James (1792–1841) was a miners' leader
in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire,
England, who led the Foresters to action
against the Crown, in 1831.
father, also Warren James (1751–1809),
married Ann Kear (1755–1836) in 1777. At
first they lived in a rented cottage in
Bream, but in 1782 they moved to an
encroachment cottage, which they had
built on land between Parkend and
dated 1787 shows the family house as
being on the southern edge of Parkend,
and describes it as a 'Turf' cottage,
built on encroached land, and valued by
the Crown at 15 shillings per year.
James (the younger) was born in July
1792, and was baptised at Bream Chapel
on 29 July 1792. He was the fourth son,
and sixth born, of nine children. The
younger James appears to have had no
formal education, although later
documents show that he could read and
write as an adult. Along with his six
brothers, he followed his father to
became a miner at an early age.
known of his family life, though the
family were undoubtedly impoverished.
Encroachment cottages were single
storey, built of loose stones and
covered with turf. They had no windows,
only a low door, a crude fireplace with
chimney, and a floor paved with stones.
Life must have been very hard for a
large family living in such conditions;
and all the time, hanging over them, was
the threat that the Crown could destroy
their home and remove them from the
to happen in 1813, when the house was
demolished and the land it was on
replanted with trees. Now aged 20 or 21,
James moved with his mother to Bream. He
photographs of James exist, but the
following description of him, aged
around 40, is given on a prison
document: Height - 5feet 3 inches.
Complexion - dark. Head - round.
Hair/Whiskers - black to grey. Visage -
oval. Forehead - long, sloping back.
Eyebrows - brown. Eyes - hazel. Nose -
sharp. Mouth - large. Chin - medium.
Remarks - stout. Although conjecture, he
may also have looked young for his age,
as the same document describes him as
being 30 on arrival in Tasmania, when he
was in fact 40.
of Dean is home to tremendous natural
resources; primarily timber, coal and
iron ore. These had been exploited on a
small scale since before Roman times,
but the possibilities of large scale
extraction had not escaped the attention
of the Crown. Free-mining rights had
been granted to foresters at least as
far back as 1244, but there had been a
long tradition of disputes between the
Crown and Foresters over these rights.
the Earl of Pembroke attempted to
enclose extensive areas of forest. In an
effort to preserve their rights, the
Foresters took him to the Exchequer
Court and won. There had also been
previous riots, such as those which took
place in 1631 when Sir Giles Mompesson
built three new coal mines.
Industrial Revolution began to take
hold, the Crown became more determined
than ever to introduce the free market
into the forest, and with it the right
of outside industrialists to own land
and mineral rights.
by outlawing the Mine Law Court in 1777,
and physically destroying the Mine Law
documents; which constituted the laws by
which the forest miners governed
after, outside industrialists began
opening large iron and coal mines. The
Free Miners found it difficult to
compete with these and often ended up
working as a wage labourer for one of
the new owners.
Parliament passed the Dean Forest
(Timber) Act in response to a severe
shortage of naval timber. The act
included the provision to enclose 11,000
acres (4,452 ha) and responsibility for
its execution fell to a young, newly
appointed, deputy surveyor named Edward
Machen. He established his office at
Whitemead Park, in Parkend, and in 1814
he enclosed and replanted Nagshead, the
main woodland of Parkend.
all 11,000 acres (45 km2) had been
enclosed. Ordinary foresters were
already poverty stricken, but now their
plight had grown worse; They were denied
access to the enclosed areas and so were
unable to hunt in them or remove timber.
In particular, they lost their ancient
grazing and mining rights.
growing, but at first there was no
organised resistance as the foresters
had been told that the fences would be
removed after 20 years; once the oaks
were mature enough to withstand grazing.
and 1829, the Foresters petitioned to
have the fences removed, but were turned
down. In 1830 the 'Committee of Free
Miners' chose Warren James to petition
the Chief Commissioner and others in
from James, opposing the commission's
parliamentary bill, was presented to the
House of Commons on 11 June 1830, but
foundered.After further efforts to have
the fences removed failed, James finally
called the Free Miners to action. A
notice, dated 3 June 1831, was
distributed and instructed Free Miners
to meet on the following Wednesday "for
the purpose of opening the Forest".
Machen knew each other well, as both
were regular churchgoers at Parkend. On
Sunday 4 June they held a public meeting
outside the church gates in Parkend. It
was a final attempt to resolve the
matter peaceably, but they could agree
on nothing. The date given on the notice
is "Meet on Wednesday next the 7th
instant for the purpose of Opening the
Forest...." Wednesday was in fact the
8th, but the wording may only be
confusing in the context of modern-day
interpretation. In any case, it was on
the 8th that they met.
confronted James at Park Hill enclosure,
between Parkend and Bream, but James,
who was leading a group of over 100
foresters, proceeded to demolish the
fences there. Machen, and about 50
unarmed Crown Officers, were powerless
to intervene. He returned to Parkend and
sent for troops.