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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Reverting to Sir John Winter's retreat from Lydney


So

favourable an opportunity as this defeat gave for the capture of Lydney House was not to be lost, and it was invested forthwith. Timely aid was however rendered about the 2nd of April, 1645, by the arrival of Prince Maurice with a force of 2,000 horse and 1,500 foot, who, as they marched towards it from Hereford, took advantage of the occasion to lay waste the Forest, as a retribution on the inhabitants for having deserted the King's cause. Corbet says that "they plundered the houses to the bare walls, driving all the cattell, seizing upon the persons of men, and sending them captives to Monmouth and Chepstow, except such as escaped to us by flight, as many did with their armes, and some few that saved themselves in woods and mine pitts." The same authority adds that "the King's forces returned a second time into the Forest, and took the gleanings of the former harvest." In the course of the month of May the royalists retired, and Sir John Winter, resolving that his house should never harbour his enemies, burnt it to the ground. He then joined the King, by whom he was presently despatched with letters to the Queen, in France, and mentioning him in these terms--"This bearer, Sir John Winter, as thy knowledge of him makes it needlesse to recommend him to thee, soe I should injure him if I did not beare him the true witnesse of having served me with as much fidelity and courage as any, not without much good successe; though some crosse accydents of late hath made him (not without
reason) desire to waite upon thee, it being needfull that I should give him this testimony, least his journey to thee be misinterpreted."

The estate which Sir John Winter thus vacated in this neighbourhood was soon after assigned to his opponent by the House of Commons, who ordered on the 29th of September, 1645, "that Major-General Massy, in consideration of his good and faithful service which he hath done for the kingdom, shall have allowed him the estate of Sir John Winter (who is a delinquent to the Parliament) in the Forest of Dean; all his iron-mills, and the woods (timber trees only excepted not to be felled), with all the profits belonging to them; and ordered that an order at once should be brought into the House to that purpose." Eventually, however, Sir John Winter recovered his property, through the influence probably of the Lords in Parliament, who appear to have favoured him. On his return to this country he nevertheless seems to have been imprisoned, for on the 7th of September, 1652, we find him liberated from the Tower, upon bail for three months, on account of sickness; a term of liberty which was enlarged upon the 7th of December, on the same security, to three months longer, with permission to go where he pleased within twenty miles of London. On the 17th of the same month he was remanded back to the Tower.

Evelyn tells us that at this time Sir John Winter amused himself with a project for charring coal. "July 11th, 1656.--Came home by Greenwich Ferry, where I saw Sir John Winter's new project of charring sea-coale, to burne out the sulphure and render it sweete. He did it by burning the coals in such earthen pots as the glasse-men mealt their mettal, so firing them without consuming them, using a barr of yron in each crucible or pot, which barr has a hook at one end, that so the coales being mealted in a furnace wth other crude sea-coales under them, may be drawn out of the potts sticking to the yron, whence they are beaten off in greate halfe-exhausted cinders, which being rekindled make a cleare pleasant chamber fire, deprived of their sulphur and arsenic malignity. What successe it may have, time will discover."

Reverting to Sir John Winter's retreat from Lydney, it may be remarked that, with his retirement from the Forest district, its south side became quiet; not so its north, for there the following incidents occurred. The first of them arose from Colonel Massy's efforts to retake Monmouth, which he strove to accomplish by feigning a sudden retreat from before it towards Gloucester, as though he had received unfavourable tidings. With this view he and his forces drew off some three miles into the thickets of the Forest, sending out scouts at the same time to prevent his being surprised by the enemy. Intelligence of their disappearance being reported within the garrison to Lieutenant-Colonel Kyrle, who was in the secret, he speedily set out in pursuit, but was himself surprised with a troop of thirty horse, near midnight, by Massy, in Mr. Hall's house, at High-Meadow. A combination of their forces being effected, they returned to Monmouth, and with mutual aid, favoured by a dark and rainy night, recaptured the town, much to the joy of the Colonel and his friends. Kyrle, an ancestor of "the Man of Ross," lived at Walford, where he was buried, and where his helmet is still preserved.


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