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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

And the occurrence of Celtic or Silurian names


With

the exception of a few decayed timber trees being felled in the course of the following year (1857), there is nothing requiring further notice, and I therefore here close the historical account of the Forest, and shall proceed in the following chapters with the other objects of inquiry which have been indicated.

CHAPTER IX. THE ORIGINAL OCCUPIERS OF THE FOREST.

The inhabitants of the Forest--Its Aborigines--Celtic indications in the names of persons and places--The forty-eight free miners' names appended to their book of "Dennis," contrasted with the present roll of free miners--Traces of Saxon and Norman influence--Early civilization indicated in the methodical character of their mine laws, and in miners being summoned to several sieges, qualified by their acts of plunder--Successive notices of the inhabitants during the last 150 years, with their present improved condition--Kitty Drew, the Forest poetess--Mining usages described--Order for pit timber--Miners' Court and Jury--Richard Morse's poem--Intelligence of the present race--Their superstitions, self-importance, defects of character--Occupations--Domestic animals--Beverage--Dress--Dwellings--Diversions--Dialect--Christian names--Former distribution of population--Present numbers.

The heading of this chapter refers to one of the most interesting circumstances connected with the Forest

of Dean, namely, the origin, character, customs, and early condition of its people.

The original occupiers of this part of the kingdom, according to Richard of Cirencester, a writer of the 14th century, were the Silures, an offshoot of the immense Celtic family by which the middle and western parts of Europe were overspread. The numerous remains left in the district by the Romans indicate that there had been considerable intercourse between them and the inhabitants; but the chief influences of which any traces are left appear to have descended from the Welsh, with whom the foresters of the present day still seem closely to assimilate. Hence their somewhat impulsive temperament, and the occurrence of Celtic or Silurian names, such as the following, indicative of the character of the places they designate:--

Dean _i.e._ Woodland. Lidney ,, Broadwater. Awre ,, yellowish. Bicknor ,, above the river. Lydbrook ,, a river's shore. Penyard ,, the hill-top, &c.

There are also many families bearing the Welsh names of Williams, Morgan, Pritchard, Watkins, Roberts, Gwilliam, Hughes, Jenkins, Griffiths, Lewellyn, &c. The list of the forty-eight free miners constituting the jury who signed the Book of Mine Laws some 400 years ago, containing so few of those which are now most common in the neighbourhood, indicates a considerable change as having taken place in the population; they may be thus classed:

_Not now to be found on the roll of free miners_--Garone, Clarke, Wytt, Nortone, Mitchell, Lumbart, Ocle, Barton, Heynes, Arminger, Rogers, Hathen, Miller, Croudfell, Dull, Loofe, Forthey, Walker, Tinker, Witch, Delewger, Doles, Hinde, Tellow, Backstar, Lawrence, Dolet, Caloe, Holt; in place of which names the following now occur--Baldwin, Cook, Dobbs, Hale, Jenkins, Kear, Morgan, Philipps, Harper, Davis, Meek, Brain, Jones, Jordan, Robins, Rudge, James, Milnes, Marfell, Chivers, &c. The names of Hathway, Skin, Baker, Holder, and Warr still appear in the Forest, although they no longer occur on the rolls of free miners.


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