Nestled between the Wye Valley, Vale of Leadon and the Severn Valley the Forest of Dean is one of England’s oldest surviving woodlands. The inspiration for many artists and writers, including JK Rowling, JRR Tolkein and the dramatist Dennis Potter, it is a magical place. Long revered for its wildlife, landscape, history and Royal patronage the Forest of Dean also boasts a proud mining and mineral heritage.
‘There is little to record concerning the early history of the Forest of Dean Quarries, but appearances would lead to the belief that they are of great antiquity. There is evidence that some of the Quarries were worked by the Romans…’
Extraction from United Stone Firms publication. Republished 2012 (Forest of Dean Stone Firms Ltd)
Barnill Quarry sits at the head of Bixslade, close to Broadwell village. Our office and production plant, Bixslade Stoneworks is around a mile away, next to Cannop Ponds. The man-made ponds were built in 1825 and 1829 to create a head of water to drive a wheel at the ironworks at Parkend. Today we use the Ponds to power our micro hydro turbine generating electricity for our works.
Facts about the Forest of Dean
- Designated as a national forest park in 1938
- Although no longer a Royal Forest, the Forest of Dean is still largely in public ownership and is managed by the Forestry Commission
- Forest of Dean red ochre is believed to be the famous ‘Terra Rossa d’Inghilterra – English Red Earth – prized by Italian Renaissance painters
- The existence of coal and iron ore, together with charcoal from the Forest for smelting, stimulated early industrial development in the area
- Minerals have been explored, extracted and exported since Roman times
- Rights established by Edward 1 in fourteenth century entitle any male born within the Hundred of St. Briavels, aged 21 or more, and who has worked a year and a day in a quarry, coal mine or iron mine to be duly registered as a Freeminer
- Coal mining was one of the area’s main industries until 1955; the last major colliery closed in 1965. Today a handful of Freeminers continue to work the seams
- While today we lease the quarry from the Forestry Commission acting on behalf of the Crown, the Forest of Dean has a rich history associated with mineral extraction. Historically quarries within the Forest were leased from the Crown on a fixed annual rental
- In seventeenth century oak timber from the Forest was an important addition to the nations’ shipbuilding industry
- The Speech House – just one mile from our stoneworks – was originally built in 1682 to host the Court of Mine Law and ‘Court of the Speech’
Information courtesy of The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism Association.