Category Archives: Forest of Dean

Miscellaneous posts about the Forest of Dean

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.


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.

Trafalgar Colliery and Railway

OS Grid Reference: SO625144The featured image above is taken from the Way-Mark site covering the Forest of Dean . [3]

The History of the Colliery and its Tramway and Railway Connections

The Trafalgar gale was leased to Corneleus Brain in 1842, but work does not  to seem  to have  commenced until 1860. After 1867, coal from the adjacent Rose-in-hand gale was also worked. [1]

Since at least 1847 Corneleus and Francis Brain had been lessees of the Rose-in-Hand gale and in 1867 they obtained permission from the Crown  to effectively amalgamate the two games into one for the purpose of working the coal which would have been raised via the shafts at Trafalgar.  No record a shaft for the Rose-in-Hand exists. Coal, prior to 1867, was brought to the surface via the Royal Forester gale which ultimately became part of Speech House Hill Colliery. [2]

It seems as though the Brains also acquired the Strip-and-at-it Colliery which lay close to Trafalgar across a small ridge.  Strip-and-at-it had already been worked for some time ,The probably since 1832.  The gale was surrendered to the Crown in 1864 and was then acquired by the Brains. [2]

There were two shafts at Trafalgar, which were worked by the same winding engine. They extended through the Upper Coal Measures (Supra-Pennant Group) down to the Churchway High Delf Seam at a depth of 586 ft. The two shafts were less than 40 yards apart. Coal was lifted up one shaft and empties were taken down the other shaft. [1][2]

The Lightmoor Press website comments as follows :

“One shaft was the downcast, where fresh air went down into the workings, and the other had a kind of bonnet fitted over the tacklers which covered the top of the land pit so that very little air was lost.  The main upcast shaft was called Puzzle, as the pit had been driven up-hill to the surface.

The cage was guided down the shaft by wooden guides running inside metal shoes on the side of the cage.  Wooden guides were used on both pits.  Ten men and boys could ride in each cage.

A report in the Gloucester Journal  in February 1867 tells how in working the ‘large vein of coal’ at the colliery the declavity was so great that the ordinary method of hauling to the bottom of the shaft, presumably horse or man power, was impracticable.  Corneleus’ son, William Blanch Brain, the colliery engineer therefore erected a small winding engine on the surface close to the pit’s mouth in order to draw the loaded carts from the coal face to the bottom of the shaft.  The carts were connected to a long chain which ran to the far extremities of the workings.  Initially the great drawback was the delay in communication between the coal face and the pit bank when hauling was required. So W. B. Brain, who was also an electrician, procured a pair of electric bells and placed one in the winding engine house and the other at the top of the ‘dipple’ or haulage road.  Several tappers were then placed along the road allowing the men in any part of the works to signal for the starting or stopping of the haulage engine.  The bell at the top of the dipple kept the men at pit bottom informed as to what was happening.  The success of the system was such that communication between pit bottom and the main winding engineman was also electrified.  At pit bottom, a pair of tappers, one white and one red, were provided and on touching the white one a bell in the engine room sounded and the words ‘go on’ appeared on the dial plate attached.  On touching the red the word ‘stop’ was shown.

Electrical communication was also used on the surface, enabling W. B. Brain in his office to be kept in touch with the happenings at the pit.  Another snippet mentioned in the article was that a patent pump was in use at the colliery which instead of throwing successive stream of water threw a continuous one.” [2]

It is of interest that in the 1880s, when the Forest of Dean was a highly industrialised area, people were chosing to take a holiday in the forest and choosing too to visit working pits. John Bellows wrote a guide book in 1880 entitled, ‘A Week’s Holiday in the Forest of Dean’. It contains a commentary about the Trafalgar Colliery. The Lightmoor Press website quotes from it:

Before going down (underground) we may as well look at the large sandstone quarry on the premises where stones are cut for supporting the galleries below.  Let us pass through the tramway tunnel, 150 yards long, cut through the ridge of the hilltop, to a shaft on the other side.  This narrow ridge is the outcrop of the measures, and in the tunnel we can examine, rock, clod and duns, and a little thin coal with rock again below it. Having seen this we turn back again, enter the cage, and, closing our eyes to avoid the giddiness, are lowered 600 feet so smoothly, that we are hardly conscious of motion.  At the bottom we go into the underground office, and are supplied with a little brass lamp, and a bunch of cotton waste to wipe our hands upon, and then attended by ‘the bailey’ enter one of the main roadways. … Where necessary, the underground workings are lighted with gas, and one of the partners, Mr. William Brain, is now preparing to adopt the electric light (which is already in use on the surface at night) and also to utilise electricity as a motive power at many of the underground inclines, or dipples, in the colliery, where steam is not available; and thus save many horses.  There are more than forty horses living in this pit.  They never return to daylight until worn out or disabled. Some of them have been down here a dozen years, and are in excellent health.

