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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

The Benefaction Boards of the Gloucester Infirmary record


So full a list of persons of position and influence as this Order exhibits, lending their names to the Free Miners' Society, indicates the existence of considerable importance in that body; and yet this was the last Court having forty-eight free miners on the jury whose proceedings have been preserved, the fact being that they failed to agree in their verdicts, and then gentlemen refused to attend, owing, it is said, to the violent quarrels and disputes which arose between foreigners possessed of capital, who now began to be admitted to the works, and the free miners. It is also reported that the decisions of the court were seldom observed, no Act of Parliament having passed to render them valid. The former protective distance between one mine and another was increased from 500 to 1000 yards of any levels, and enforced by a 5 pounds penalty. The order concludes with directing that

"The water-wheel engine at the Orling Green, near Broadmoor, be taken to be a level to all intents and purposes." This machine was evidently the first of its kind erected in the Forest, as was also the steam-engine which superseded it, each manifesting the improvements going on in the method of working the mines. The signatures appended to this final "Order" show twenty-five marksmen, and twenty-three names written by their possessors.

The Benefaction-Boards of the Gloucester Infirmary record, in reference to this period, the following particular:--"A gracious benefaction from his Majesty King George II. of 9,200 feet of rough oak timber from the Forest of Deane."

CHAPTER V. A.D. 1758-1800.

Mr. John Pitt suggested 2,000 acres to be planted--The Forest surveyed--Great devastations and encroachments--The roads--Act of 1786, appointing a Commission of Inquiry--New plantations recommended--Messrs. Drivers employed to report on the Forest--Corn riots--Mitcheldean market.

Reverting to the state of the woods and timber in the Forest, it appears that ere this the old enclosures had been thrown open, the trees planted early in this century having attained to considerable size, and some parts so far cleared as to suggest the formation of new plantations. In 1758 John Pitt, Esq., then Surveyor-General of Woods, &c., proposed to the Treasury that 2,000 acres should be enclosed, which was ordered to be done accordingly; but probably it was executed in part only, since Mr. Pitt was removed from his office five years afterwards, when a survey of the timber was made, and it was computed that there were 27,302 loads of timber fit for the navy, 16,851 loads of about sixty years' growth, and 20,066 loads dotard and decaying. To this period also belongs the first opening of the old Fire-engine colliery, or Orling Green coal-work, galed to "foreigners," but subsequently conveyed by them at different times in shares to various persons, including the gaveller, by whom the first fire-engine was put up about 1777, a date also memorable as being the one on which the Court of Free Miners wholly ceased to act.

Mr. John Pitt was reinstated in 1763, and represented that he found "great spoil had been committed, and great quantities of wood and timber, amounting in value to 3,255 pounds, cut by order of Sir Edmund Thomas, the late Surveyor-General, without warrant." The year following, Mr. Pitt presented a second memorial to the Government, proposing that 2,000 acres more should be taken in, at an estimated cost of 2,077 pounds. The usual warrant was issued for the purpose, authorizing wood-sales to that amount, although the expense ultimately came to 3,676 pounds 5s. 6.5d.


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