Coal Measures) beneath the workings of the Speech House Hill Colliery. Two shafts were sunk, the 4 ft 9 in thick High Delf being reached at a depth of 612 ft in no.1 pit by November 1909, although the seam was already being worked from a drift mine a short distance up Wimberry Slade. [2]

Sidings and a connection with the Wimberry Branch of the Severn and Wye Railway were installed. Winding of coal from the deep pit began in 1912, output reaching 1000 tons/day by March 1915. Production peaked in 1937 (402,784 tons), making it the largest colliery in Dean, and the workforce was about 1040 around this time. The colliery was an extremely wet one and was flooded on several occasions. Electric pumps were used and 1140 million gallons were pumped in 1928. The high cost of pumping was a major factor leading to closure in September 1960. [2]

As already noted, the colliery buildings are now offices for a Council depot, and a cycle hire centre also uses the site. The overgrown tip and the brick-lined entrance (now gated) to the drift mine survived in April 2002. [2]

This view was taken by E. Runicles from the colliery slag-heap looking north, and is part of a collection held by Ian Pope. It shows the general setting and layout of the colliery which was heavily camouflaged by the trees of the forest. Pope points out that Cannot was known as ‘the colliery in the woods’ as trees were to be found right up to the colliery buildings and, indeed, in and amongst them. This was a stipulation of the Crown who prior to the opening of the colliery had recently constricted a new road between Lydney and Mierystock, which was intended to allow access for tourists to the centre of the forest. The last thing they wanted was an unsightly colliery immediately alongside the road. The large corrugated iron building in the centre of the picture contains the screens where coal was sorted and graded before being loaded into railway wagons. Four sidings passed through the screens which allowed four grades of coal to be loaded into wagons. To the right of the screens are two wooden head frames, one over each colliery shaft. The bridges coining out over the Wimberry Branch allowed waste material from the shafts or screens to be taken up the tip. The brick chimney stands behind a row of 10 ‘Lancashire Boilers’ which provided the colliery with steam power for the widening engines and for electricity generation. [1]In this image we can see the ‘land sales’ wharf, where local merchants or businesses could bring a cart or lorry and collect coal directly from the colliery. The coal would have passed through the screens and been loaded onto a railway wagon which then was emptied at the wharf. This was also a point where materials brought into the colliery by rail could be unloaded. This would have included things like steelwork, pipes, etc. Pit props went into an area off the empty wagon sidings and would have been unloaded there. The building in the centre is the main winding-engine house. [1]

The remaining images in this post are maps. The first shows the position of Cannot Colliery in relation to the railways of the Forest of Dawn. This is followed by three maps showing the site of the colliery in 1903, 1921 and 1968. These three images are taken from the website “” The last of the maps shows the site after closure.


1. Ian Pope; Cannop – A Troubled Colliery; in The New Regard No. 23, 2009, p4-17.

2., accessed on 31st August 2018.

Bullo Pill and the Forest of Dean Tramway

Bullo Pill, on the Severn near Newnham, originally a small tidal creek off the main river used for boat building, was developed by building a dock basin with lock gates, and wharfs for loading goods for shipment.[1] Coal and stone from the Forest could be loaded at the dock and exported on the Severn trows up or down the river. In addition, there was a flow of barges carrying coal across the river to Framilode and then along the Stroudwater Canal to Brimscombe, Stroud and Chalford. The name ‘Bullo Pill’ is unusual. ‘Pill’ is a local word meaning a tidal inlet. The Oxford English Dictionary[2] gives the etymology as Old English (Anglo Saxon) – but some internet sources state it to be Welsh or Irish.[3]

A private railway (a tramway/tramroad) was built from Bullo Pill via Soudley and Ruspidge to Churchway near Cinderford Bridge in 1807, a distance of nearly four and a half miles; when it was nearly complete, the Bullo Pill Railway Company applied for an Act of Parliament in order to extend the railway a further two miles to the summit of the hill above Churchway Engine, and to make branches. The Royal Assent to the Act was made on 10 June 1809.

The railway was of approximately 4 ft gauge, laid as a plateway, with rails of L-shaped section, spiked to stone blocks. Rails were supplied by the Ayleford Foundry, near Soudley; a branch line was constructed from the foundry. All traffic was horse-drawn, using privately owned four-wheeled wagons of an approved type, with an oak underframe supporting a hopper-shaped body, and with un-flanged cast-iron wheels. The line was single, with frequent passing loops.

By 5th May 1826, the Forest of Dean Railway Company had taken over the Bullo Pill Tramway. An Act of Parliament was passed to establish the Forest of Dean Railway Company. In some places the tramway was built over. In others, the railway took a different route.  In 1852, the Forest of Dean Railway was acquired by the South Wales Railway.

Details of The Forest of Dean Railway Company and its railway can be found on a variety of internet sites.[4] There were a series of branch-lines as far north as St. Annals to the east and Crump Meadow to the west.

On the Bullo Pill dockside, at SO 6907 0981, there is a pile of stone blocks, some with a single drilled hole. These may well be original tramroad blocks.[5]

The dock at Bullo Pill became inadequate for the level of traffic by the 1830s, so a wharf was built at Box Meadow.[6] The tramway, which is now a track, ran south from the dock at Bullo Pill to the wharf and can be see alongside the Severn estuary to the right of the Google Earth satellite image above. The watermarked map above is an excerpt from the 1881 1:2500 OS County Series and clearly shows the location of the wharf in relation to the Pill. The map is sourced from the website.[7] The old tramway is clearly visible at Bullo Pill and at the wharf and was still in use within the site. It is also seen travelling north towards Bullo Pill Station which is north of the railway junction.

From Bullo Pill the tramway ran west and crossed what is now the main A48 road at quite an angle and at grade. It passed a building now in private ownership which was formerly a public house and before that a tramway building. The route is visible as a curved track on the above map and satellite image to the West of the main railway line between Gloucester and Chepstow.

Beyond the A48, the tramway route is crossed by the later Forest of Dean Railway embankment.[8] The railway is also now abandoned, but its path and that of the tramway are approximately coterminous as they approach Haie Hill Tunnel, sometimes known as Bullo Pill Tunnel. Some images of the railway line and the enlarged tunnel required for it are shown below. Other images can be found on Flickr.[9]Interestingly the tunnel was, when built in 1810, the longest in the world! It was 1,083 yards long and remains the oldest tunnel ever to used by passenger carrying trains.[10]

From Bullo Pill, the distance to the entrance of Haie Hill Tunnel was approximately a mile.

