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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Machen resigned his office of Deputy Gaveller


the bark was this autumn dried on stages, and the number of keepers was reduced to three. The whole of the timber in Russell's Enclosure was felled, and the trees at Howler's Slade, Church Hill, Park End, and on the side of the road to Blakeney were marked for being so, with the exception of any very large or picturesque ones. At this time also the Lydbrook Deep Level Colliery, and the East Dean Deep Colliery, were awarded; and at the close of the year Mr. Machen resigned his office of Deputy-Gaveller, which was next held by Mr. Warington Smith.

In the spring of 1853 all the timber on Church Hill, at Howler's Slade, and between the Blakeney Roads was cut down, forming what is now usually called "the great fall." The mode of management in the Forest was now rapidly changing, and Mr. Machen, the Deputy-Surveyor, decided this year to resign, after a service of well nigh half a century. He was succeeded by Mr. Brown. The flittern bark of this season was dried on stages, having been taken off the young oaks after they had been felled; but the process was not found to answer.

The Hagloe estate, situated between the Forest and the river Severn, was this year purchased by Government on account of its securing the best site for railway communication with the South Wales line, as well as for shipping timber, the river in that part being particularly favourable for the purpose. The formation of three distinct tramways

was now also licensed, one from near Milkwall down to the Severn and Wye line, another from Speculation Colliery to the same point, and a third from the Ruerdean Woodside Colliery to East Slade.

In the next year (1854) a select Committee of the House of Commons sat during the month of June, under the presidency of Mr. Henry Drummond, to collect information respecting "the management and condition of the Crown Forests." So far as related to the Forest of Dean, the inquiry seems to have arisen from its being supposed that the timber therein, of which 7,800 loads had been felled during the two previous years, might have been sold at higher prices, and that the mode of stripping and drying the bark was defective. Yet it appeared in evidence that the price of the timber was about the same as such timber usually fetched in the neighbourhood, and that, upon the whole, the method of removing the bark from the trees whilst standing, and then setting it upright to dry, was as good as that of first felling the tree, and then stripping it and drying the bark on stages. Moreover, the portable steam saw, which had been sent to the Forest with the design of cutting the timber, as recommended by Mr. Brown, was found to be too small for the purpose, although it was as large as could be conveniently moved from place to place, and hence it proved of little or no use.

The Lords of the Treasury, desirous to satisfy the public and the legislature as to the state of Dean Forest in common with the other Crown Forests, directed Messrs. J. Matthews, William Murton, and W. Menzies to make a personal examination of them, and to report their opinion thereon. This they accordingly did in considerable detail. With regard to Dean Forest they say--"The enclosures were originally planted with extreme care, their situations judiciously chosen, the land well prepared, and the plants protected with nurses." "Viewing these plantations as a whole," they say, "we feel quite justified in representing to your Lordships that not only is their state such as to merit approval, but having reference to their regularity, growth, and prospective ultimate development, they are not surpassed by any Forest property in the kingdom."

Whilst the condition of the Forest of Dean was being thus canvassed, its management had been entrusted to Mr. Brown; but after a few months he was removed, and at the particular request of Government he was succeeded by Mr. Machen, until a permanent arrangement should be made, which was not, however, before the 11th of November, when the office was conferred on Sir James Campbell, Bart., heretofore Deputy-Surveyor of Bere and Parkhurst Forests, and now selected for the ability he had shown in their management. The Treasury Letter announcing his appointment also states that "after the satisfactory opinion conveyed in the Report of Messrs. Matthews, Menzies, and Murton regarding the system of management heretofore followed in this Forest, the time has come when Mr. Machen may be honourably relieved from the charge which he so long ably fulfilled, and which he resumed at the request of this Board."

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