The Forest of Dean has a lot of hidden archeology. From Roman times, possibly earlier, iron has been mined here and worked with charcoal from the forest.
The place names give clues as to its importance: you find such names as
Clifford's Mesne. Mesne being a word which apparently evolved into mine. There is more on Mesne in the glossary. Another form of the word is Meend so you find:
- Allaston Meend
SO 641 052
- Bream's Meend
SO 597 061
- Clearwell Meend
SO 581 086
- Coleford Meend
SO 588 129
- Eastbach Meend
SO 598 144
- Gorsty Meend
SO 609 051
- Micheldean Meend
SO 655 184
- Meend Farm
SO 621 172
- Meend Plantation
SO 597 033
- Merring Meend
SO 659 168
Then there are Delves - places where coal was at the surface and was simply dug out by the bucket load! For instance:
- The Delves
SO 648 195
- The Delves
SO 633 153
The Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology has an index to the GSIA journal with links to many interesting articles which are reproduced.
Wikipedia's entry on the Forest makes interesting reading.
Sungreen - a collection of old photographs of the forest includes much of archaeological interest.
Tony Oldham's Page of Books has a list of mines with map references.
- Coal mines
- The Forest of Dean has, at its centre, a coal measure: coal has been mined here for centuries. A separate page list some of the many coal mines and pits in the Forest of Dean.
- Iron mines
- The carboniferous limestone stratum surrounding and underlying the coal measures contains many pockets of iron ore which have been mined since prehistoric times. Green Bottom pumping station was built to use the water from one old flooded mine to supply Cinderford.
- Buckshaft Iron mine, Ruspidge
- China Engine
- Clearwell caves
- Edgehills. This, Shakemantle and Perseverance mines are mentioned in a Mine and Quarry Engineering reprint from 1944 entitled British Iron Ore and Ironstone
- Findall Iron Mine, Soudley
- New Dun mine.
- Old Sling
- Puzzle Wood is the remains of an old iron mine, probably dating back to the iron age, though its exact dating seems to be unknown. There are many other iron mine traces in the area.
- Robin Hood
- St. Annals Iron Mine
- Westbury Brook Iron Mine
SO SO 662 166
is within an easy walk of Green Bottom. Now it's an important bat roost so is an SSSI English Nature's pdf
and a caving experience!
- Iron works, Furnaces and foundries
- Iron mines plus coal equal smelting! So there are various furnaces and foundries in the Forest. There's Foundry wood, Old Furnace Bottom (near Blakeney).
- Cinderford Coke Iron Furnace
- Darkhill Ironworks and Brickworks. Near Coleford.
SO SO 590 092
- Whitecliff Iron works (near Coleford) The remains of a furnace still exist. Link is to a GSIA article.
- Flaxley: a furnace, within easy walking distance of Green Bottom.
- Newent Furnace - GSIA article
- Titanic Steelworks
- Slag heaps
- Because of the mining, there are a large number of slag heaps within the Forest of Dean. Most notable is New Fancy, now turned into a picnic site and view point. At New Fancy is a geological map of the Forest. Others are used for such pursuits as bmx biking.
- There are lots of quarries in the Forest. They are of course of variable size and interest! A few of the notable ones will be listed:
- Edgehills Quarry
SO SO 660 167
This quarry is in easy reach of Green Bottom. It is an SSSI English Nature's pdf of geological and palaeontological interest.
- The Forest of Dean is full of old railway lines and tram lines, some of which were quite major through routes. Others merely served collieries and their spoil heaps. Many of these railways are now cycle tracks, bridle or foot paths. The Dean Forest Railway uses part of one otherwise disused track. There is a site on the Railways of the Forest of Dean
Cassini Maps can supply a reprint of the first Ordnance Survey map for the area (their Old Series), dating from 1828-1831. In those days. proper roads did not exist: there were poorly surfaced tracks for horse and carts. It is noticeable that a network of railway tracks exist around and through the Forest of Dean, with many side branches. These are shown long before the main line railways were built and were necessary to aid the haulage of heavy coal and iron ore from pit to furnace and factory and from these to the docks at Lydney. Many of these tracks still exist as modern paths (many for cycling) in the forest.
This track starts at the River Severn, at Lydney Lock : this section is now Harbour Road up to Lydney junction. The next section is now the Forest of Dean Railway as far as Parkend. From Parkend up the Cannop Valley it's become a cycle track, as far as New Beechenhurst enclosure. The modern cycle path runs along a later railway line: the very early one continued around the contour of the valley before running east just after Mirystock bridge, through the Delves (old coal mines) and then south near Ruardean Walk and so through Cinderford (which barely existed, except as an Iron Works) and south through Ruspidge and Soudley valley to Forge Grove.
I have these maps and am working on mapping the old railway lines so if the subject interests you, by all means use the contact button.
- The east side of the Forest abounds with the remains of old mills. The Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology has a reprint of an article on the Mill Sites on the Longhope, Flaxley and Westbury Streams
- Water engineering
- The flooded mine at Green Bottom near Cinderford was used as a source of water for Cinderford.
The geology of the Forest of Dean is essentially an upturned, eroded basin, with high rain fall. Within the basin are the coal and iron strata and around the edge the basin is a ring calcareous rocks. The impermeable layers are also broken by faults in places so that the acid water from within the basin tends to drain down through the calcareous ring, leading to swallows and sink holes. This caused many of the deeper mines to fill with water which required much pumping out. In consequence many of the streams have been lined with clay, stone, concrete or other impermeable material to reduce the mine flooding.
- Roman remains
- Although the Forest of Dean is full of industrial archaeology, it is apparently low (compared with the rest of Gloucestershire) in prehistoric, Roman and medieval archaeology. Quite possibly this is because the area is difficult to research, being a forest so not amenable to aerial photography and because of the heavy mining and industry since Roman times obliterating Roman archeology.
There is a page on Caerwent / Venta Silurum Roman town, with photos.
- Other remains
- Welshbury Hill Fort.
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Document URI: www.torrens.org/fod/Archeology/archeology.html
Page first published: 6th July 2009
Last modified: Wed, 29 Nov 2017 16:31:11 GMT
Written by and © Richard Torrens.