Fire damp is wholly unknown in the Forest of Dean, and miners work with naked lights. Choke damp breaks in rarely, and seldom gives any trouble.  The pit is remarkably free from water, and being furnished with every known appliance, and most admirably kept, is probably one of the best in the Forest, or out of it.  Eleven hundred men and boys are employed here: 600 underground getting coal, and 500 as labourers &c., above ground, and in subsidiary occupations.  Good colliers earn, at present, 3s 8d per day; masons 3s 4d; and labourers, 2s 4d.  One can hardly imagine anything more severe in the way of labour than that of a miner lying on his side in a four foot passage, cutting away with his pick the hard rock encasing the seam. … The output from Trafalgar, at the moment we are writing, which is a dull season is seven hundred tons of coal per day.” [2][4]

Trafalgar Colliery. [10]Trafalgar Colliery. [11]

The Trafalgar colliery was unique in Dean in being lit by gas, and electric pumps were installed underground in 1882, the first recorded use of electric power in a mine. [1] Gas was forced down the shaft by means of a one horse horizontal engine erected in the gas house at the pit bank. The gas house appears as a building shown on the 1898 Severn & Wye plans containing a circular structure. [2][8] It appears on the 5th map extract below.

Francis William Thomas (Frank) Brain had been associated with the use of electric floodlights on the Severn Bridge in 1879 where they had been used to enable construction work to continue at night to make the best use of the tides. After use on the bridge, the apparatus, consisting of a couple of powerful lamps supplied by a Gramme machine, was re-erected at Trafalgar on the surface to light the colliery yard. The Lightmoor website continues:

Electricity was also used at Trafalgar when the first underground pumping plant was installed in December 1882.  The installation at Trafalgar was the first recorded use of electric power in mines. The equipment consisted of a Gramme machine on the surface driven by a steam engine and a Siemens dynamo used as a 1.5 horse power motor belted to a pump underground. The Gramme machine still exists today, preserved in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.  It attained such success that three additional plants were erected in May 1887 and these did the larger part of the pumping.  The last installation consisted of a double-throw nine inch plunger, by ten inch stoke, situated 2,200 yards from the generator and 1,650 yards from the bottom of the shaft.  The pipe main was seven inches in diameter and at its maximum speed of twenty-five strokes a minute the pump lifted 120 gallons to a height of 300 feet.  The current was conveyed to the motor by an 13/16 copper wire carried on earthenware cups.  The E.M.F. was 320 volts and the current required was 43 amperes.  The installation cost of the engine and the electrical plant was £644, whilst the weekly cost for maintenance, including 15% for depreciation and interest on capital was £7 17s. or .002d. per horse power per hour.  The efficiency attained throughout was only 35% but the engine which was an old one lost 6.49 horse power, or 22% alone.  If this was removed from the equation then the efficiency was 45%.” [2]

In the mid-1880s, the Trafalgar Colliery got into some financial difficulty. This was resolved in a way that kept the creditors at bay and left the Brain family in overall control. To do this a new company was formed – the Trafalgar Colliery Co. Ltd. This new company saw the amalgamation of the interests of the Brain family at Trafalgar and the Wye Colliery Co. who leased Speculation Colliery. Both mines came under the control of this new company. [2]

