The villages’ history is closely linked to the use of the land. Forestry, quarrying and mining have provided employment here for thousands of years, and until very recently the growth of the villages depended on the success of those industries.
There were coal and iron mines at Sling and Ellwood, and quarries existed all over the area. Clay was extracted for local brickworks.
Most of the stone cottages in the area date from the 19th century.
For more information about the history of the area we recommend a visit to the Dean Heritage Centre
The Forest of Dean Local History Society is very active, arranges meetings throughout the year and publishes an annual journal, the New Regard.
Specialist books on the history of the Forest of Dean can be found at Past & Present Books, Meadowside, Five Acres, Coleford, GL16 7QN. Phone 01594 833347.
Below is an extract from the Victoria County History: A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 5: Bledisloe Hundred, St. Briavels Hundred, The Forest of Dean which is available at www.british-history.ac.uk
Further west at Clements End, near the south-western boundary of the Forest, there were several groups of scattered cottages by 1787. One group, in the areas known in the 1820s as Clements Tump and Cleverend Green, comprised six cottages in 1834 and was represented by the 16 houses recorded at ‘Elwall in 1851. It included a nonconformist chapel from 1869.
To the north-west there were ten cottages on Clements End green in 1834 and among later buildings there was the Montague Inn.
By 1787 there were also a few dwellings north-east of Clements End at Little Drybrook, in a secluded valley below an old farmhouse (later Ellwood Lodge) in an adjoining detached part of Newland. The hamlet comprised six cottages in 1834, among them a two-storeyed dwelling dated 1805 with the initials of William Taylor, a quarry owner, and his wife Hannah.
Building had also begun in the Marsh Lane area, to the north-west, by 1787. There 11 cottages were scattered along the lane, which ran northwards to Ellwood, in 1834 and a few more were erected later in the century.
Some early building was done at Ellwood within the detached part of Newland and there were also 11 cottages on extraparochial land to the north and north-east by 1782. A few were at Dark Hill and Fetter Hill. Ellwood, where a nonconformist chapel was built in 1841 and a school in 1878, had 20 houses, 7 of them within Newland, in 1851. Later houses included one provided by the Crown in the 1900s, and in the mid and later 20th century the hamlet grew with the addition of several new houses and bungalows, among them four council houses in 1968.
The areas north and west of Ellwood have been much disturbed by mining and quarrying and have remained sparsely settled. One cottage among quarries at Dark Hill was known in 1837 as the Vine Tree.
At Fetter Hill, where there were a few cottages near the Coleford-Parkend road in 1834, several new houses were built in the 19th and 20th centuries, and some of the early cottages had been demolished by 1960. A few houses were built further along the Parkend road in the mid 19th century.
In 1752 there were several dwellings on Clearwell Meend, on the Forest boundary east of Clearwell in Newland, and in 1782 there were 23 cottages scattered over a wide area extending to Clements End green and Marsh Lane.
The remains of a cross known in the later 17th century as Gattle’s cross stood east of the Lydney-Coleford road in 1992. On the south side of Clearwell Meend at Clay Lane End, where the hamlet called Sling developed in the 20th century, the area east of the Lydney-Coleford road contained an ancient farmstead just within Newland parish and a few scattered cottages in 1834, and there was a tollhouse west of the road. Two of the cottages, in the fork of a road to Parkend, were later occupied by a beerhouse called the Miners’ Arms.
Several more cottages were built before the 1920s when the growth of Sling, named from a local mine, began around crossroads formed by routes from St. Briavels to Parkend and from Bream’s Eaves to Coleford. Four pairs of council houses were built on the Coleford road in 1923 and a few more council houses were completed in 1931.
Later, engineering works were established north of the hamlet, which grew considerably after the Second World War with the building of large numbers of council and private houses and bungalows. Many of the new houses, including an estate formed in the late 1980s, were on the road to Bream’s Eaves, along which the hamlet extended south-eastwards to Clements End in 1992.
If you would like to learn more, these books are readily available in local libraries and from booksellers:
A Child in the Forest by Winifred Foley
Where I belong by Joyce Latham
The Forest in Old Photographs (and other books) by Humphrey Phelps
The Archaeology/History of Ancient Dean and the Wye Valley by Bryan Walters
The books written by the late Cyril Hart, including:
The Industrial History of Dean
The Verderers and Forest Laws of Dean
Between Severn and Wye in the Year 1000
These books on the iron industry in the Forest:
Nicholl’s Forest of Dean and Iron Making in the Olden Times by H.G. Nicholls
The Iron Industry of the Forest of Dean by John Meredith
and for those interested in the Forest railways:
The Great Western Railway in Dean and
The Severn and Wye Railway by H.W.Paar