A Goodly Heritage
Bilson Schools
Rosemary & Rue

E. M. O. 2004  


Bilson Schools

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

The Forest of Dean  
Living History
Using local slides, photographs and reminiscences.

There's Nothing Like Education.

Chapter 1

Mistress to Housemaid ...

"Do you know Lizzie that I can actually write my name in the dust on this table?" "Cor! That's more'n I can do Mum. There's nothin' like Education after all!"
(with apologies to "Punch")

Two hundred years ago, Cinderford as a town hardly existed. The western facing slope of the Old Red Sandstone escarpment above Littledean was an area of rough open common land, known as Littledean Woodside or Woodside Gate. Free roaming sheep and horses cropped the meagre turf, and gorse and brambles abounded. Here and there were dotted the small stone cottages which had originated during the 17th and 18th centuries as squatters' dwellings - simple four roomed homes, the ground floor being paved with stone flags and the staircase too, usually of stone.

A lean-to building at the rear was the "back-kitchen" where the weekly wash was done and the tin bath stored between times. The gardens were large, and, as everywhere in the Forest of Dean, well cultivated and with a stone pig-sty - in these stringent days the pig in its sty and a garden well stocked with vegetables were often all that kept a miner's family from starvation.

At the bottom of the garden too, was the stone "privy", with a scrubbed wooden seat built high over the smelly depths. Ivy was frequently encouraged to grow over this little house - probably in the vain hope of beautifying it!

A Roman road ran from Coleford to Littledean along the line of the Speech House Hill, and this road "forded" the brook which ran down the valley bottom near Cinderford Bridge. Since iron had been mined and smelted in the Forest since before the days of the Romans, it may well have been that iron slag or "cinders" were present near this ford.

certainly vast quantities of the molten slag were tipped here during the hey-day of the Cinderford Ironworks. However, SINDERFORD appeared in the earliest perambulation of the Forest around 1228, when the boundaries of Abbotswood were defined as from "Ardland unto the ford of Sinderford and by the left to the ford of Suthleg(Soudley)".. and so on. Since the site of Ardland is almost certainly the present St. Whites farm, these boundaries coincide almost exactly with the present day Abbotswood.

Soon after this, during the reign of Edward I "a riding Forester of the Earl of Warwick killed a roe in Synderford Moor and hid the venison under the bed of Stephen the Miller of Synderford "In other places in England "Synder" is thought to derive from the Old English "sunder" meaning "far distant". So it may have been the "distant ford" rather than the "ford of the cinders".

Again, in 1282 a Richard de Marche was fined two shillings for "making charcoal in EYWODE without a warrant, "and had to pay two shillings and five pence, the value of the charcoal. In the same year a Forester of Fee had "wasted the Kings Wood of EYWOOD where 338 stumps of oak were found ". He, no doubt, lost his job, if not his skin!

But, by and large, in 1778 only a few miners' cottages were scattered along the Wood Side, most of the men working in the Forest returning each night to their homes in the small settlements around its perimeter. An ancient footway was partially preserved in a lane leading amongst the cottages.

It was called by the inhabitants "the Causeway" since it was partly paved; this is the present Causeway, leading into Heywood Road, across the centre of Cinderford to Packers Road (probably originally Packhorse Road). From here the lane most likely wound back via Meendhurst and Stockwell Green (marked on Cary's Map of Gloucestershire 1787) to rejoin the Roman way below St. Whites Farm.

Latimer Lodge was undoubtedly in existence then, since it marks one of the six walks into which the Forest of Dean was divided in 1661. Each walk was named after a famous personage of the day, and was provided with a lodge for the Keeper. By 1788 there were 53 cottages of squatters in Latimer Walk, and it is undoubtedly these early encroachments which were the beginnings of our town as we know it today.

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