The Napoleonic Wars once more highlighted the need for a reserve of timber for the British Navy In London Lord Glenbervie became Surveyor General of the Office of Woods. He devised a scheme to plant 100,000 acres of oak for the Navy.
The largest portion of this. 11,000 acres, was to be in the Forest of Dean. Inclosures were laid out and stockproofed with over 100 miles of banks, ditches and fences. A new Act of Parliament was passed in 1808 to re-inforce the existing power to inclose.
Each acre was planted with 2,722 acorns pit-planted at four foot intervals. Every hundredth tree was a Sweet Chestnut. Nearly thirty million acorns, weighing about 150 tonnes, of Sessile Oak were used. The work took ten years. After 1820 the planting continued and by 1820 there were nearly 20,000 acres of young oak.
Oak takes a minimum of I00 years to produce good timber for shipbuilding. Like all forestry planners, Lord Glenbervie knew this and was laying down timber crops to be harvested long after his own lifetime. What he could not have known was that in the 1860s iron, and later steel, would replace oak for ship-building. His oak was redundant before it was half grown.
Although valueless for ship timber. Glenbervie's oak dominated the Forest well into this century. The best surviving examples are to be found above Beechenhurst Picnic Site and in Nagshead Inclosure at Parkend.
Forest coal has been mined since Roman times, but the industry was small before the eighteenth century. With the advent of steam engines it expanded rapidly.
The coalfield contained over a dozen workable seams, mostly good house and steam coals. After 1800, several large collieries developed. such as Lightmoor, New Fancy and Trafalgar. The last named was the first coal mine in the world to use electricity underground for power. These large pits had a life of between 50 and 100 years. the last to close being Lightmoor in 1940.
From 1900-20 the deepest and thickest coal seam was reached by a new generation of deep mines; Cannop, Eastern United, Northern United, Princess Royal and Waterloo. All passed to the National Coal Board in 1947. As exhaustion of reserves approached they were closed down between 1960 and 1965.
Right: A Forest pit: Flourmill Colliery near Bream. c. 1920.
Some Forest miners preferred to work their own small private collieries as Free Miners. Small mines worked seams near the surface, and are still to be found today hidden among trees.
The Museum coal mine level.
Forest colliers' tobacco boxes and clay pipes.
The museum's most recent display shows the nationally important collection of longcase clocks made by the Voyce family. These clocks. which date from 1719 to the end of the eighteenth century, are of very high quality. They were made by three generations of the Voyce family, all of whom lived and worked in Mitcheldean. The clocks are beautifully crafted with engraved dials, some of which show local scenes, and cases that were probably made by a local carpenter or undertaker. The exhibition includes a display of clock-maker's tools and tells some of the history of timekeeping. Working models and activities for children.
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