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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

' The miner cuts the timber when assigned


_Copy of a Warrant or Order for the Delivery of Timber to a Coal Miner in Dean Forest_.

"[Forest of Dean.] At the Court of Attachments, holden at the Speech House, the 25th day of Sep. 1784, came Phil. Hatton, and demanded Timber for himself and Verns, for the Use of their Coal Works called Young Colliers, in Ruerdean Walk, within the said Forest.

"JNO. MATTHEWS, Steward.

"To Mr. John Bradley, Keeper of the said Walk. (by Certificate.)

"Some Timber to be delivered fit for sinking. Indorsed '4 Oaks.'

"The miner cuts the timber when assigned, and until within about the last ten years paid a fee of two shillings to the keeper, there being no limit to the amount of timber if applied for the use of the works. If the gale-ground was situated within the hundred of St. Briavel's, but belonged to private parties, the free miner still claimed his right to open the ground, the proprietor being let in as a partner, making a sixth, the only exception being churchyards, gardens, orchards, and Crown plantations."

A jury of twelve, twenty-four, forty-eight, or seventy free miners, under the auspices of the Constable of St. Briavel's Castle, or

his deputy, enacted such mine laws as the interests of the body seemed to require, administering them without any appeal, or permission to resort to another court of law. The witnesses in giving evidence wore their caps to show that they were free miners, and took the usual oath, touching the Book of the Four Gospels with a stick of holly, {149a} so as not to soil the Sacred Volume with their miry hands. These singular usages explain the observation of the Rev. H. Berkin that "the inhabitants are completely _sui generis_," and "their exact situation can scarcely be understood except by those on the spot," as likewise the sentiment which the Rev. H. C. H. Hawkins expresses--"by altering the character of the Foresters, a curious relic of antiquity might be destroyed, to my regret I must own, as I feel desirous to preserve so singular a specimen in all its purity."

In the year 1832 the Rev. C. Crawley stated, "I think the moral character of the inhabitants has been much improved by the building of churches; heinous offences are very rare in the Forest:" and in 1849 Mr. Machen said, "A great change has been wrought in them; there is a very great difference in their habits now, certainly." {149b}

The Forest miners of the present day are well acquainted with the geological structure of their neighbourhood, more especially with the out-crop, succession, and dip of the mineral veins. In short, their natural endowments are fully equal to the general standard, and only require cultivation, as frequently


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