The present (early 21st Century) state of the enlarged tunnel bore can be seen on the above photos which show, in order, the approach from Bullo Pill, a closer shot of the tunnel portal and then the northern portal.[10a] The children of Bullo Pill used the tunnel to reach their school at Soudley, having to time their walks so as not to meet any trains.

To reach the tunnel, the tramway needed shallower grades than the later railway and its route can be picked out on the plan above.[11] It took a more circuitous route than the later railway needing a loop to the north and then to the south side of the railway to allow it to gain enough height. The shallower grades permitted the horses to pull a reasonable number of wagons.

The following image is of the railway, rather than the tramway, and comes from a short post on by a former loco fireman, Bob Barnett.[12] It shows the approach to the tunnel while it was still in use.

The engineer for the tunnel construction was John Hodgekinson and the Contractor was Robert Tipping.[13] The Eastern portal, closest to Bullo Pill, stood at the end of a stonewalled cutting which is overgrown and obscured by vegetation. The portal has been partly bricked up, an opening has been left at the top to allow bats to enter and roost[14] and a low-level access hatch has been provided to allow human access. Inside, the bore is tidy and mostly dry (see the image below). The tunnel was enlarged for broad gauge by Isambard Kingdom Brunel[15] in The tunnel climbs at a steep rising gradient of 1:56 in the westward direction. It could take a train of empty wagons five minutes to pass through. Although mostly straight, a slight curve to the north is encountered at the west end.[16]

The masonry lining features an arched roof with vertical side walls into which generous refuges are provided at regular intervals, some with exposed rock at their rear. Signalling pulleys and cable hangers remain in situ on the south wall. Near its centre, a rare milepost remains.[17] A drain runs down the tunnel’s centre line – accessed via numerous small catchpits – and many weep holes have been cut into the lining, resulting in some significant accumulations of calcite on both walls. At the west portal, which is also bricked-up, a stream runs in a channel beneath the bore.

The Western portal[18] is near the village of Soudley but separated from it by another short tunnel – Bradley Hill Tunnel. Close to the Western portal of Haie Hill Tunnel a tramway branch ran south to the site of a forge/foundry at Bradley House.[19] The railway track is now a footpath.

From the tunnel portal the railway headed north-west across the Soudley Brook through Bradley Hill Tunnel to Soudley Crossing.[20]  “The tramroad circuitously headed north along the modern tarmac lane past Furnace Crossing to join the B4227 by the bridge at SO  6649  1041, thence following the modern road north then west past Camp Mill, now the Dean Forest Heritage Centre, to re-join the railway at Soudley Crossing,  SO  6610 1050.”[21]The satellite image above shows the area at the western portal of Haie Hill Tunnel, Bradley Hill Tunnel and at the western edge of the satellite image, the formation of the old railway emerging to the west of Bradley Hill Tunnel. The tramway followed what is now the road to the north of the hill running past the Dean Heritage Centre which is at the top of the image.

From this point, the railway track-bed and the road run in parallel, westwards towards the White Horse Inn. Just to the south of the railway is a track, known locally as ‘The Dram’. The pub is not shown on the 1881 Ordinance Survey map below but is at the site of the Old Quarry. The Dram still has tramway track shown on it in the OS Map below.At the White Horse Inn/Old Quarry the track-bed of the tramway appears to divert south from the railway. Its presumed route is shown as a red line on the next OS Map excerpt below from 1881.At the point where the tramroad heads sharply north, there was a short branch which crossed the river to serve Flindall Ironworks which were already disused at the time of the 1881 Ordnance Survey.

It is then assumed that the tramway formation is hidden under the railway formation travelling north from Upper Soudley towards Shakemantle and Perseverance Mines.This next extract (above) from the OS Map of 1881 shows these two mines as well as the short Blue Rock Tunnel (at the very bottom of the excerpt). This tunnel is shown in the photograph below that map – a picture taken from the cab of a pannier tank locomotive.[22] Blue Rock Tunnel was built for the railway, the tramway skirted the rocky promontory, following the course of the river and re-joined the railway track-bed immediately north of the Tunnel.

A few metres further north the main railway line curved to the West and a branch-line provided access to Shakemantle Mine. That line was built over the route of the tramway which passed close to the limekilns shown at the centre of the map above.

One source suggests that the tramway formation turned west and crossed the railway line close to the interchange with Quidchurch Colliery tramroad incline at SO 6551 1128.[23] However, as the next excerpt from the 1881 Ordnance Survery shows, there was clearly a tramway running north from Shakemantle Quarry and through the village of Ruspidge. It is possible that the route suggested by Youles[24] is actually a branch serving the Quidchurch Mine. Although the visible line on the 1881 map appears to be higher on the contours of the valley side than might have been feasible for the tramway mainline.

Youles seems to refer to this line as a private tramway.[25] If Youles is right, then we need to acknowledge an alternative route for the tramway which probably followed the railway formation. He says, “the Quidchurch interchange site is now thickly wooded, but the course of the railway siding which it shared with Perseverance Ironstone Mine, can still be seen, as can the earthwork remains of the interchange wharf. A GWR boundary marker situated between the siding and the railway, confirms that the siding was a private one. From here the tramroad incline ran south to cross the Soudley to Ruspidge road before climbing the steep slopes of Staple Edge Wood en-route for Quidchurch.”[26] The incline to Quidchurch headed towards the bald area shown on the bottom left of the satellite image above.

Youles goes on to say that the earthworks associated with the former Eastern United Colliery have obliterated all traces of the tramways in this area. The Eastern United Colliery was built over the site of the Staple-edge Brick Works and itself closed in 1959. All that is left in the early 21st Century are the colliery office and the power house. Eastern United was a drift colliery, dug into the side of the hill, but it did have a shaft. It was a ventilation shaft, Findall later known as Walmers shaft, hill on the hill above the colliery. The buildings are currently in use as a factory making dyes and colourants for paint.

On the map above, a tramway can be seen running north through Ruspidge. It is shown on the satellite image to the right as a tarmacked road which meets the main road north of the site of the Eastern United Colliery.