A narrow-gauge tramway (Brain’s Tramway) was built soon after the opening of the colliery to connect to the Great Western Railway’s Forest of Dean Branch at Bilson [1] The single line of 2ft 7.5in gauge utilised edge rails laid on wooden sleepers and ran east from the colliery, turning south-east at Laymoor, and terminated 1.5 miles away at interchange sidings at Bilson. It would appear that the authorisation for its construction was a Crown licence for ‘a road or tramway 15 feet broad’ dated May 1862. The date the line was opened for traffic is unknown as, although the first of three locomotives used on the tramway was built in 1869, it is possible that it may have been horse worked before this date. [2] Brain’s Tramway will, I hope, be the subject of a future post in this series. 6″ OS Map from 1901 showing both Mr Brain’s Tramway and the standard-gauge sidings of the Colliery and their connection to the Severn & Wye Railway close to Drybrook Road Station. [8]The extent of Mr Brain’s Tramway when first built to the Bilson Exchange Sidings. The point of conflict with the Severn and Wye near Laymoor (as mentioned below) can easily be picked out on the map extract. [8]Two pictures above taken along the line of Brain’s tramway – August 2017. [14]

Tramway locomotives hauled trains of 20-25 trams of coal on each trip along Brain’s Tramway to Bilson, until 1872 when the Severn & Wye built their branch to Bilson. This crossed the tramway on the level near Laymoor and resulted in the need for the two companies to negotiate an acceptable coexistence. This became more urgent once the Servern and Wye extended beyond Drybrook Road an when, in 1878, passenger trains began running over the crossing.

Although a connection had been made to the Severn and Wye Railway in 1872 [1] at a point between Serridge Junction and Drybrook Road station, a large element of Trafalgar’s output still travelled along the tramway to Bilson. [2]

In 1872, agreement had been reached between the Severn and Wye and Trafalgar Colliery for sidings to be put in to serve the colliery screens. Soon after the Mineral Loop of the Severn and Wye was completed, a loop off the main line was installed and sidings were laid. However, the Severn and Wye was dismayed to note that Trafalgar was still making heavy use of the tramway.

The Lightmoor Press website comments that:

An approach was made to the colliery company to provide arrangements for loading hand picked nut coal on the Severn & Wye sidings as well as on the Great Western at Bilson. This was rejected at first but by January 1887, after further negotiations, Trafalgar approved a proposal whereby the Severn & Wye altered the sidings and shed whilst the colliery company altered the screens, thus resolving this ‘vexed question’.

Finally, in December 1889, an agreement was entered into between the Severn & Wye and the Trafalgar Colliery Company who, it was said, ‘are desirous of obtaining railway communication to Bilson Junction in lieu of their existing trolley road.’
It was agreed that on or before 31 March 1890 the colliery company would construct new sidings and the railway company would lay in a new junction at Drybrook Road. Although the new junction was a quarter of a mile closer to Drybrook Road than the old sidings, the mileage charge was to remain the same.  The accommodation, on approximately the same level as Drybrook Road station, was to be constructed so that traffic to and from the Great Western would be placed on a different siding to that which was to pass over the Severn & Wye system. For taking traffic to Bilson Junction for transfer to the Great Western the colliery was to be charged 7d per loaded wagon, although empties were to pass free. The transfer traffic also had to be conveyed ‘at reasonable times and in fair quantities so as to fit in with the ordinary workings of the Railway Company trains’.

The new sidings were brought into use on 1st October 1890.” [2]

This agreement resulted in the abandonment of the length of the tramway from Laymoor to Bilson Junction. Two of the colliery’s narrow gauge locomotives were put up for sale, neither sold. [2]

The colliery appears to have owned three locomotives: ‘Trafalgar’ and ‘The Brothers’ were 0-4-2 side-tank locos. The third locomotive was ‘Free Miner’, an 0-4-0 side-tank. Trafalgar continued in use until 1906, working on the northern extension of the tramway, built in 1869, to the Golden Valley Iron Mine at Drybrook. [2]

Trafalgar was one of the larger pits, employing 800 men and boys in 1870, and producing 88,794 tons of coal in 1880 and about 500 tons/day in 1906. [1]

However, by 1913 difficulties were being encountered with water. The managements of both Foxes Bridge and Lightmoor Collieries were worried about the threatened abandonment of Trafalgar. They feared that if pumping ceased, their own collieries might be under threat from the build-up of water within Trafalgar’s workings.  The colliery was offered for sale to Crawshay’s, the owners of Lightmoor and with an interest in Foxes Bridge, but at a figure they would not entertain at that time. [2]

