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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Is in the bottom between Nail Bridge and Cinderford Bridge


addition to the above, the Assistant Deputy Surveyor of the same period reported,--"the parts of the Forest in which the principal collieries are situate are these:--The Level of the Fire Engine Colliery, which is one of the principal works, is in the bottom between Nail Bridge and Cinderford Bridge, and there are pits all along the Bottom. There are several Levels in the Bottom from Beechenhurst Hill along the Delves quite up to Nail Bridge. Another large field of coal from Whitecroft Bridge, at the back of White Mead Park along the Delves to Great Moseley Green, and from thence through Old Vallet Tuft and Aures Glow, almost up to Little Stapleage. These are the works which do the greatest mischief to the Forest. There are some others on the Coleford side, from which a great deal of coal is raised. Very little timber is growing in any of these Delves; and enclosures might be made in the Forest, so as to exclude all the principal coal-works. The coal-works in the Forest supply with fuel the lower parts of Gloucestershire beyond Severn, and some parts across the Severn about Berkeley, the greatest part of Herefordshire, the town of Monmouth, and part of the county of Monmouth."

The existing remains of the coal-works of this period, combined with the traditions of the oldest surviving colliers, enable us to form an accurate idea of the way in which the workings were carried on. "Levels," or slightly ascending passages, driven into the hill

sides till they struck the coal seam, appear to have been general. This was no doubt owing to the facility with which they effected the getting of the coal where it tended upwards into the higher lands forming the edge of the Forest Coal Basin, since they required no winding apparatus, and provided a discharge for the water which drained from the coal-beds. The usages observed at the works entitled the proprietors of their respective levels to so much of the corresponding seam of coal as they could drain, extending right and left to the limits awarded by the gaveller. So far this mode of procedure was satisfactory enough, and would no doubt have long continued to go on amicably, had not the principle, highly judicious in itself, that no workings were ever to intersect one another, but always to stop when the mattocks met, been abused by driving "narrow headings" up into different workings, whereby the rightful owner of the coal was stopped, and the other party enabled to come in and take it from him. Timber of considerable strength was required throughout the underground excavations to support the roof, hence proving a serious source of spoliation to the woods. Large slabs of it were also needed for the flooring, in order that the small coal-trams might be the more readily pushed forward over it, a space being left beneath for air to circulate, and for the water to run out.

If the vein of coal proposed to be worked did not admit of being reached by a level, then a pit was sunk to it, although rarely to a greater depth than 25 yards, the water being raised in buckets, or by a water-wheel engine, or else by a drain having its outlet in some distant but lower spot, such as is found to have led from the Broad Moor Collieries to Cinderford, a mile and upwards in length. The shaft of the pit was made of a square form, in order that its otherwise insecure sides might be the better supported by suitable woodwork, which being constructed in successive stages was occasionally used as a ladder, the chief difficulty being found in keeping the workings free from water, which in wet seasons not unfrequently gained the mastery and drowned the men out. The skips appear to have been always rectangular in shape, similar to the shafts.

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