That ‘private’ tramway continued north of the main road to a junction with a tramway which ran East-West (crossing the line of the railway and serving Lightmoor Colliery to the West. This is illustrated in the next smaller map which shows Lightmoor Colliery in the West.Another tramway is shown serving a quarry adjacent to Cinderford Brook which connects to the East-West tramway. North of the branch to the Lightmoor Colliery, the tramroad formation and the railway formation converge alongside Cinderford Brook. The spoil heap from Eastern United Colliery buried the route of the Forest of Dean Tramroad. It appears (Figure 4)[27] that the route ran west from the interchange wharf, then turned north to rejoin the railway formation at the Eastern United site. In this case, the tramway ran parallel to both the ones already mentioned. The site of Eastern United Colliery is shown in the photo below. The railway formation overlies the tramway formation from this point to Cullamore Bridge.Cullamore Bridge (A) carried the tramroad from Lightmoor Colliery over the Cinderford Brook and the Forest of Dean Tramroad to a junction with the private Ruspidge to Shakemantle Tramroad. The Lightmoor Colliery Tramroad formation can still be accessed on foot. We have already noted the tramroad serving the quarry (C). The tramway link into Lightmoor (B) ascends the hillside through a cutting, on the sides of which are the remains of bridge abutments; the bridge led to the quarry’s spoil heap on the other side of the tramroad. After a few more metres, a path trails off to the south, following the line of another tramroad to Staple Edge Quarry. The Lightmoor track continues west to the colliery site, now an open-cast operation, where stands a large derelict and roofless building.[28]

About 200 metres north of Cullamore, near the foot of the modern Railway Road, the private Ruspidge – Shakemantle tramroad trailed in. From the junction it ran almost due south, gradually diverging from the mainline, and climbing, to cross the Ruspidge Road at SO 6500 1169 where the Bible Christian Chapel (now a studio) stands. The first part of this section remains as a track and private drive, but from the chapel it continues, still climbing, as Tramway Road, to end at SO 6525 1133 high on the hillside overlooking the site of Shakemantle iron mine and adjacent to the extensive abandoned quarry workings.[29]

From the junction near Cullamore the mainline tramroad diverged from the railway, following the modern lower Railway Road, crossing the B4226 and reaching Valley Road via the passage between the Bridge Inn and the adjoining building. From here to its terminus at Churchway, few traces of the mainline tramroad remain, although much of the route can be followed using later roads and a few tracks, as far as the site of the Cinderford Ironworks.

The next map below shows the Ironworks. The 1881 Ordnance Survey shows much of the detail of the tramway which enters centre right at the bottom of the map and runs north past a series of cottages before serving the Ironworks.

On the 1881 Map, the Forest of Dean Branch (standard gauge) Line can be seen entering the map on the bottom left. Two lines are present, the most Westerly is the main line and the branch (to the East of the main line) serves the Ironworks and splits to provide separate access to the Works and its spoil heap. The main line of the Forest of Dean Branch leaves the map on the top right.

The Buckshaft Branch Tramway 1881 Ordnance Survey (Not to Scale).

Just north of Cinderford Iron Works, the Buckshaft and St. Annals branch tramroads diverged, and these also can be followed for much of the way, but as routes only, physical traces being virtually nonexistent. The 1881 Survey shows the Buckshaft line clearly on the maps immediately below.




















The satellite image from the early 21st Century shows the line of the Buckshaft branch among all the modern housing and industry.

The Annals Branch Tramway 1881 Ordnance Survey (Not to Scale).

The St. Annals branch crossed Cinderford Lower High Street at SO 6549 1457 and followed Albion Road to enter Haywood Plantation. At the road’s end, three paths are seen. The centre one follows the branch route. It slopes up quite steeply to SO 6564 1500, where it curves sharply south west through 160 degrees to reach the edge of the plantation at Causeway Road, which it follows to the mine site, the last few hundred metres being an overgrown track to the south of, and parallel to, the road.[30]

The St. Annals tramway appears as one of a myriad of different tramways north of Cinderford Ironworks on the 1881 Survey. It leaves the map of the Buckshaft Branch below at the top of the first panel of the maps below above ‘The Cottage’.

It travels just to the East of North in a straight line for some distance, past Bilson Gas Works and a Leather Works before deviating North-North-East close to Spero Colliery and being joined by another tramroad from the West. The St. Annals tramway continues North-North-East to run trough a small complex of sidings close to Seven Stars Inn which served Haywood Colliery. After this the tramway turned northwards for a short distance before swinging sharply round to a South-Easterly direction to head for St. Annals Ironstone Mine which was close to Latimore’s Lodge.

The Annals Branch Tramroad (A) sustained a short branch of its own which accessed Haywood Level (B) – see Figure 5 above.

Returning now to Cinderford and Forestvale Ironworks, three significant tramway routes still have to be explored.

We will leave these for a future blog.


[1], accessed 11th March 2018.

[2] Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: Pill [OE pyll, var of pull, pul pool, creek] A local name on both sides of the Bristol Channel, in Cornwall etc., for a tidal creek on the coast, or a pool in a creek etc.

[3], accessed 11th March 2018.

[4] For example:, accessed on 11th March 2018,, accessed 10th March 2018.

[5], accessed 23rd February 2018; R. J. Morris, The Forest of Dean Tramroad, Coleford, 1997.

[6] R. J. Morris, The Forest of Dean Tramroad, Coleford, 1997, p16.

[7], accessed 11th March 2018.

[8], accessed 11th March 2018.

[9], accessed 11th March 2018.

[10], accessed on 11th March 2018; Humphrey Household, Gloucestershire Railways in the Twenties. Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, Gloucester, 1984; Rex Christiansen, A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Volume 13: Thames and Severn, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1981; Colin G. Maggs, The Branch Lines of Gloucestershire, Amberley Publishing, Stroud, 2009.

[10a], accessed 9th March 2018.

[11], accessed 11th March 2018.

[12], accessed 10th March 2018.

[13], accessed 11th March 2018.

[14], accessed 11th March 2018.

[15], accessed 12th March 2018.

[16], accessed 11th March 2018.

[17], accessed 11th March 2018.

[18] SO  6649  1041

[19] Ayleford Forge (Morris op.cit., p.16); Bradley Foundry.

[20] Tony Youles, Tramroad Remains in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology Journal, 2000, p20.

[21] Ibid., p20.

[22], accessed 10th March 2018.

[23] Tony Youles, Tramroad Remains in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology Journal, 2000, p20.

[24] Ibid., p20.

[25] Ibid., p21.

[26] Ibid., p20.

[27] Tony Youles, Tramroad Remains in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology Journal, 2000, p25.

[28] Tony Youles, Tramroad Remains in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology Journal, 2000, p21.

