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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Crabtree Hill being situated near the centre of the Forest


in order of time to the above remains are the ancient Iron-mines, locally termed "Scowles," {4} which were undoubtedly worked when this island was occupied by the Romans. This appears certain from the coins, &c., which have been found deeply buried in the heaps of iron cinders derived from the workings of these mines. A highly interesting MS. Dissertation, written about the year 1780 by Mr. Wyrrall, on the ancient iron-works of the Forest, a subject on which he was well informed, being a resident in the neighbourhood, is conclusive on this head. He states:--"Coins, fibula, and other things known to be in use with that people (the Romans), have been frequently found in the beds of cinders at certain places: this has occurred particularly at the village of Whitchurch, between Ross and Monmouth, where large stacks of cinders have been found, and some of them so deep in the earth, eight or ten feet under the surface, as to demonstrate without other proof that they must have lain there for a great number of ages. The present writer has had opportunities of seeing many of these coins and fibula, &c., which have been picked up by the workmen in getting the cinders at this place, in his time; but especially one coin of Trajan, which he remembers to be surprisingly perfect and fresh, considering the length of time it must have been in the ground. Another instance occurs to his recollection of a little image of brass, about four inches long, which was then found in the cinders at the
same place, being a very elegant female figure, in a dancing attitude, and evidently an antique by the drapery."

Numerous additional traces of the same people have been discovered in this neighbourhood, viz., a Roman pavement, tesserae, bricks, and tiles at Whitchurch, already mentioned; remains of Ariconium, a town, it seems, of blacksmiths, at Bollitree; a camp, bath, and tessellated pavement at Lydney; and coins to a large amount, indicative of considerable local prosperity, on the Coppet Woodhill, at Lydbrook, Perry Grove, and Crabtree Hill--of Philip, Gallienus, Victorinus, Claudius Gothicus, &c.

Crabtree Hill being situated near the centre of the Forest, renders the discovery of Roman antiquities there especially interesting. On 27th August, 1839, a man who was employed to raise some stone in Crabtree Hill, of which several heaps were lying on the surface, in turning over the stone found about twenty-five Roman coins. The next day, in another heap about fifty yards distant, he found a broken jar or urn of baked clay, and 400 or 500 coins lying by it, the coins being for the most part those of Claudius II., Gallienus, and Victorinus. The spot is rather high ground, but not a hill or commanding point, and there do not appear any traces of a camp near it. Some of the stones seemed burnt, as if the building had been destroyed by fire. There was no appearance of mortar, but the stones had evidently been used in building, and part of the foundation of a wall remained visible. A silver coin of Aurelius was likewise picked up.

Similar discoveries have been made in other places. At Seddlescombe, in Sussex, one of the earliest iron-making localities in the kingdom, Mr. Wright, in his interesting work entitled 'Wanderings of an Antiquary,' mentions several Roman coins, especially one of the Emperor Diocletian, having been met with in a bed of iron cinders, manifestly of great antiquity, since four large oaks stood upon its surface.

An interval of a few hundred years brings us to the probable date of the next class of antiquities, viz. the military earthworks yet traceable in the neighbourhood. They are four in number, commencing with the lines of circumvallation which enclose the promontory of Beachley; next, the camp and entrenchments on the high lands of Tidenham

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