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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

And from Little Dean to Coleford


Speaking of the Forest roads, on which 11,631 pounds 3s. 10d. had been expended within the preceding twenty-five years, Mr. Hartland stated that "the principal were the road from Mitcheldean to Monmouth, and from Little Dean to Coleford. These two are public high roads, not necessary or useful to the Forest, but rather detrimental to it by affording the readier means to convey away the coal in waggons and carts, in which timber has sometimes been found concealed. Besides the above, there are several roads leading from the Forest to Newland, Coleford, and St. Briavel's, which have been kept in repair at the charge of the Forest, but are of no use to it--rather the contrary. The only road now used for conveying the navy timber is the Purton Road, which is the most convenient for carriage to the water side from all parts of the Forest except the Chesnuts in Edge Hills, and the Lea Bailey; but there is no navy timber now in either of these places except the Lea Bailey. If the repairing of the public roads at the charge of the Forest were to be discontinued, the public would be obliged to put up turnpike gates on the roads, and collect tolls for repairing them, as in other parts of the country."

The parts of the Forest which Mr. Hartland described as being "bare of timber and yet fittest to be enclosed as being of a very proper soil, were Hazle Hill and Edge Hills, including Tanner's Hill, Green Bottom and Greenhill, Badcock's Bailey and Chesnuts, East and West Haywood, part of Great Staple Edge, Meezeyhurst, Howbeach and Putmage, Buckhall, Moor and Bradley Hill, Bircham Dingles and Mason's Tump, Blakevellet, Breames Eves and Howell Hill, the Perch and Coverham, Great and Little Bourts, the Lea Bailey, Bailey Hill and Lining Wood, Great and Little Berry, Pluds and Smithers Tump, Blackthorn Turf and Serridge, Kensley's Ridge, Daniel Moor and Beechenhurst, 'forming in short twenty plantations,' which might, he thinks, be enclosed by a ditch about 3 feet deep and 3.5 wide, with a quick hedge planted upon the bank."

The detection of the various abuses which the above extracts exhibit constitutes the first fruit of the enactment of the 26th George III. (1786) for appointing commissioners to inquire into the state of the woods, forests, &c., of the Crown, and to report thereon, adding such observations as should occur to them for their future management and improvement.

Upwards of 2,000 pounds worth of timber out of the Forest was granted, 26th of April, 1786, towards building a gaol in Gloucester, as well as a penitentiary house and houses of correction within the county, at a total cost of 30,000 pounds, upon the plea that the old castle, on the site of which the gaol was to be built, belonged to the King, and also that one of the houses of correction was to be erected within the Forest, whereby the rights of the Crown would be supported. The execution of this grant required 1,690 trees.

The gentlemen appointed to act in the commission above named were, Sir Charles Middleton, John Call, Esq., and Arthur Holdsworth, Esq., who forthwith proceeded to collect information on the history and management of the Forest of Dean, as well as the claims and usages of the mining population. Their report, being the third of the series, was published on the 3rd of June, 1788. Commencing with an introduction respecting the Royal Forests generally, it proceeds to this Forest in particular, "as being in proportion to its extent by far the most valuable and the most proper for a nursery of naval timber," and refers first to the origin and results of the important Act of the 20th Charles II.; then to the abuses which have since crept in, with their disastrous effects; and, thirdly, to the best way of settling the claims of commoners, and how to render this Forest a very valuable nursery of timber for the royal navy.


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