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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Created Viscount Gage of Castle Island

To this period belongs the interesting circumstance of the then Bishop of Gloucester, the excellent Dr. Ryder, paying his first official visit to the Forest, for the purpose of consecrating Christ Church at Berry Hill. The building was commenced, in 1812, as a chapel schoolroom, by the Rev. P. M. Procter, the Vicar of Newland, assisted by the Duke of Beaufort, the Lord Bishop, and Mr. Ryder his secretary, aided by 100 pounds from the National Society, being the first grant made by it. But the structure was enlarged to twice the original size previous to its consecration.

The next year (1817) the Bishop had the satisfaction of being called upon in the month of April to repeat his visit to the Forest, for the purpose of dedicating the Church of the Holy Trinity, on Quarry Hill, to divine worship, for which it was first used on the previous 5th of February, having been commenced the summer before. Its erection was principally accomplished by the exertions of the Rev. H. Berkin, assisted by contributions from the Earl of Liverpool, the Right Hon. N. Vansittart, the Duke of Beaufort, Lord Kenyon, Lord Calthorpe, W. Wilberforce, Esq., M.P., and other benevolent persons. The site, comprising five acres, was given by the Crown.

On the 15th of May this year the purchase of Lord Viscount Gage's estate, adjoining the Forest and the Wye, was concluded, as stated in the Commissioners' Report, which appeared on the 18th of June. It contained 2,229 acres of wood, which, "if preserved, would (they said) very soon be stocked with a succession of trees of the first quality, as they were of the most thriving description, the oldest being from sixty to eighty years old." The whole property contained 4,257 acres 15 poles, and, including all the timber and underwood, with certain forges, mills, limekilns, iron and tin works, was valued by the referees at 155,863 pounds 3s. 2d., the timber being prised at 61,624 pounds 4s. This agreement was confirmed by Act of Parliament, 57 George III., c. 97, which authorized the raising of the money by sales of Crown property to the amount of 101,945 pounds 6s. 3d., with the view of enabling the purchase money to be paid by five equal yearly instalments. A corn-mill, two forge-houses with appendages, the tolls of the Coleford Market-house, and about 423 acres of arable or meadow land, were sold for the most part at higher prices than were given for them, leaving 2,925 acres for the growth of timber.

[Picture: Norman Capital in Staunton Church]

On tracing the history of this property as far back as existing records permit, it appears that "the High Meadow Estate," although naturally included in the district constituting the Crown property of the Forest, had been at remote period detached from it as appears by the perambulations of 28 Edward I., with which the bounds of the shires of Gloucester and Monmouth here coincide. Its ancient village church, partly of Norman architecture, and its still more antique font, apparently Saxon, sufficiently attest the early location of inhabitants on the spot. This estate constituted one of the ten bailiwicks of the Forest as early as 10 Edward I. (1282), when it was held by John Walden, called John de Staunton, by the service, as the Rev. T. Fosbroke has ascertained, "of carrying the King's bow before him when he came to hunt in the bailiwick, and by homageward and marchat," and "he had for his custody housbote, heybote, of every kind of tree given or delivered by the King; all broken oaks, and all trees of every sort thrown down by the wind." After passing through the families of the Baynhams, Brains, Winters, and Halls, who purchased the manor of English Bicknor early in the 17th century, it became by marriage the property of Sir Thomas Gage, created Viscount Gage of Castle Island, in the county of Kerry, and Baron Gage of Castlebar, in the county of Mayo, September 14th, 1720. It must also be noticed, that licences were issued this year for the erection of steam-engines at "No Coal" and at "Churchway Coal" Mines.

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