At the beginning of 1919 the main dip roadway at Trafalgar was suddenly, and unexpectedly, flooded.  A report in the Gloucester Journal  on 25 January stated that as a result of the flooding 450 men were temporarily unemployed.  Apparently the electric pump, which had drained the deep workings for over 30 years, failed. [1][2]

The flooding once again led to worries by the Foxes Bridge and Lightmoor managements  about the dangers to their concerns.  Trafalgar was now offered for sale at £16,000. The Foxes Bridge and Lightmoor managements were prepared to offer £10,000 and, in an attempt to meet the difference, the Crown agreed to provide £4,000 should the sale go through.  It was estimated at this time that there was still 2.5 million tons of coal to be worked in the pit and its associated gales which would give the Crown an annual return from tonnage rates of £1,000 for 20 years, certainly paying back the £4,000. Trafalgar was sold in November 1919. It continued to be worked until 1925, producing around 4,500 tons of coal each year. After closure, it may have been that pumping continued for a while but was interrupted by the coal strike in 1926, one report stating that upon the conclusion of the strike the workings were found to be flooded.  The effects of the colliery were sold off by auctions between 1925 and 1927. [1][2][3]

Various Locations around the site of the Colliery

  1. Trafalgar Arch – between Serridge Junction and Drybrook Road, the Severn and Wye Railway ran very close to the large spoil heap of Trafalgar Colliery. The line was protected by a stone retaining wall braced at one point by a brick-lined stone arch. This was built by the S&WR at a cost of about £200 in 1878 or thereabouts, after lengthy negotiations with the colliery company, who wanted to tip spoil on the other side of the line. It is uncertain whether or not the bridge was used for this purpose and tipping appears to have continued on the original site. In 1887 the retaining wall was damaged by a major slip. It was replaced by a stronger one in 1904, but this soon collapsed, and was eventually rebuilt. The bridge was renovated when the old railway track-bed became a cycleway. The arch was restored to as-new condition before October 2001. [9] It is highlighted on the 25″ OS Map extract below. [8] We walked to the colliery location in September 2019 and took the picture of the arch below.

    Trafalgar Arch – taken on 18th September 2019. (My photograph)

    The Strip-and-at-it end of the Tramway Tunnel [12]The Trafalgar end of the Tunnel. [12]The locations of the two shafts at Trafalgar Colliery. [14]

    A view from immediately to the North of the East end of the Spoil Heap at Trafalgar Colliery. [15]

  2. The Disused Tunnel – the tunnel between Trafalgar and Strip-and-at-it Collieries was  cut through a small ridge between the two collieries. It had a very narrow bore as is evident in the adjacent pictures. The north portal, in the first of the photographs, is very difficult to access. The south portal was in the wall of an old quarry facing the site of the Trafalgar Pit.
  3. The Colliery Screens – there are remains of retaining walls from the screens which can still be seen on site, a picture appears below.
  4. The tip – the Colliery spoil heap still exists on the north side of the cycleway which follows the Severn and Wye Railway formation. “The earthwork remains of the Trafalgar Colliery spoil heap are visible as an earthwork on aerial photographs. This massive spoil heap was situated to the south west of the colliery buildings and is centred on SO 6223 1424. It measures 485 metres in length and up to 120 metres in width. North east of the spoil heap at SO 6241 1445 is a quarry where stone was extracted for colliery buildings and shaft linings.” [13] It was later used as the route of the tramway through the tunnel to Strip-and-at-it Mine. The spoil heap material is derived from the Supra-Pennant Coal Measures.
  5. The Shafts – the two shafts are marked in the early 21st Century by two large standing stones, as shown in the adjacent image.
  6. Trafalgar House – the home of Sir Francis Brain is still in use as a private dwelling. Two modern pictures are shown below. These are followed by a small extract from the 25″ OS Map [8] and a picture of the house and tramway which is in an article by Ian Pope in Archive Journal No. 84. [16]

The remaining colliery buildings and screens. [14]

Trafalgar House. [14]

Trafalgar House,. The picture was taken in 2002. [1]

25″ OS Map – Trafalgar House. [8]

Trafalgar House early in the life of the Colliery. [16]