[29] Youles, op. cit., p21, comments: Morris implies that the tramroad line descending via Tramway Road was the mainline, rather than the private branch recorded by the Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) department of Gloucestershire County Council. See the captions to plates 6 and 7 in his book, and the Ruspidge paragraph on page 48. This route seems unlikely, since the mainline would have to climb from near the north portal of Bluerock tunnel, just above the level of the Cinderford Brook, to high on the hillside above (as shown in Morris’s plate 6 upper left) only to take the long descent to regain the level of the brook just north of Cullamore. The route shown on the SMR map, which follows the valley floor, is taken from an 1856 Board of Guardians map which shows the then recently completed railway and vestigial sections of the mainline tramroad not directly overbuilt by the railway, including that part later overlaid by the railway’s Shakemantle siding. Also shown is the private tramroad from near Cullamore Bridge, running south via Tramway Road to its terminus on the hillside high above Shakemantle, the railway and the mainline of the Forest of Dean tramroad.

[30] Tony Youles, Tramroad Remains in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology Journal, 2000, p22-29.


Oakwood and Dike’s Tramways

To the West and South of Parkend there was an extensive network of privately owned narrow gauge tramways that were not part of the Severn and Wye owned system. These were known as the Dike’s and Oakwood Tramways.


In later years the Severn and Wye Joint Railway provided transhipment facilities at the Parkend wharf. The feeder tramway was the Oakwood tramway. Confusedly, the Oakwood branch of the Severn and Wye left the main line at Tufts junction south of Whitecroft, and followed the route of the Dike’s tramway as far as Princess Royal Colliery at Whitecroft/Bream.

Both Flour Mill and Princess Royal Collieries were served by this system, as were a whole series of quarries, ironworks and chemical factories. It is difficult to credit how extensive this system was when visiting the area today. The two tramways are marked in pink and blue on the 1880s OS Map above. The Oakwood Branch of the Severn and Wye Railway can just be picked out in the bottom right of the map excerpt.
The transhipment wharves at the North East end of the system, at Parkend, remained in use until the late 20th Century and were used to transfer lorry loads to railway wagons long after the Oakwood Tramway was abandoned.


Parkend had quite a concentration of tramways associated with local collieries and iron works as well as hosting the terminus of the Oakwood Tramway at Marsh Sidings. The extract from the 1880s OS Map shows them clearly.


Prior to the construction of the Severn and Wye railway, the Oakwood Tramway connected directly to the Severn and Wye Tramway just to the south of the location of Parkend Station.

Parkend dates back to the early 17th century. During the 19th century it was a busy industrial village with several coalmines, an ironworks, stoneworks, timber-yard and a tinplate works, but by the early 20th century most had succumbed to a loss of markets and the general industrial decline.

More about Parkend can be found at:

Marsh Sidings, Parkend

Marsh Sidings are clearly visible on the left in the sketch below, which can be found on the Deanweb Parkend page. Like many of the other transhipment wharves in the Forest, tramway wagons arrived on rails set at a higher level that the railway tracks making it easier to transfer a load either by hand or by tipping the tramway wagon.

img1Bl (1)


Route to the Flour Mill Colliery

From Marsh Sidings the tramway followed the Coleford road out of Parkend until it reached the end of Whitemead Park. At this point the Coleford road separated from the road to Bream.


This picture of the turnpike cottage was taken in 1888. Crossing the Coleford road, and to the right of the Bream road which was constructed by the Turnpike Trust in the early 1820s, is the narrow-gauge Oakwood tramway built by David Mushet in 1826. In the length that runs parallel with the Bream road, many of the track’s foundation stones are still visible today.

The tramway followed the route of the turnpike road to Bream, hugging its western side until the road diverted marginally to the south to pass through Knockley Quarries. Tramway continued generally on a South-south-westerly path in the valley below the quarries. South of the quarries the tramway turned more to the south-east generally following the turnpike road before turning sharply back to the southwest to approach the Flour Mill Colliery.

The Flour Mill Colliery

Today, one of the Flour Mill Colliery buildings is still in use as ‘The Flour Mill Ltd’. The company is engaged principally in the repair and overhaul of steam locomotives, although it undertakes other railway-related activities such as the valuation of historic locomotives and luxury train operations. Owned and managed by William Parker, who had previously kept working engineering alive at Swindon after British Rail Engineering Ltd closed, the business occupies a workshop converted from a historically-listed colliery electricity generating station.

The colliery was known as the Flour Mill, presumably because the way to it from the village of Bream passed the Oakwood water mill. There is no evidence of a flour mill ever being on the site, and no known association with flour or milling. However the colliery was at one time the largest employer in Bream, and most families originating from the village have one or more relative or ancestor who worked there. For more on the Colliery please see …


After about the turn of the century, the future of the Flour Mill Colliery became intricately tied to the future of the Princess Royal Colliery.

In 1855 Thomas Dyke took on the lease of the Princess Royal gale. It was stated that he had begun to drive a level into the upper coal measures of the Princess Royal gale seeking the Yorkley seam and he applied to the Crown for permission to build a tramroad from the level to the main line of the Severn & Wye at Tufts. That tramroad was extended to the Whitecroft to Bream road by his tenant, William Mullinger Higgins in 1856.

In 1876 the Severn & Wye extended their Oakwood branch along the course of Dyke’s tramway to Dyke’s Level, now also known as Whitecroft Level. In February 1887, Princess Royal, Flour Mill and Prince of Wales gales were in the hands of William Camm and Richard Watkins, both of Bream. The Princess Royal gale had been opened but was not being worked, Flour Mill was being worked to a limited extent whilst Prince of Wales was unopened. Watkins was hoping that the Crown would remove the barriers between the three gales and allow him to work them as one.

A rope incline tramroad operated between Flour Mill and Princess Royal collieries.

In 1890 new sidings on the Oakwood branch of the Severn and Wye were constructed alongside Park Gutter pits and the branch was extended. In 1897 further sidings were added at Park Gutter and again in 1902 when a weighing machine was installed.

In 1906 increasing traffic from Princess Royal made further extensions to the siding accommodation necessary. The loaded wagon road was extended to hold fifty vehicles, the screen roads were altered to provide an extra machine for weighing empties, and the wagon storage sidings were also lengthened to give a capacity of ninety-six. All of these alterations were completed in 1908.

Oakwood Tramway Beyond Flour Mill Colliery

For a time Flour Mill Colliery was the site of Oakwood Chemical Works as the plan above shows. The tramroad licence of 1855 extended the Oakwood tramway through to the China Engine (SMR 5629) and New China level iron mines, a distance to the west of the Flour Mill Colliery.

