Cleeve Orchard Cider..
Artisan maker of Little Owl cider from the last orchard in Ross on Wye
Gallery 54 - Ross on..
Contemporary abstract art, ceramics and glassware
Freeeminers of the Forest of Dean

For 700 years the Free Miners of the Royal Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, have mined coal but now their future is in doubt. It was the skill of their forefathers in tunnelling under castle fortifications that earned them the right, by Royal decree, to mine anywhere in the forest without hindrance.
Robin Morgan, aged 62, works one of only two full-time mines remaining. Robin has been a miner since the age of 15 and was down a mine helping his father at 14. Robin is now helped by his son Neil, aged 40, who became a free miner after losing his factory job. Six days a week they travel underground, at the Phoenix Mine, which dates back to 1821, to cut out coal for the domestic market. They still use pick and shovel to tunnel to the coal face and the mine is little changed from its Victorian origins.

The coal face is narrow and the miners must work lying on their stomachs. Clay above the coal becomes waterlogged from the forest above and covers the miners in a grey film. The sheer weight of the clay is supported on pit props cut from the forest timber. Coal is loaded into the carts by shovel and each cart, weighing half a ton, is winched from the coal face and then pushed out of the mine by hand. In the past pit ponies and even children were used to pull the carts to the surface.

Like all free miners Robin and Neil were born in the Hundred of St Briavels and worked a year and a day underground to claim thier birthright. However the future of the free mining tradition looks set to die out with the closure of the nearby hospital, meaning newborn boys are born outside the forest, and with the high cost of insurance for miners it is no longer possible for a mine to employ men. In its heyday in 1849 there were more men underground than above in the forest.Today there are around a few hundred free miners surviving, only a handful now cut coal and while there are large seams of coal under the forest few men would want to work such a hard way of life unchanged by time and technology.
Robin says that the working day is not measured by time but by distance and weight. Free miners are proud of their birthright and it would be a sad day if the centuries old tradition was not carried on by future generations.

More Local History
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Catherine Drew - The..
Catherine Drew - renowned as the Forest Poetess, wrote many poems about the Forest, some of which were published in a, still hard to find, limited edition book.
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The ancient industry of charcoal burning, produced industrially in the area from the 1800's, crucial to the Forest of Dean, and of national importance in iron production for many hundreds of years.
An introduction to the Churches in the Forest by the local history society.
Dennis Potter
A brief introduction to Potter's life in the Forest of Dean. The critically acclaimed playwright was born in May 1935, at Joyford Hill, Berry Hill, Coleford, - the eldest son of a Forest coal miner.
Foresters Rights
Details of the ancient rights of the Foresters, from keeping sheep and pigs in the Forest through to Forest Freemining.
Freeeminers of the F..
Introduction to the Freeminers, story and photos by Mark Campbell. For 700 years the Free Miners of the Royal Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, have mined coal but now their future is in doubt.
Ivor Gurney
Famous Forester - 1890 to 1937, renowned poet of the first world war, lived in a house near Minsterworth. Along with Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Isaac Rosenburg, he portrayed t..
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Local History Societ..
Founded in 1948, with over 300 members world wide. The primary aim of the Society is to encourage local historical and archaeological research in the Forest of Dean and its environs.
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The Romans
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Tudors and Stuarts
The Tudor and Stewart period in Forest history was a time when iron was being produced locally in large amounts, possibly one sixth of the production of the Kingdom was coming from the Forest of Dean.
Wartime Memories
The Lydney Evacuees 1939 by Stan Tarrant. There is little doubt that the evacuation of children prior to the war in 1939 was a heart-rending experience both for parents and the children.
Winifred Foley
Winifred - a life-long resident of the Forest who wrote an important autobiographical account of her life, part of our famous people from the Forest of Dean series.