Home People of Coleford James Teague


Born at Ruardean in 1750 James Teague became a very important figure in Forest history. He married Hannah Blanch of the same village there when he was twenty-four. They both came from mining families and neither could read or write.

In the early 1780's James, his wife, and their family moved to Berry Hill on the outskirts of Coleford. Having work in several pits, by 1788 (according to the earliest records of ownership) he owned Cross Knave Pit and before long was owner or part owner of several others, employing other freeminers to work them. During this time James became a Baptist and was involved in organising funds to build a church in Coleford.

Around this time "foreigners" with money to invest were beginning to move into the area and Coleford had a population of about 1400. James realised the importance of working with these men and soon made a profit out of doing so.

By this time he and his family had moved to Whitecliff, Coleford and rented Upper Whitecliff Farm which consisted of eight fields and measured 47 acres. His wife Hannah died in 1790 shortly after the birth of their daughter Hannah.

He married Mary Birt in October 1791. Mary was the daughter of John and Sarah Birt of Newland Parish. James was forty-one and Mary was twenty-two. His mining interests by this time included iron as well as coal. In 1797/98 he purchased a large house near the centre of the town (now known as Caragh House) for about £400. Mary died in the Spring of 1798 at the age of twenty-nine and was buried in Newland churchyard. Just before Christmas 1798 he married Mary's younger sister Sarah.

Sarah was nineteen and James was now forty-eight. The Birt family insisted on a good financial settlement for their daughter as they envisaged she would outlive her husband. Sarah was not a Baptist but a Calvinist-Methodist and worshipped at the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion in Newland Street.

In the meantime James was co-operating with John and George Bishton, William Phillips, Samuel Botham (father of the poet and author Mary Howitt), and later Thomas Halford and David Mushet. He was deeply involved with the Whitecliff Ironworks, which were built at the south end of Upper Whitecliff Farm and he supervised its day to day running. By 1806, a second furnace had been built and the remains are still standing today. He also became involved in a paint works close by. It is believed that the materials used for this were ocres from the local iron mines. It is recorded that the government of the day actually became a big customer of this business. It appears that James sold his shares in both of these ventures in 1809 but still retained an interest in them as they are mentioned in his will. He continued an association with David Mushet and Thomas Halford selling gales to them, which he had taken out as a freeminer.

James was responsible for building the first tramroad in Gloucestershire in 1795. By the end of the century he had constructed a second tramroad all the way from Perch Inclosure to the River Wye at Lydbrook.

In about 1817 James bought another property, Whitecliff House, which still stands a little way out of the town. James was by this time suffering poor health and he died toward the end of 1818.

James was survived by Enoch, James, Peter, Mary and Hannah by his marriage to Hannah Blanch and by Moses and Isaiah by his marriage to Mary Birt. There were no children from the third marriage. Peter and Moses each played an important part in the development of industry in the Forest of Dean. James (junior), on the other hand, maintained only sufficient interest in business to provide for a more leisurely and artistic life style and became involved with local charities and church affairs.

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