  1., accessed on 30th August 2019.
  2., accessed on 30th August 2019.
  3., accessed on 30th August 2019.
  4. John Bellows; A Week’s Holiday in the Forest of Dean; 1880, replica edition Holborn House, 2013.
  5. Cyril Hart; The Industrial History of Dean; David & Charles, Newton Abbott, 1971.
  6., collated in February 2018. This link gives some background information on all of the branch tramways of the Severn and Wye. I hope to be able to provide some more specific detail on a number of these tramways in the future.
  7. Gloucestershire County Council Historic Record Archive which holds a great deal of source information. Monument No. 5701;, accessed on 20th September 2019. … The Severn and Wye Co built a branch from Mirystock to Churchway, where a junction was made with the Bullo Pill tramroad in 1812 (This became the GWR Forest of Dean Branch). 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. … The Churchway Tramway closed in 1877 and was lifted almost immediately. I hope that this tramway will be the subject of a future post. The 25″ OS Maps of the time, very fortunately, were drawn over a significant time frame. This means that one part of the Mirystock Mine appears on the maps (below) but not the southern half which was the part which obliterated the junction of the Churchway Tramway with the Severn and Wye Main line. Four extracts from those maps appear below. The first three show the length of the Churchway tramway, the fourth shows the junction with the Severn & Wye Tramroad in slightly greater detail. These are sourced from reference 8 below.
  8., accessed on 20th September 2019.
  9., accessed on 22nd September 2019.
  10., accessed on 22nd September 2019.
  11., accesed on 22nd September 2019. … Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
  12., accessed on 22nd September 2019.
  13., accessed on 24th September 2019.
  14., accessed on 24th September 2019.
  15., accessed on 24th September 2019.
  16. Ian Pope; Mr Brain’s Tramway; in Archive No. 84, Black Dwarf, Lightmoor Press, Lydney, 2014; p3-31.

Different Railway Gauges in operation the Forest of Dean

In September 2019, my wife and I spent a week in the Forest of Dean. On one day, we visited the Dean Forest Railway at Norchard. [1] Around the site at Norchard are a number of permanent outdoor displays.

The featured image in this post shows three gauges that for a very short time were all in use on the trackbed of the Severn and Wye Railway through the Forest.

The original gauge was the track-gauge used by the Severn and Wye Tramroad. Rails were cast iron and each section was around 1 metre in length. They were held in place not by timber sleepers but by stone blocks placed on the line of the rails. The gauge (or spacing between the two rails) was 3ft 6ins. This gauge was used by many of the branch tramways in the forest.

When the Severn and Wye became a Railway rather than a Tramroad the standard gauge for the Great Western Railway was what we now call ‘broad-gauge’ – 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm). The Severn and Wye was constructed to the same standards as the Great Western, so avoiding the need for transhipment facilities at railheads such as Lydney Junction.

The Great Western Railway lost the ‘gauge war’  in the UK. Standard-gauge became the gauge first used by George Stephenson – 4 ft ​8 12 in (1,435 mm) gauge. After the decision was made that all future lines in the UK would be built to the standard-gauge, there was period of mixed-gauge operation (tracks were laid with three rails), the Great Western Railway did not complete the conversion of its network to standard gauge until 1892. [2]

All three of these gauges could be found on the formation of the Severn and Wye Railway until 1892.

However, these were not the only track gauges in use in the Forest.  An example of a different gauge in use us provided by Mr Brain’s Tramway which linked Trafalgar Colliery and Drybrook to Bilson Sidings and Transhipment Wharfs. It had a gauge of 2 ft ​7 12 in (800 mm). Brain chose this gauge for his tramway because it matched the gauge used underground within his collieries and so saved an additional transhipment cost at the pithead. [3]The display outlining the use of tramways which is on show in the Dean Forest Railway Museum at Norchard.The display outlining the change of gauge which is on show in the Dean Forest Railway Museum at Norchard.



1., accessed on 14th September 2019.

2., accessed on 15th September 2019.

3. Ian Pope; Mr Brain’s Tramway; Archive No. 84, Lightmoor Press, Lydney, p2-32.


Speech House (Hill) Colliery and Railway

Speech House Hill Colliery was located at OS Grid Reference: SO614119. The featured image above comes from the Sungreen website © Mark Ward. He comments: “This lantern slide shows the Speech House Hill Colliery in c1908; I believe coal winning had ceased some years earlier and it looks as though dismantlement of the engine house had begun.” [2] Elsewhere the colliery is referred to as “Speech House Colliery.”The signboard on the site of the old Speech House Colliery sits close to the climbing wall in the Beechenhurst Lodge area which is maintained by the Forestry Commission in the 21st century.

