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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

On the side nearest to Newland and the villages of Breme


A.D. 1637 a grant was made to Edward Terringham of "all the mines of coal and quarries of grindstone within the Forest of Dean, and in all places within the limits and perambulations thereof, as well those within his Majesty's demesne lands, and the waste and soil there, as also all such as lay within the lands of any of his Majesty's subjects within the perambulation of the said Forest, to his Majesty reserved, or lawfully belonging, to hold for thirty-one years, at the yearly rent of 30 pounds."

The next year (1638) is marked by the first effort which the Crown seems to have made to renew the crops of timber in the Forest, rendered necessary by the report that, on surveying it, a supply of no more than 105,557 trees, containing 61,928 tons of timber, and 153,209 cords of wood, of which only 14,350 loads were fit for shipbuilding, was found, as "the trees were generally decayed, and passed their full groath." Accordingly, under the direction of Sir Baynham Throckmorton, 16,000 or 17,000 acres were ordered to be taken in, "leaving fit and convenient highways in and through the same." After sundry meetings, the commoners consented thereunto, few or none objecting, in consideration of 4000 acres set apart for their use on the different sides of the Forest, as follows:--On the side next Lydney and Awre, 550 acres; towards Ruerdean and Lydbrook, 350 acres; near to St. Briavel's, 500 acres; towards Little Dean, Flaxley, Abenhall, and Mitcheldean,

and the Lea, 876 acres; in Abbot's Wood, 76 acres; on the side nearest to Newland and the villages of Breme, Clearwell, and Coleford, 900 acres; towards Newland, 174 acres; next to Bicknor, 350 acres; and towards Rodley and Northwood, 100 acres. The Lea Bailey, containing the best timber, was not included, but left open. The proportion observed in the size of these common lands is probably indicative of the way in which the population surrounding the Forest was distributed. Traces of the bounds of some of these allotments may yet be made out, by the remains of the ditches and banks with which they were fenced.

Such a scheme, if judiciously carried out, would have done much to secure the object in view, only it was connected unhappily with the entire sale made under the date of 20th February, 1640 (15th Charles I.), to Sir John Winter, of all the mines, minerals, and stone-quarries within the limits of the Forest, to work and use the same, together with all timber, trees, woods, underwood growing in any part thereof, in consideration of 10,000 pounds, and the yearly sum of 16,000 pounds for six years, and of a fee farm rent of 1950 pounds 12s. 6d. for ever. This bargain was equivalent to selling the Forest altogether, and the inhabitants of the district, being greatly dissatisfied, took advantage of the approaching civil distractions to throw down the fences which Sir J. Winter had already begun to make.

Of those distractions, the first that occurred in this part of the county took place on the 20th February, 1643. Clarendon and Corbet record, that on this day Lord Herbert, the Earl of Worcester's eldest son, and the King's Lieutenant-General of South Wales, marched through Coleford and the Forest of Dean for Gloucester, at the head of an army of 500 horse and 1500 foot, the outfit and preparation of which is stated to have cost 60,000 pounds. At Coleford their progress was impeded by a troop of Parliamentarians under Colonel Berrowe, aided by a disorderly rabble of country people. An affray ensued, during which the old market-house was burnt, and Major-General Lawley, who commanded the foot, "a bold and sprightly man," with two other officers, were shot dead from a window, although not one common soldier was hurt. Colonel Brett was then put in command of the foot, Lord John Somerset continuing at the head of the horse. They forced a passage through, after capturing Lieutenant-Colonel Winter, together with some inferior officers and common soldiers, and so, putting the rest to flight, marched without further molestation for Gloucester.

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