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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Berkin opens a Sunday school Mr

Their pastimes used to be dancing and foot-ball, to the great delight of people of all ages: indeed there are several spots yet called from the above circumstance "the dancing green." Wakes were likewise very popular, and also the game of fives, so that at Ruerdean one side of the church tower was whitewashed for the purpose, and resorted to even on Sundays. Some of the provincialisms of the district occur in the following words--"yat" (gate), "tump" (hillock), "teart" (sharp), "spract" (lively), "twich" (touch), "near a anoust" (near the same), "anunt" (opposite).

Peculiarities also occur in the selection of Christian names, including these--Benedicta, Abia, Winifred, Kezia, Barzillai, Sibylla, Eve, Saba, Sabina, Beata, Tryphena, Belinda, Myra, Terzah, Nimrod, River, Milson, Miles, &c. {152}

On account of the dense woods with which the Forest was anciently covered, added to the fact that except at Newland, and perhaps at Park End, no churches were built within it, we may conclude that at an early period its population was small, the persons engaged in the iron and coal works then living, as many of the working people do now, in the adjoining parishes. Our earliest information as to the number of inhabitants residing within its present limits relates to the time of the Commonwealth, when "400 cabins of beggarly people living upon the waste, and destroying the wood and timber, were thrown down." In 1712 Sir R. Atkins states that "there had been many cottages in it, but that they had been lately pulled down, leaving only the six keepers' houses." He gives 6,090 as the total population of the outlying parishes, thus distributed:--

Mitcheldean 600 Little Dean 620 Newnham 400 Blakeney 250 Lydney 700 Newland 800 Clearwell 600 Coleford 600 Bream 300 Le Bailey 200 Staunton 220 Ruerdean 500 Bicknor 300 ----- Total 6,090

At the close of the century, the Forest, as now bounded, comprised 589 houses, which in 1803 had increased to 696, the number of free miners being then 662. Since that time the inhabitants of the Forest have gone on increasing as follows:--

In 1821 they were 5,525 In 1831 ,, 7,014 In 1841 ,, 10,674 In 1851 ,, 13,252

of whom about 1,789 have the right of voting for Members of Parliament. The annual value of property existing in the Forest, not belonging to the Crown, was estimated in 1849 at 13,603 pounds 14s. 2d., and in 1856 at 18,492 pounds 17s. 7d.


Churches and schools--Religious provisions before the Reformation--Rev. P. M. Procter, Vicar of Newland, lectures in Thomas Morgan's cottage--The erection of a place for worship proposed--Rev. H. Berkin opens a Sunday-school--Mr. Procter uses his chapel schoolroom--Mr. Berkin lectures in the Foresters' cottages--Builds Holy Trinity Church (1817)--His assiduous labours and death in 1847--Christ Church, Berry Hill--Mr. Procter's death--His successors--Rev. H. Poole builds St. Paul's, Park End, and schoolrooms--Rev. J. J. Ebsworth--St. John's, Cinderford, consecrated 1844--Lydbrook Church consecrated 1851--Government aid to the churches and schools.

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