The Royal Forester Gale was first recorded as being worked in the 1830s and 40s by Richard James [1] of Whitecroft. In April 1832, he applied to the Crown for the gale but it was not granted to him.  Undeterred he erected buildings and commenced work ‘at considerable cost’ and his right to work the gale was confirmed by the Awards of 1841. [3]

It was later bought by the Brain brothers, who had the adjoining Rose-in-Hand gale. [1] It was in January 1847, that Cornelius and Francis Brain, as lessees of the adjoining Rose-in-Hand gale, were applying for an extension of time for beginning work and it was stated that they had bought Royal Forester in order to drive a level through it to drain Rose-in-Hand. [3]

In July 1856 an application was made to the Crown by the registered owners of Rose-in-Hand, Ephraim Brain and John Holingsworth, to make a tramroad connection to the Severn & Wye by means of an incline parallel to the Coleford-Cinderford road.  It would appear, however, that this was not costructed until 1869. [3] The Speech House Hill Colliery Co. had, by this time, taken over the Royal Forester gale. [1]

The Rose-in-Hand gale became part of Trafalgar Colliery and remained in the ownership of the Brain family. [3]

The Speech House Hill Colliery Co. was turn bought out by the Great Western (Forest of Dean) Coal Consumers Co. Ltd (a Crawshay company) in 1873. [1]

Although the tramroad connection was only completed in 1869, it was superseded by a railway connection  to  the Severn and Wye Railway in 1874. [3] The sidings in place in the early 20th century are shown below in the extracts from the OS Maps of the time. [4]This extract shows what was to become the access to the Cannop Colliery heading West from the Severn and Wye Railway. The Severn and Wye runs north-south in the extract. The Speech House Colliery head-shunt is on the right. [4]Rail access to Speech House Colliery involved leaving the Severn and Wye Railway in a Northerly direction and then setting back into the colliery. [4]The approach to Speech House Colliery sidings. [4]The track arrangement at the Colliery. [4]

The organising of the link to the colliery from the Severn and Wye was a matter for serous negotiation. “Crawshay offered the prospect of 100,000 tons of coal traffic per year, but laid heavy emphasis on the expenses to be incurred by the colliery in laying sidings, and intimated that they were considering sinking two pits near the Forest of Dean Central line at Foxes Bridge to avoid a steep underground pitching betwen the coal face and the existing pit bottom.  Concerned at the possible loss of such a lucrative traffic to the Great Western, the S & W agreed to loan rails, sleepers etc. if the necessary earthworks were done by the colliery company.  Following further discussions, it was decided to let the construction of the branch, and by July 1874 J. E. Billups was appointed contractor.  Part of the estimated cost of £3,300 was met by the Severn & Wye whose committee, on 5th April 1875, were conveyed to the colliery where they ‘had the satisfaction to find the Branch Line leading thereto as well as the Colliery Works in good order.  This colliery is now delivering excellent coal upon our line.'” [3]

Yields were not necessarily as good as Crawshay had intimated, 56,976 tons of coal were produced in 1880 from the Supra-Pennant Group (the top part of the Upper Coal Measures). The winding shaft (eventually 420 ft deep) reached the Churchway High Delf Seam (3 ft 3 in. thick) at 393 ft. [1]

The website, has a series of images of the colliery, one of which is an underground view. These can be viewed, with watermark on their site or purchased for a relatively significant sum for each image. [5]

The colliery had a rather chequered history, passing through a succession of owners, until it was finally bought by Henry Crawshay & Co. Ltd, owners of the adjacent Lightmoor Colliery, in 1903. [1]

The barrier to the latter colliery was opened up and most of the surface works at Speech House Hill, no longer being required, were closed by 1906. [1] Crawshay’s prediction of traffic finding its way to other lines bore fruit some years after it was first intimated.

