The Forest of Dean was one of the smaller coalfields in the British Isles and lay under a covering of woodland making the collieries and small coal working in the area some of the most picturesque in the country. The Forest of Dean also has its own unique mining traditions with the rights to win the coal vested in a group of men known as 'Free Miners'. Details of these rights will be found on a separate page within this site.
It was not until the early 1800s that exploitation of the coal took place to any great degree and from the 1830s onwards a number of large collieries developed for the extraction of housecoal from the upper coal measures. These were mainly in the Cinderford area and the town expanded as a result of the growth of these collieries. After 1904 several collieries were commenced to win coal from the deeper coal seams and it was two of these that survived until 1965 when the last deep mines in Dean closed down. Coal extraction still continues in the Forest with several Free Mines working echoing the past and going back to the traditions of the 1700s.
One of the larger Free Mines, Hopewell Colliery, is open today as a museum where visitors may take a trip underground.
It is the intention of this site to disseminate as much information as possible on the Forest of Dean coalfield. The information contained within is a result of some twenty-years research work. Most of the material comes from the files of the Office of Woods held at the Gloucestershire Record Office with additions from the Mining Journal and the local Forest of Dean newspapers. As new material comes to light it will be added into the records.
If any readers have information that they would like to share please contact the webmaster.
I shall also be adding photographs to as many of the gales as possible and as time permits. Also ongoing is a names index of personal names within the records.
Ian Pope, June 2006