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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

The triple dyke defending Symmond's Yat

Chase; then, a camp near the

Bearse Common; and, as a termination to the chain, the triple dyke defending Symmond's Yat. Some have regarded these remains as forming the southern termination of Offa's Dyke, which that sovereign constructed about the year 760, to prevent the Welsh from invading his kingdom of Mercia; but they are not sufficiently uniform or continuous to warrant such a conclusion. They seem rather to be connected with the incident which the Chronicles of Florentius Vigorniensis relate as taking place A.D. 912:--"The Pagan pirates, who nearly nineteen years before had retired from Britain, approaching by the province of Gaul, called Lydivinum, return with two leaders, Ohterus and Hroaldus, to England, and, sailing round West Saxonia and Cornubia, at length reach the mouth of the river Sabrina (Severn), and, without delay, invade the northern lands of the British, and, exploring all the parts adjoining the bank of the river, pillage most of them. Cymelgeac, a British bishop who occupied the plains of Yrcenefeld (Archenfield), was likewise taken; and they, not a little rejoicing, carry him off to their ships, whom, not long after, King Edward ransomed for forty pounds of silver. Soon after, the whole force, leaving their ships, return to the aforesaid plains, and make their way for the sake of plunder; but suddenly as many of the inhabitants as possible of the adjoining towns of Hereford and Glevum (Gloucester) assemble, and give them battle. Hroaldus, the leader of the enemy, and his brother
Ohterus, the other leader, with a large part of the army, are slain. The rest are put to flight, and driven by the Christians into a certain fence (septum), where they are at length besieged, until they give hostages, so that as fast as possible they depart King Edward's realm." Mr. Fryer, of Coleford, ingeniously supposes that Symmond's Rock was the scene of the above contest, which may possibly be correct.

Edward the Confessor is stated in Domesday Book to have exempted the Forest of Dean from taxation, with the object apparently of preserving it from spoliation. The exact terms used are, "_has tras c' cessit rex E. quietas a geldo pro foresta custod_," manifesting an interest in its protection on the part of the Crown, to which no doubt it had now become annexed. Probably in those early days the King possessed the right to all lands not under cultivation or already apportioned, just as the Sovereign of our own day exercises the right in our colonial territories, and makes specific grants to private individuals. Thus, Mr. Rudder, in his 'History of Gloucestershire,' remarks that "originally all the lands of the subject are derived from the Crown, and our forests may have been made when the ancient kings had the greater part in their own hands." Agreeably with which principle, combined with the attractions which the Forest of Dean possessed as a hunting ground, it was sometimes visited for the sports of the chase by William the Conqueror, who in the year 1069 was thus diverting himself when he received information that the Danes had invaded Yorkshire and taken its chief city. Roused to fury by these tidings, he swore "by the splendour of the Almighty" that "not one Northumbrian should escape his revenge;" an oath which he put into prompt and terrible execution. It seems not improbable that upon one of these royal visits the miners of the Forest applied for and obtained their "customes and franchises," which, even in the less remote days of Edward I., were granted, as the record of them declares, "time out of minde." The demand which the Conqueror made upon the citizens of Gloucester for thirty-six "Icres" of iron yearly, each of which comprised ten bars, made at their forges, six in number, wherewith to furnish his fleet with nails, was procured doubtless from this Forest, for which impost the above-named grant was possibly designed as a compensation.

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