As the tramway left the site of the colliery it passed to the South East of the pond before turning west-northwest on the south side of Oakwood Corn Mill and travelling on to a series of branches in the Nixon area, serving China Engine pit (SMR 5629), Princess Louise pit (SMR 10812), Oakwood Foundry (SMR 9936) and a series of iron ore mines. The tramroad beyond the Foundry (SMR 10834) was removed by 1901, traffic continuing on the remaining section until 1907-8, the remaining track was removed before 1914.



The picture shows the valley in the 1950s and is taken from the SunGreen website. The white building is Oakwood Mill Inn and the Foundry was sited off the left side of the picture. The Inn closed in 1969.

5. Gloucester County Council Historic Environment Report Monument No. 5826.
6. Gloucester County Council Historic Environment Report Monument No. 15249.





The Flour Mill Colliery

Today, one of the Flour Mill Colliery buildings is still in use as ‘The Flour Mill Ltd’. The company is engaged principally in the repair and overhaul of steam locomotives, although it undertakes other railway-related activities such as the valuation of historic locomotives and luxury train operations. Owned and managed by William Parker, who had previously kept working engineering alive at Swindon after British Rail Engineering Ltd closed, the business occupies a workshop converted from a historically-listed colliery electricity generating station.


The colliery was known as the Flour Mill, presumably because the way to it from the village of Bream passed the Oakwood water mill. There is no evidence of a flour mill ever being directly on the site of the colliery, and no known association with flour or milling. However the colliery was at one time the largest employer in Bream, and most families originating from the village have one or more relative or ancestor who worked there.

The site, and subsequently the building, have been used for a multitude of activities. It was originally part of a royal hunting forest. Later no doubt oaks for the Royal Navy were grown, although the villagers kept sheep and pigs in the woods, legally or illegally. With the arrival of the industrial revolution the site was used first for distilling chemicals from wood and later in the 1860’s a coal mine, which in due course took over the chemical works’ buildings. After coal mining ceased in the 1960s, various oil businesses took over, and recycling and refining has taken place on the site ever since. However the colliery’s former power station was eventually sold to a plastics recycling firm, operated by Brian Yarworth and then by Brian Bennett. Having escaped a dubious fate as a BSE incinerator, it was bought by William Parker in 1994 for restoration and conversion to a steam railway workshop.

The building was in a near ruinous state, with trees growing out of the walls and much of the floor missing. Bob (Rob) Haddock of Lydney and John Harris of Alvington worked tirelessly and bravely for over two years to make it fit for its new use, rebuilding the tops of the walls and replacing the cast iron gutters and downspouts, re-rendering the inside walls, cleaning and treating the magnificent pitch pine roof boarding, and repointing the external stonework. Ken Habgood and Vic Clemm, two Swindon-trained coachbuilders, built a splendid pair of wooden doors 17’ high, using the floor as a bench, which were installed in a new doorway made from an enlarged window opening by Hodson & Co of Coleford.

The property was opened as a railway workshop on 1 July 1996 by Swindon Railway Workshop Ltd, which had previously operated the old GWR works in Swindon after its closure by British Rail Engineering Ltd. Considerable confusion resulted from SRWL operating so far from Swindon, and once it became apparent that there was no chance of returning it the company ceased trading and the premises are now operated by The Flour Mill Ltd. The Flour Mill Ltd website says that, “This of course is just as confusing, if not more so, but at least it is technically correct!”



Sixteen years after the construction of the Oakwood tramway by David Mushet, in August 1843 William Jones applied to the Crown for permission to mine at the site now occupied by the Flour Mill, but soon sold his interest to George Skipp, who opened a wood distillery or chemical works, thought to have made “pyroligneous acid”, lead acetate, wood-tar and wood-pitch. This was sold in 1854 to Isaiah Trotter of Coleford, a well known Forest businessman, who ran the business at least until 1887. After several more owners it eventually closed in 1900.

Meanwhile Ralph and Arthur Price leased two acres nearby from the Crown for 31 years at a rent of £5 p.a. and began to sink a shaft in 1866, which was presumably completed by 1870, if not before, as they then applied for a connection to the Oakwood tramway, which ran past the site. The Flour Mill Colliery Company Ltd was formed in December 1873, but was in liquidation by January 1875, probably due to water problems, although ‘good coal’ was sold in 1874 at the colliery for 17s (85p) per ton.

Evidently mining was carried on, because by November 1886 the colliery was owned by William Camm and Richard Watkins, who owned the nearby Princess Royal (also known as Park Gutter) colliery, which also had water problems. In 1892 a rope-hauled tramway was built to take Flour Mill coal for cleaning and sorting by new screens at Princess Royal, necessitating the construction of a broad bridge or ‘tunnel’ over the Oakwood Tramway.

Another shaft, 140 yards deep and 14’ in diameter, was sunk in 1904, but proved to be very wet. The new shaft necessitated another cut and cover bridge/tunnel to be built over the Oakwood tramway, to the north of the first tunnel, to enable trams of coal to be pulled to Princess Royal.

Flour Mill colliery was taken over by the Princess Royal Colliery Company in 1906.

As a result of the water flowing into the mine, massive pumping was required, and in 1908 construction of a new building at the Flour Mill commenced, 100’ long, 40’ wide and 25’ high to the eaves. This housed two sets of Bellis & Morcom triple-expansion “high speed electrical engines”, one reportedly of 750kw running at 250 rpm and one of 350kw running at 333 rpm, powered by four Lancashire boilers in another building adjoining, now gone. It is probable that the building was doubled in length during construction, as some window details differ in the second four bays from the first four. Completed in 1909, this is the building that now houses the locomotive repair operations of The Flour Mill Ltd. The building has bolted iron roof trusses with diagonal bracing.

The use of electrical power at this date was still something of a novelty. Trafalgar Colliery, also in the Forest of Dean, was the first colliery in the world to use electrical power underground for motive power, in 1882, while the City of Gloucester only received its first general supply, on a very limited scale in 1900.

The two collieries, Flour Mill and Princess Royal, were connected underground in 1916 to improve ventilation and safety, and to permit larger-scale production. However the stables for the pit ponies remained at the Flour Mill – the cages were so small that the ponies had to sit on their haunches going down or up the shaft! The Flour Mill colliery had a long and interesting life: there was a strike in 1909, when the pit ponies were sold, and then the bitter national strike of 1912. Several men were killed in the pit, one during the sinking of the first shaft. The main shaft was used as an emergency second way out, but after the war the pit was connected to the National Grid and the power station no longer needed.

