The Forest of Dean.

Bygone Days

Bygone Days

1889 - The Village that took the blame.

On April 26th, or April 29th, as some accounts have it, in 1889, four Frenchmen, Gabriel Yas, Gabriel Huguet, Thomas Sirgent, and Alfred Gerand arrived in Cinderford with two black Russian performing bears. They exhibited the bears, much to the amusement of the local inhabitants, until 3pm when they left to travel, via Steam Mills, Nailbridge, and Ruardean to Lydbrook. Children who followed them were joined en route by men who had been drinking the Engine Inn at Steam Mills and The Old Inn (possibly the then Bridge Inn, Nailbridge). Tradition has it that some customers of The Jovial Colliers Inn, Lower Morse Road, also joined in.

Somewhere in the vicinity of Nailbridge, a rumour broke out that the bears had killed a young girl and badly mauled a woman in Cinderford. The amused crowd then quickly turned into a violent angry mob. Stones were thrown at the Frenchmen and their animals, who, sensing the danger, fled up the Morse Road towards Ruardean. They were constantly beaten and stoned as they scrambled up the road.

As they approached Ruardean, the frightened and tormented bears broke free of their chains and the larger animal threatened to attack its tormentors.

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