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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

The same as in 1668 Redbrooke 4s


How

far the above mandate was obeyed does not appear, but ere the year 1674 a general decay seems to have fallen on the Forest works, as in that year the expediency of repairing them, and building an additional furnace and two forges, at the cost of 1,000 pounds, was suggested. The opposite course was, however, recommended, that is, of demolishing them all, lest they should ultimately cause the destruction of the wood and timber, a course which it seems was followed, since in the 4th order of the Mine Law Court, dated 27th April, 1680, they are stated to have been lately demolished. The same "Order" fixes the following prices as those at which twelve Winchester bushels of iron mine should be delivered at the following places:--St. Wonnarth's furnace 10s., Whitchurch 7s., Linton 9s., Bishopswood 9s., Longhope 9s., Flaxley 8s., Gunsmills (if rebuilt) 7s., Blakeney 6s., Lydney 6s.; at those in the Forest, if rebuilt, the same as in 1668--Redbrooke 4s. 6d., The Abbey (Tintern) 9s., Brockweare 6s. 6d., Redbrooke Passage 5s. 6d., Gunpill 7s., or ore (intended for Ireland) shipped on the Severn 6s. 6d.

Most of these localities exhibit traces of former iron manufacture having been carried on at them up to the commencement of that century, as at Flaxley, Bishopswood, &c., charcoal being the fuel invariably used, and their situation such that water power was at command. The prices severally affixed to the places above named indicate a discontinuance of

the mines on the north-east side of the Forest, those adjoining Newland and in Noxon Park being at this date the chief sources of supply, agreeably with the allusions to iron-pits existing there which occur in the proceedings of the Mine Law Court about that time. The mode then in use of operating upon the iron ore, as described in MS. by Dr. Parsons, will be found in Appendix No. V.

Andrew Yarranton, in his book of novel suggestions for the "Improvement of England by Sea and Land," printed in 1677, remarks as follows:--"And first, I will begin in Monmouthshire, and go through the Forest of Dean, and there take notice what infinite quantities of raw iron is there made, with bar iron and wire; and consider the infinite number of men, horses, and carriages which are to supply these works, and also digging of ironstone, providing of cinders, carrying to the works, making it into sows and bars, cutting of wood and converting into charcoal. Consider also, in all these parts, the woods are not worth the cutting and bringing home by the owners to burn in their houses; and it is because in all these places there are pit coal very cheap . . . If these advantages were not there, it would be little less than a howling wilderness. I believe, if this comes to the hands of Sir Baynom Frogmorton and Sir Duncomb Colchester, they will be on my side. Moreover, there is yet a most great benefit to the kingdom in general by the sow iron made of the ironstone and Roman cinders in the Forest of Dean, for that metal is of a most gentle, pliable, soft nature, easily and quickly to be wrought into manufacture, over what any other iron is, and it is the best in the known world: and the greatest part of this sow iron is sent up Severne to the forges into Worcester, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and Cheshire, and there it's made into bar iron: and because of its kind and gentle nature to work, it is now at Sturbridge, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sedgley, Wasall, and Burmingham, and there bent, wrought, and manufactured into all small commodities, and diffused all England over, and thereby a great trade made of it; and when manufactured, into most parts of the world. And I can very easily make it appear, that in the Forest of Dean and thereabouts, and about the material that comes from thence, there are employed and have their subsistence therefrom no less than 60,000 persons. And certainly, if this be true, then it is certain it is better these iron-works were up and in being than that there were none. And it were well if there were an Act of Parliament for enclosing all common fit or any way likely to bear wood in the Forest of Dean and six miles round the Forest; and that great quantities of timber might by the same law be there preserved, for to supply in future ages timber for shipping and building. And I dare say the Forest of Dean is, as to the iron, to be compared to the sheep's back as to the woollen; nothing being of more advantage to England than these two are . . .


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