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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

With the approval of the King's gaveller


as Mr. Wyrrall tells us, writing

in the year 1780, "as the Magna Charta of our miners and colliers," incontrovertibly proves that it belongs to this period. It was first printed by William Cooper, at the Pelican in Little Britain, 1687, from a manuscript copy preserved in the office of the Deputy Gaveller, to which a postscript is added, "written out of a parchmt. roll, now in ye hands of Richard Morse of Clowerwall, 7 June, 1673, by Tho: Davies." Richard Morse was then one of the deputy gavellers. The date of the compilation has heretofore been considered as determined by the wording of the short introduction with which it is prefaced, commencing thus--"Bee itt in minde and Remembrance what ye Customes and Franchises hath been that were granted tyme out of Minde, and after in tyme of the Excellent and redoubted Prince, King Edward, unto the Miners of the Forrest of Deane, and the Castle of St. Briavells," &c., in which words it will be observed that only the name of King Edward is mentioned, the number not being added, although for some cause or other all modern copies insert "the Third," and hence the impression that the collection was then formed; whereas the description given in the paragraph immediately following, specifying what were then the limits of the Forest, shows its date to be that of the first of the Edwards, since the bounds are therein recorded as extending "between Chepstowe Bridge and Gloucester Bridge, the halfe deale of Newent, Rosse Ash, Monmouth Bridge, and soe farr into the Seassoames
as the blast of a horne or the voice of a man may bee heard." But these limits ceased to prevail soon after the beginning of the fourteenth century, and consequently an earlier date must be assigned for the above record than has commonly been given to it.

The body of the document, originally, it would seem, unbroken, as now printed is divided into forty-two paragraphs or sections, but expressed in very rude and involved phraseology, confirming its antiquity, as still further appears by the nature of the incidents which it contains. It specifies, first of all, the franchises of the mine, meaning its liberties or privileges, as not to be trespassed against, and consisting apparently in this, that every man who possessed it might, with the approval of the King's gaveller, dig for iron ore or coal where he pleased, and have right of way for the carrying of it, although in certain cases "forbids" to sell might be declared. A third part of the profits of the undertaking belonged to the King, whose gaveller called at the works every Tuesday "between Mattens and Masse," and received one penny from each miner, the fellowship supplying the Crown with twelve charges of ore per week at twelve pence, or three charges of coal at one penny. Timber was allowed for the use of the works above and below ground. Only such persons as had been born and were abiding in the Forest were to "visit" the mines, in working which the distance of a stone's throw was always to be kept, and property in them might be bequeathed. The miners' clothes and light are mentioned, and the standard measure called "bellis," to the exclusion of carts and "waynes." It alludes to "the court of the wood," at the "speech" before the Verderers, but more particularly to the court for debtors at St. Briavel's Castle, and to the mine court, as regulated by the constable, clerk, and gaveller, and the miners' jury of twelve, twenty-four, or forty-eight, where all causes relating to the mines were to be heard. "Three hands," or three witnesses, were required in evidence, and the oath was taken with a stick of holly held in the hand. The miners of Mitchel Deane, Little Deane, and Ruer Deane are called "beneath the wood."


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