The main shaft at Speech House was maintained as an emergency exit for Lightmoor until the gale was surrendered in 1937. [1]

The area has been landscaped and now forms the Forestry Commission’s Beechenhurst Picnic Site which is a very popular Forest location. [1]

The pictures below were taken on 20th September 2019 and show the line of the branch off the Severn and Wye Railway which is now a cycle path, the the route of the sidings leading to the colliery screens. Finally some pictures of the location of Speech House Road Station on the Severn and Wye Railway and it’s small goods yard.

Looking South along the old Severn and Wye Railway along what is now the visitor access road for parking at Cannop Ponds.

The view South from what would have been the end of the station platform at Speech House Road Station on the Severn and Wye Railway.

At the midpoint of the old station, the Forestry Commission have provided a station name board.

The view South from a point close to north end of the Station facilities.

The view from the modern highway into the old station site. In taking this picture, I am standing at the location of the old railway crossing.

Looking across the old railway crossing from the North.

Looking North from the same point.

The area of the station goods yard is seen here from the South. The access road to Cannop Ponds runs through the site.


  1., accessed on 30th August 2019.
  2., accessed on 14th September 2019.
  3., accessed on 14th September 2019.
  4., accessed on 15th September 2019.
  5., accessed on 15th September 2019.

Railways and Cycleways No. 1 – A Top Ten?

The headline article in the Guardian Travel supplement on Saturday 31st August 2019 was entitled “Railway Lines Recycled.”

It highlighted 10 former railway routes in different parts of the UK which offer the opportunity for off-road cycling:

1. The Camel Trail, Cornwall: the Guardian asserts that this is the nation’s best-known former railway cyclepath. It is the best part of 20 miles long. It starts at the south-western edge of Bodmin Moor and follows the River Camel through Wadebridge to the coast at Padstow, and us almost entirely off-road.

2. The Callander to Killin Cycle Route, The Trossachs: a challenging route through the Loch Lomond and Trossachs national park following the path of the Callander and Oban Railway through the narrow valley of the River Garbh Uisge, the East bank of the River Balvaig and over the summit before setting down towards Killin.

3. The Bristol and Bath Railway Path, Somerset: A delightful route between Bristol and Bath with splendid views of rural Somerset and Gloucestershire.

4. The Cinder Track, Yorkshire: This route needs a mountain bike. The track is, as it claims, a cinder path.

5. Marriott’s Way, Norfolk: This trail runs between Norwich and Aylsham. It is named for the innovative railway engineer, William Marriot.

William Marriott built and went on to run the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GN) for 40 years. Marriott has often been called the “Father of the M&GN”, with just cause, and the Railway gained the title of “Marriott’s Tramway” in some quarters. [2]

6. The Deeside Way, Aberdeenshire: does not always follow an abandoned railway. The old Royal Deeside Railway takes cyclists out of Aberdeen to Banchory. After a section away from old railway, the route returns to railway formation once again for the journey to Ballater in the Cairngorms national park.

7. The Ystwyth Trail, Ceredigion: once upon a time there was a desire among the ‘great and the good’ to promote a railway from Manchester to Milford Haven – the M&MR. It was to link the Cotton Mills of North West England with the Welsh Port. The ambitious scheme failed and only managed to link Milford Haven to Aberystwyth.

Despite its title, the railway planned to connect to other railways at Llanidloes and Pencader, near Carmarthen, and so to achieve the object in its name by connections with other lines, most of which were only planned.

The M&MR had continuous difficulty in raising capital and also in operating profitably, but thanks to a wealthy supporter it opened from Pencader to Lampeter in 1866. Realising that its originally intended route to Llanidloes would be unprofitable, it diverted the course at the north end to Aberystwyth, which it reached in 1867.[3]

The trail links Aberystwyth and Tregaron. It does not always follow the route of the old railway. [4] The cycle path leaves Aberystwyth following the banks of the Afon Ystwyth before dropping south along the Teifi to Tregaron.

8. The High Peak Trail, Derbyshire: follows the line of the old Cromford and High Peak Railway. [5] which linked the Cromford Canal with the Peak Forest Canal at Whalley Bridge

9. The Lanchester Valley Railway Path, Co. Durham: provides fantastic views over rural Co. Durham and the River Browney.

10. The Forest Way, West/East Sussex: is a designated linear country park as well as a cycleway. Leaving East Grinstead, the trail passes through Forest Row, Hartfield and Withyham to reach Groombridge.

