Forest of Dean Freeminers

For me, I suppose it’s the geology that makes the Forest of Dean unique. As an earth scientist, my interest is always fired by a knowledge of the strata underground and how that influences the surface relief. The Forest of Dean is mainly built of Carboniferous rocks, limestones, sandstones and of course coal seams. But there is also a historical context to coal and mining that makes the place even more interesting. I’m talking about the ancient rights of being a freeminer.

To become a registered freeminer in the Forest of Dean you need to

*  be a person born and living within the Hundred of St Briavels

*  be over the age of 21 years

*  have worked for a year and a day in a mine within the Hundred

A hundred was an Anglo Saxon subdivision of a county that held its own court.  Legend tells us that King Edward I granted the forest miners a Royal Charter in recognition of their services, particularly during his Scottish campaigns. Today the area covered by the Hundred of St. Briavels consists of the statutory Forest of Dean and each parish touching the Forest boundary.

There are many memorials throughout the area to the freeminers, notably a town sculpture in Cinderford and a Tom Denny stained glass window in Abenall church.

The initial visit of the planning module AD7604 yesterday to the Forest of Dean was blessed with dry, clear weather and the large group of students (50) obtained an excellent overview of the various landscapes making up the site: the undulating north near May Hill, the high plateau of Cinderford gradually descending to St Briavals in the south, then the flatter vale topography along the Severn estuary, and the central core forest of ancient oaks and much new planting of spruce and thuja. At Coleford district offices we also had an excellent presentation from Nigel Gibbons and Alistair Chapman on key issues on environmental and planning matters affecting our site.

Bob Moore 30th January 2020

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