The whole area around the Colliery holds a wealth of interesting material. North of the colliery buildings, the colliery spoil heap is relatively small. It sits alongside the old tramroad route (SMR 15249), with some fine stonework in the form of sidings and 2 tunnels in basically sound condition. This tramroad continues north running alongside a stream which then forms a pond. This area is a Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust botanical site. The tramroad doubles as a path and continues north. The mine shaft has been capped, while a depression near the buildings suggests a second filled shaft.

A rope-worked tramway was laid in 1891 from Flourmill Colliery to Princess Royal Colliery (Park Gutter) (SMR 5844), enabling coal to be brought to the new screens there and link with the Severn and Wye Railway.

The colliery was connected underground to the Princess Royal Colliery (aka Park Gutter)and also through that colliery to Norchard Colliery nr Lydney and New Norchard Colliery at Pillowell.Flour Mill had 3 shafts and in later years was only used for ventilation and maintenance of Princess Royal Colliery. Most of this whole complex of collieries was closed in 1961/62 although some coal from the New Norchard Colliery was still processed at the Princess Royal site up until 1965. The 2 ‘small’ shafts at Flour Mill were filled around that time (1965/66) but the impressive main shaft was capped and left forgotten until 2007. It was finally filled and recapped by the close of 2008.



2. Gloucester County Council Historic Environment Report Monument No. 5826.




Parkend, Forest of Dean

Parkend had quite a concentration of tramways associated with local collieries and iron works as well as hosting the terminus of the Oakwood Tramway at Marsh Sidings. The extract from the 1880s OS Map shows them clearly.


Prior to the construction of the Severn and Wye railway, the Oakwood Tramway connected directly to the Severn and Wye Tramway just to the south of the location of Parkend Station. Parkend dates back to the early 17th century. During the 19th century it was a busy industrial village with several coalmines, an ironworks, stoneworks, timber-yard and a tinplate works, but by the early 20th century most had succumbed to a loss of markets and the general industrial decline. Wikipedia records the history of Parkend as follows:

In 1278 the first record of a hunting enclosure called ‘Wistemede’ – later known as Whitemead Park has been found. The village’s location, at one end of this park, is how Parkend derived its name. In 1612 James I built a charcoal-fired blast furnace and forge at ‘Parke End’, bringing with it the first real settlement, however, ‘The King’s Ironworks’ proved horrendously inefficient and it closed in 1674. It would seem that occupation of the village then ceased until new dwellings appeared from 1747 onwards.

Part of the Fountain Inn dates back to 1767 and is the oldest surviving building in Parkend. The first record of a coal mine in Parkend dates back to 1718, although the remains of several bell pits, possibly dating back to the 1600s, are visible in the woods south-west of St Paul’s church.

With the advent of coke-fired furnaces, Parkend, and its many coal mines, was once again considered an ideal location for the production of iron. In 1799 a new ironworks was constructed near the site of the current post office. Initially it suffered from technical problems, but by the early/mid-1800s it had triggered a major industrialisation of the village.

The need for improved transport links was instrumental in the construction of a horse-drawn tramroad by the Severn & Wye Railway Co in 1810, connecting the village with the docks at Lydney. Demand for coal at the ironworks also lead to the appearance of several large coal mines in the village during the early 1800s, the most notable being ‘Castlemain’.

In 1818/9 another ironworks was also built at Darkhill, just to the west of Parkend, and in 1845 Robert Forester Mushet took over management of the site. One of his greatest achievements was to perfect the Bessemer Process by discovering the solution to early quality problems which beset the process. In a second key advance in metallurgy Mushet invented ‘R Mushet’s Special Steel'(R.M.S.) in 1868. It was both the first true tool steel and the first air-hardening steel. It revolutionised the design of machine tools and the progress of industrial metalworking, and was the forerunner of High speed steel. The remains of Darkhill are now preserved as an Industrial Archaeological Site of International Importance and are open to the public.

In 1825, the lower pond at Cannop and a 1½ mile leat were constructed to provide a constant supply of water to a waterwheel at Parkend Ironworks. Despite the enormous effort expended in creating this supply, it proved inadequate and an engine house and steam engine were added in 1828. A second pond at Cannop was also constructed a year later.
The school and St Paul’s church were built in 1822 and Henry Poole, who had designed both, became Parkend’s first vicar. He moved into the new vicarage in 1829, but the school developed structural problems and was rebuilt, on the same site, in 1845.

A stone works opened in 1850 and a tinplate works was constructed in 1853. It stood to the left of the ironworks, and further along was built a row of terraced houses, known as ‘The Square’, which were used to accommodate the workers there.

In 1864 the Severn and Wye Railway Company began operating steam locomotives on the existing tramway. This proved to be unsatisfactory and 1868 the company also added a broad-gauge steam railway line, but both were removed and replaced with standard gauge tracks by 1874. At around the same time, a loading wharf, known as Marsh Sidings, was constructed and Parkend railway station opened in 1875, allowing the company to also operate passenger trains alongside its freight operations.

Parkend Ironworks

In 1871 a third furnace was added at Parkend Ironworks, but the optimism behind this investment was to be short-lived. During the mid-1870s, industry in the Forest, and across the country as a whole, quickly began to slide into a deep recession. Parkend Tinplate Works, and the ironworks that had dominated the village for 90 years, succumbed to a loss of markets and both closed in 1877. Just a few years before, these two businesses alone had been employing 500 people between them, but even this was overshadowed by the closure of the Parkend coal pits in 1880, which went into voluntary liquidation with the loss of 700 jobs.

By the mid-1880s, the industrial decline that had gripped the Forest was beginning to ease. The mines, which had closed in 1880, reopened in 1885 and by the 1890s they were prospering once again. The ironworks did not re-open and were demolished by 1909, although the imposing engine-house survived to become the country’s first Forester Training School in 1910.

photos from St Marys Sept 05 012

The 1920s proved to be another difficult period for the residents of Parkend. The high demand for coal, that had been created by the First World War, was followed by a slump and industrial unrest. Matters were made worse as the local mines were now finding it difficult to access coal easily, and some had been worked out completely. There were major strikes in 1921 and 1926, and all the village mines, except New Fancy, finally closed for the last time in 1929. There was a considerable knock-on effect for other industries too and the railway closed to passengers in the same year. Parkend stone works closed in 1932, marking the end of heavy industry in the village.




The Branch Tramways and Sidings of the Severn and Wye Tramroad.

The featured image shows stone being transported down the Bixslade Tramway, one of the feeder tramways to the Severn and Wye Tramroad.