The Guardian’s method of selection of these 10 trails is not outlined. There is no doubt that these are beautiful trails with much to be said in their favour. But, are they the best 10 old railway cyclepaths? Or are others better?

Countryfile provided a similar list in 2017. [6] A number of the same routes feature in the Countryfile list. The order is different and there are alternative suggestions for routes to explore. Countryfile’s list includes the following trails in the order shown (using the names from the more recent Guardian article where appropriate):

1. The Camel Trail

2. The Cinder Track

3. The Ystwyth Trail

4. Marriott’s Way

5. The Hornsea Rail Trail, East Riding of Yorkshire: starts in Hull and us mostly flat and is traffic free. [9]

6. The Downs Link, Surrey/ West Sussex: is over 36 miles long, and runs between St. Martha’s Hill, near Guildford, to the coast at Shoreham-by-Sea. The route largely follows the course of the Cranleigh and Steyning Lines, which, like many others on this list, were closed due to the infamous Beeching cuts of the 1960s. A small part of the route includes a main road. [11]

7. The Deeside Way, Aberdeenshire

8. The Formantine & Buchan Way, Aberdeenshire: Like the Deeside Way, The Formartine & Buchan Way starts from Aberdeen. [10] It connects Dyce, in the north of the city, to the coastal fishing ports of Fraserburgh and Peterhead, the latter via a branch line from the village of Maud. The trail was opened in the early 1990s after the railway closed in 1979, and takes in a patchwork of farmland and countryside. It’s very easy to follow, but isn’t completely tarmacked so some sections tend to get very muddy. Horse riders may need a permit for some parts of the trail.

9. The Devon Coast to Coast: At just over half the length of the Tarka Trail, the Devon Coast to Coast route sounds easy. It is still nigh on 100 miles long, and squiggles across Devon from Ilfracombe in the north, to Plymouth in the south. 70% of the route is traffic free, and the trail includes the 31-mile section of the Tarka Trail listed below. The Coast-to-Coast trail takes in the beautiful beaches and estuaries of the north of the county, and passes through luscious green valleys and the western edge of Dartmoor. [12]

10. The Tarka Trail, Devon: At nearly two hundred miles long, the Tarka Trail [8] is by far and away the longest rail-to-trail path in the UK. It is made up of quite a few sections of dismantled railway, and winds its way around Barnstaple and North Devon. One of the sections is an unbroken stretch of 31 miles between Braunton and Meeth, which is free of vehicles, mostly tarmacked and a lovely smooth, flat ride. The trail name comes from the route taken in the ‘Tarka the Otter’ book, and there are a number of audio posts along the trail giving information.

Many of these, and other, routes are owned or maintained by local authorities, Railway Paths Ltd.[13] or Sustrans. [14]

Interestingly, Edinburgh boasts a huge range of continuous, traffic-free cycle paths, many following old railway lines.  These are all outlined on the Bike Station’s Innertube map.[15]

Neither of the lists above includes the Forest of Dean, an area that I love. The offer to cyclists and walkers in that Forest of Dean is superb. Most of the designated cycleways are on the formation of the extensive network of former railway lines which served the various former heavy industries of the Forest. A number of website highlight what is available. [16][17][18]

Cycling or walking along abandoned railways is a wonderful way to access the countryside in the UK. There are also usually elements of the old railway infrastructure and industrial archeology from areas served by the railways which provide additional interest.

I have provided introductions to both railway and industrial archeology in the Forest in a series of posts on this blog. [19]


1., accessed on 13th September 2019.

2., accessed on 13th September 2019.

3., accessed on 13th September 2019.

4., accessed on 13th September 2019.

5., accessed on 13th September 2019.

6., accessed on 13th September 2019

7., accessed on 13th September 2013.

8., accessed on 13th September 2019.

9., accessed on 13th September 2019.

10., accessed on 13th September 2019.

11., accessed on 13th September 2019.

12., accessed on 13th September 2019.

13., accessed on 13th September 2019.

14., accessed o 13th September 2019.

15., accessed on 13th September 2019.

16., accessed on 13th September 2019.

17., accessed on 13th September 2019.

18.,accessed on 13th September 2019.

19. A series of detailed introductions to both railway and industrial archeology in the Forest can be found by following this link:


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.