Gallery 2

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Steam Power & Transport 1800

The Lightmoor beam engineThe second gallery of the museum is reached by the steel stairway or via the ramp behind the mill. On entering, you will see the Lightmoor beam engine. It was built by Samuel Hewlett around 1830, in his iron foundry in the Soudley Valley. This stood just behind the mill building of the museum.

The engine worked for about a century, ending its life winding laden carts on the Lightmoor Colliery dirt tip. When the colliery closed in 1940 the engine was given to the National Museum of Wales where it remained until 1982. Since its return here, it has been expertly restored to steaming condition by Mr. Alec Pope of Cinderford.

The advent of the rotative beam engine enabled deep mining to thrive. A single engine could do the work of forty horses and wind as much from one shaft as horses did from three, and at much less cost. Beam engines also worked pumps to keep deep mines free from water. Steam engines entered Forest mining after 1780. Large amounts of Forest coal and iron-ore became accessible and deep mining flourished. The Free Miners lacked the capital needed to develop deep mines and very soon most large mines were owned by outsiders (`Foreigners') - while many Foresters became waged labourers.

The Forest roads at this time were impassable in winter and unsuited to heavy mineral traffic. To carry this new traffic, a system of horse-drawn tramroads was built by three companies. Two of them, the Severn & Wye Co. and the Forest of Dean Railway Co., ran to purpose-built ports on the Severn at Lydney and Bullo Pill. The third company served the town of Monmouth.

The tramroad network was complete by 1812. In later years, some of the main lines were converted to steam drawn railways, but many branches continued to work. Some were long lived; Wimbery Slade until the 1930s and Bixslade to 1947.

Steam-powered deep mines and tramroad systems put new pressure on the woodlands. They required space in the woods to operate and drew in large numbers of people to work them. To find out what happened, enter Gallery 3 in the old mill building from the tramroad display.


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