There were 12 branch tramroads off the Severn and Wye Tramroad. Many of these remained as feeder routes to the Severn and Wye Joint Railway in the 19th Century.
The 12 include the Mirystock-Lydbrook-Bishopswood tramroad and the privately owned Oakwood and Dyke’s tramroad branches. In addition scores of sidings and short branches served particular mines, quarries and works. Traces of most of the branches remain, rarely being disturbed by the later railways.

With the exception of the Churchway branch (and possibly Moseley Green), tram locomotives did not serve the branch lines, being too steep and torturous. Various proposals for converting the branches to railways met with little success and they were gradually superseded by adjacent railway routes or abandoned. Three branches however, Bixslade, Howlers Slade and Wimberry Slade, remained in use into the 20th century.

Prior to the construction of the harbour, the tramroad ran down to Lydney Pill by a temporary railroad. Once the outer harbour was completed in 1821, the tramroad was extended along the north side of the canal and a branch which ran across to a new wharf on the west side of the harbour was added in 1823.

Details of some of these branch lines and sidings are included here:

SO632021 – A short branch to the Lower Forge, connecting to a private tramroad was made in 1818. A plan of 1852 shows that siding from the Severn and Wye tramroad connecting to a private tramroad at Lower Forge.

SO630037 & SO625048 – In 1814, connections were made to Upper and Middle Forges.

Kidnall’s Mill (or Moseley Green) Branch SO619061 – SO623062 is covered in a separate blog entitled ‘Moseley Green Tramways’ (

Birches Branch – SO629082-SO632087-SO633093 is also partially covered in the above blog. It left the main line south of Parkend and passed through Oakenhill Inclosure to Birches Well, Independent, and other coal pits. In 1835 the branch terminated at Newman’s Shropshire coal pit, and a map of 1842 shows it joining the Kidnalls Mill branch. In 1844 the Severn and Wye Co. agreed that the Park End Coal Co. could use the tram plates from the engine to the Kidnall’s Mill branch and by c.1849 the branch was disused. Abandonment was approved in 1874 and the remainder of the track removed by 1877.

The Birches branch can be traced where it crosses the Parkend-Yorkley road as a broad path and can also be picked up on Moseley Green behind the Rising Sun Inn, and where it crossed the Parkend-Blakeney road.

The map in my blog ( shows the approximate position of these locations.

Milkwall or Darkhill branch – SO617077 – SO607081 – SO599083 – SO588088 – SO585092 – SO583083.
The branch brought iron ore from the Milkwall area to Parkend, served collieries and wandered through large quarries. It was under construction in 1812 and followed a hard torturous hillside route. In 1814, a request was made that the branch to Darkhill be extended to meet a branch of the Monmouth Tramroad, an interchange wharf was established near Winnall’s Deep Level. This connection was soon allowed to fall derelict. Some of the worst curves on the branch were being smoothed out in 1860. The tramroad was in operation until the railway was built, as a short curved tunnel ran under the railway into Point Quarry and a temporary wooden bridge was made at Milkwall.

When the Coleford Railway replaced the tramroad branch, a section from Milkwall to Sling was left in place with a transhipment wharf at Milkwall, conversion of this section began in 1875.

In 1995 the branch was still visible as a level track serving several properties. At the time, pipeline works exposed the old cinder trackbed and what appeared to be two iron fishplates were observed in the excavated spoil (these were photographed but not retained). The course of the tramway is visible as an earthwork on aerial photographs. It leads across the northern part of the Darkhill ironworks site from a junction with the main tramway to the east. Its western end appears to lead towards the Titanic Steel and Iron works, while possible branches to the north lead towards an area of coal mining and quarrying.

Records also note that the tramway is visible on aerial photographs at SO 5839 0837. The line leads from Milkwall to the Ham, British and Sling ironstone mines. The route of this line branches in several places, the longest extent being 1770m. It appears on photographs as a trackway or road, without any sign of remaining rails.

Part of the route of the Milkwall branch tramway is visible on aerial photographs at SO 5991 0817. This line connects the Severn and Wye Tramroad with Point Quarry, and originally passed under the main line via a short tunnel. It appears on photographs as a trackway or road, without any sign of remaining rails. The tramway route can be found on the 1881 Ordnance Survey … ( and the 1905 Ordnance Survey …(

Ivy Moorhead branch SO617078 – SO619081 – SO621081.
The Ivy Moorhead branch was built without authority, as the Severn and Wye Co later sought a licence in 1813 to legalize the branch. It relinquished that licence in 1828. The line had been taken up and re-aligned by the Park End Coal Co. in 1821 to carrying coal to the ironworks. However, the branch became part of the Severn and Wye tramroad again in 1829. In 1835 it had torturous sidings to Parkend Main, Royal, Catch Can, Standfast and Staple pits. The furnaces of the Parkend Ironworks were served directly by a branch that ran over the main tramroad via a “covered way”. In 1877 the line still served the Royal pit (then Castlehill Colliery), but it had been removed by 1901.

Brookhall Ditches branch SO614082 – SO619088.
Estimates were sought for completing the 1/2 mile branch in 1811. In 1824 a request was made to replace the rails as the abandoned Brookhall Ditches works were re-opened by the Park End Coal Co. A licence was obtained in 1837 for an extension to Foxes Bridge, however the Kidnall’s Mill branch, opened in 1841, offered a more direct outlet, avoiding the busy Parkend area. A licence of 1843 authorised an extension to the Kidnall’s Mill branch to Foxes Bridge, however it is unlikely that it was completed, as the Foxes Bridge Pit in question never opened. In 1868 the Park End Coal Co. had erected a platform across the Brookhall Ditches branch and abandonment was authorised in 1874, the plates being removed by 1878.

Bixslade Branch – SO608099 – SO597105.

The above image shows this branch and the next two below, it is taken from the English Heritage, Forest of Dean Mapping Project, Gloucestershire: A report for the National
Mapping Programme.[3]

The Bixslade branch was completed in 1812 and left the main line on an embankment against which a dam was made by the Forest of Dean Iron Co. in 1825 to create the Cannop Ponds. By 1841 the branch served 3 collieries in addition to the Bixhead quarries. Several licences were granted in the 1890s for extensions around the Bixhead quarries. The line was still in regular use in 1946 by a coal pit near Bixhead, although the last load of stone was brought down the line in 1944. By 1947 lorries carrying stone on the upper section had severely damaged the track, although sections were preserved round Bixhead Quarry and at the other end from the Bixslade stoneworks to the railway wharf. From a point near Bixslade Land Level, the lorries took a more convenient course and the track was in good order until it was lifted in 1952. Substantial track remained, largely buried, on the wharf in 1961.

