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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

The present line between Monmouth and Mitcheldean


the present line between Monmouth and Mitcheldean, seems to have sufficed for the neighbourhood during at least 200 years. It was in use in the age of Elizabeth, a silver penny of that reign having been found on it, between Nailbridge and Harrow Hill. By this road Lord Herbert must have marched his army of 500 horse and 1500 foot towards Gloucester in 1643, as likewise Sir W. Waller a month later when pursued by Prince Maurice, and most probably Colonel Massey took the same route more than once. It seems also to be alluded to in the following suggestion made to Sir R. Atkyns, as Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, by a committee appointed in 1692 to inquire into the state of the Forest, with the view of securing its better government and preservation. They proposed that "a Justice-seat should be held once a year, for six or seven years, during the long vacation, within the said Forest, or not very remote from it, which might be done by deputation from the Lord Chief Justice in Eyre to some of their Majesties' Justices of Assize going in their _ordinary circuits from Gloucester to Monmouth_." Their journey was of course made on horseback, the usage being still continued, which the father of the Lord Chancellor Clarendon permitted him to adopt, when he gave him "leave to ride the circuit in the summer with his uncle the Chief Justice." An old house at the foot of the Plump Hill, near Mitcheldean, called "the Judges' Lodgings," because they made it their resting-place as they passed that way, seems confirmatory of the above suggestion.

The first mention of any sum being spent on the improvement of the Forest roads, occurs about the time that the trees planted in 1668 would be growing into timber fit for the Royal dockyards, and requiring therefore facilities for removal to the water-side. Hence, between 1761 and 1786, upwards of 11,305 pounds 1s. 10d. was laid out on them. Mr. Thomas Blunt, the Deputy Surveyor of the Forest, stated in 1788, in explanation of such an outlay, "That there are two great roads leading across the Forest, which have been made and kept in repair by the produce of timber felled and sold for that purpose, and on which by far the greater part of the expense for roads has been bestowed; the one enters the Forest at Mitcheldean, and proceeds quite across the Forest to Coleford, the other leads from Little Dean to Coleford. These two roads have been made chiefly with a view to the convenience of the public, being the principal roads from Gloucester to South Wales; neither of which roads, nor others which have been made and amended at a considerable expense to the Crown, are any way conducive to the preservation of the Forest, as they are but of little use in the conveyance of timber felled for the use of the Navy, the Navy timber in general being carried by a distinct road leading from the Forest towards Blakeney, which induces him to believe that the roads lately made are disadvantageous to the Forest, more carts and waggons having been used since the making of the roads in the fetching and carrying away of coal, greater quantities of timber being used in the coalworks, and much more timber secretly conveyed away under the coal than heretofore; which practice he believes might in a great measure be prevented by the erecting of turnpike gates on the roads, the tolls whereof would be fully sufficient to keep the roads in necessary repair."

But the Forest roads were still in so execrable a condition, being impassable in the winter, and at other times perilous to the heavily laden coal waggons and horses, always requiring large teams, according to the unanimous testimony of the oldest residents, that a further outlay on them, to the amount of 10,645 pounds, took place in carrying out the provisions of the Act passed in 1795 "for amending, widening, improving, and keeping in repair several roads in and through His Majesty's Forest of Dean, and the waste lands thereto belonging, in the county of Gloucester, and for turning, altering, and changing the course of the said roads, and for making several new roads in the said Forest to lead to certain places in and near the same; and also for amending, widening, and keeping in repair certain roads leading from the said Forest to and through several parts of the parish of Newland adjoining the Forest, in the said county of Gloucester." Mr. Surveyor Brimner states, that at a meeting of the Verderers of the Forest, and the Roads Trustees, held at Newnham, 22nd April, 1796, the following roads were appointed to be put in repair:--


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