The Bath Archaeological Society braved the unusual heat to visit many important sites in the Forest of Dean. These sites showed the richness of industrial archaeology in The Forest.
The tour stopped at Dark Hill – an early 19th century ironworks site — near Coleford. Dark Hill was once owned by metallurgists David and Robert Mushet, the Forest of Dean’s unsung heroes. Their ground-breaking work perfected what is now known as the “Bessemer process”, which helped develop self-hardening steel, so useful for prolonging the life of rails on the new railways.Had their business skills been as good as their scientific skills, students would today learn about the “Mushet-Bessemer Process”!An intrepid group of walkers braved the August downpours to complete a circular walk from Chepstow, covering Lancaut Nature Reserve over the border Along the same theme, the group visited Noxon Park to examine the ‘scowles’ (surface depressions) and underground cavities and passages. These were mined for iron ore from Roman times until the early 20th century. David Mushet himself worked an iron mine here for a time.
The guides also introduced the group to Forest’s coal mining history by visiting one of the few remaining mines operated by Freeminers – those who are granted to right to mine independently if they fulfil a number of criteria. The mine is known as Monument Mine as it stands next to a very poignant monument commemorating the 1902 Union Colliery disaster where a number of young miners were drowned.
The tour group was shown just how extensive coal mining and iron mining were in the Forest of Dean when they visited the Geomap – a representation in multi-coloured stone of the hundreds of mines and quarries in the Forest of Dean. Not surprisingly the Geomap is located at a former colliery site, New Fancy which is now a favourite place for picnickers and bird-watchers.
The group had lunch at the elegant 17th century hotel/restaurant Speech House. They were shown were the Verderers meet. The Verderers were established in the 13th century to take administer the laws protecting the monarch’s flora and fauna. Although their powers are much curtailed now, the Verderers still meet regularly and are an influential lobbying force in the Forest of Dean.
The members of the Society enjoyed the day. Their former president, the well-known archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who led the dig at Lydney Park in 1929 would have found much to appreciate in the present day Forest of Dean.