The branch was owned and maintained by the Severn and Wye Co. to just short of the quarries. The lines within the quarries were provided by the traders although often the S&W provided the tramplates.

The Bixslade branch is marked on the 1834-5 and 1859 West Dean tithe maps. It is also visible as earthworks on aerial photographs. The route extends for 800m between SO 5925 1095 and SO 6000 1025, to the south-west of Bixhead Quarries and continues on to map sheet SO 61 SW. An extension to Spion Kop Quarry is situated at SO 5983 1048 and measures 226m long. Linear earthwork banks define a probable extension of 500m westwards, between SO 5922 1093 and SO 5963 1068, possibly to meet the Darkhill branch of the Monmouth Tramroad.

The line was extended for short distances from time to time asdownload (1) the quarries developed, the Severn and Wye generally supplying the plates and the owners doing the rest.

There is a very enjoyable short walk or noted by the Forest of Dean Local History Society, as shown on the map here.

Howler’s Slade branch – SO610114 – SO593113.
The Howler’s Slade branch ran parallel to but above the Speech House to Coleford road for most of its 1 mile course and was begun in 1811. In addition to various pits and quarries, the branch also served a chemical works at Cannop Bridge and a foundry. The branch fell derelict c.1920 but the track was not removed until 1941. From its crossing of the B4226 at SO610166, its course can be traced, crossing Cannop brook by a bridge with a cast iron railing, past the remains of the chemical works and then over the B4234 Cannop-Lydbrook road immediately north.

The tramroad is visible as earthworks on aerial photographs. It leaves the main line at Cannop at SO 6108 1154 where it can be traced approximately westwards for 1080 metres to the edge of SO 61 SW but does continue further west terminating at SO 5936 1136. Much of this route is over level ground but an embankment is visible at SO 6070 1162 and can be traced for approximately 160 metres where it then meets a cutting which is 60 metres long and ends at SO 6048 1154.

Wimberry Slade Branch – SO610121 – SO603121 – SO594121.
A Parliamentary plan indicates a terminus near Wimberry Colliery, but the line was later extended to serve other pits, and was completed at the same time as the main line. A broad-gauge railway branch was laid over the first half-mile as far as Wimberry Colliery in 1868, however the tramroad branch continued in use. Abandonment of the branch line was authorised in 1874, however the western section continued in use, terminating on a wharf at Hopewell sidings. A succession of alterations were made to the tramroad over the years – with new sidings being laid as late as 1928. Part of the line was in occasional use in 1939, however in 1940, 14 chains were taken up for repairing the Bixslade branch. In 1943 the remaining 38 chains were damaged by military traffic along the line which was removed entirely in 1946. Traces of the tramway can be followed from where the railway bridge crosses the B4234.SMDB-Image-089

The Wimberrry Slade branch is marked on the tithe map and the 1st-3rd County Series OS maps. The western section of the route can be traced on aerial photographs. The tramroad extends for 520m in an east/west direction along a dry valley and continues to the east onto SO61SW. The western end terminates at Wimberry quarry and passes to the south of a shaft at SO 5984 1216, which were probably amongst the industries it served.

Churchway Branch SO614146 – SO635153.
The tramroad at Churchway was authorised to extend to the “engine pit” in 1810, however no connection was made to the Forest of Dean Tramroad and in 1814, the apparently useless rails were taken up at Churchway. In 1821 connections between the 2 tramroads were being repeatedly laid by an unnamed trader and in 1823 a licence for a connection was eventually given. The site of Mirystock tramroad junction has been obliterated by colliery sidings, originally the Churchway branch curved from the main line, however in 1847 a new curve was put in making a triangular junction. In 1865 following the opening out of the Mirystock tunnel into a cutting a new line was laid improving the access to the Churchway branch. Abandonment of the tramroad branch was authorised in 1877 and the tracks taken up almost immediately.

The Severn and Wye Co built a branch from Mirystock to Churchway, where a junction was made with the Bullo Pill tramroad in 1812. A short loop line at Mirystock was constructed in 1847 to give better access to the Churchway branch from the south, a second spur to the Churchway branch was constructed in 1865.

SO614146 – A siding, to a public coal wharf together with a weighing machine and cottage was sited alongside the Mitchledean-Monmouth road at Mirystock Junction. When the railway replaced the tramroad, this facility was duplicated c.250 yards to the south.

SO614152 – Tramroad embankment over Greathough Brook.

Lydbrook Incline, SO596168 is heavily overgrown but can be traced. The steep descent to the Wye at Lydbrook was an inclined plane controlled by ropes, little traffic used the northern part of the line and the incline was abandoned by 1856.

Bishopswood Branch – SO597168 – SO60001680 – SO60281750.
The Bishopswood branch of the Severn and Wye tramroad was completed in 1814 and had sidings to wharves near the Ruardean boundary, the branch was linked by an inclined plane with the forge on Lodgegrove Brook. The branch, the northern section of which was removed after the closure of the Bishopswood Ironworks, ran as far as the Ross road in 1833. It carried little traffic and the track was taken up in 1874. The course of the line to the road was visible in 1990.

This was an extension from the original terminus at Lower Lydbrook, taking the line onwards to the Wye at Bishopswood. It was opened to serve the Bishopswood Ironworks. From the site of Lower Lydbrook station the trace can be followed as it curves towards Vention Lane, which it crosses below the Royal Spring Inn, and thence along a stone buttressed path across fields, eventually joining B4228 near the turning to Ruardean. Until c.1951 the route from Ventions Lane was used under toll for supplying Incline Cottages with coal drawn by horse-drawn carts. The sinuous course can be followed with ease until it joins the road where the 13th mile post (dated 1814) stood until 1952. Large stone blocks in the River Wye mark the site of the Bishopswood Wharf. The road to Nailbridge (1841) obliterated part of the Cinderhill route but the tunnel underneath road survives.


1. English Heritage’s Monument Protection Programme (MPP) Step 3 report.

2. Gloucestershire County Council Historic Record Archive which holds a great deal of source information. Monument No. 5701.

3. Fiona Small & Cathy Stoertz; The Forest of Dean Mapping Project, Gloucestershire: A report for the National Mapping Programme; English Heritage, National Monuments Record Centre, Great Western Village, Kemble Drive, Swindon, 2006.