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One of the town's attractive features is Lydney Harbour. In 1980, the lower and tidal basins and the connecting lock were classified as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the rest of the harbour area, which dates from the 1870's, is a rare and historically important example of an unspoilt 19th century harbour built for sailing ships. Both iron and coal were exported from the Forest, often on ships built using local oak.

Until Stuart times, quite large ships were constructed at Lydney, including the 306-ton, 22-gun frigate 'Forester' in 1657 and the 620-ton frigate 'Princess' in 1660. The town was the home of Sir William Wintour, Admiral of the Fleet of Queen Elizabeth I in 1588, and many of the ships who fought the Spanish Armada were built here.


Tolkien and Noden's Temple at Lydney - Did this ring and Dwarf's Hill inspire Tolkien?

In 1928 Sir Mortimer Wheeler and his wife Tessa, both eminent archaeologists, were commissioned to make a thorough examination of the Lydney Park site of Noden's Temple. Tolkien was later invited there in a professional capacity, being at that time Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, and stayed on a number of occasions in the Bathurst family's main house. He would, a couple of years later, contribute a chapter to the published report for the Society of Antiquaries on the origin and meaning of the name ‘Nodens’, the god to whom the temple complex is dedicated and of whom there is little other record.

The site of Dwarf’s Hill at Lydney Park was riddled with tunnels and open-cast iron mines known as ‘scowles’. The labyrinth of tunnels in the hillside and local legend naming it as a habitat of the 'little people' may have inspired the notion of hole-dwelling hobbits. There are close similarities with Tolkien's Hobbiton and The Shire, which are said to describe an idealised version of rural England. It certainly seems probable that Tolkien was inspired in some way by the folklore attached to the hill.

Coincidentally the Roman God Noden was known, amongst other things, as the Lord of the Mines, not a far cry from The Lord of the Rings.

From medieval times Lydney residents forgot it had been a Roman settlement and thought the crumbling ruins were the homes of little people, dwarves and hobgoblins and were afraid of that hill.Tolkien would have also probably visited Puzzlewood which was only a few miles away. There in 1848 workmen had moved a block of stone and uncovered three earthenware jars containing over 3000 Roman coins. That ancient site's unique geology with its scowls and caves is today regularly used by film crews and together with nearby Clearwell Caves has been the setting for scenes from Merlin, Harry Potter and Dr Who.

One of the artefacts found at the Lydney Park site in the early 1800s was a curse tablet, an invocation for revenge. It reads: “To the God Nodens. Silvanus has lost a ring. He has [vowed] half its value to Nodens. Amongst all who bear the name of Senicianus, refuse thou to grant health to exist, until he bring back the ring to the Temple of Nodens.”

It seems extraordinary, but what appears to be the same ring had in fact, already been found, but not at Lydney. It was dug up by a farmer in a ploughed field at Silchester, Hampshire, in 1785. Silchester is the site of the large and important Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum.

Now Senicianus had a new inscription written on it: ‘Seniciane vivas in deo’ (Senicianus, may you live in God). The ring's home these days is the Vyne Museum at Basingstoke and there seems very little chance of it being returned to Noden's Temple.

Like The One Ring in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, the Roman ring had gathered dust in a library for many years. It’s story now brought back to life, the 12g golden ring sits on display at The Vyne. The “Ring Room” also houses Tolkien memorabilia, and leaves the question as to whether the ancient ring might actually be the very one that inspired Tolkien.

Silvanus is probably spinning in his grave. And did that thieving devil Senicianus ever realise he would end up as Gollum?

See more about the Lydney Park temple






The Old Severn Railway Bridge

The Severn Railway Bridge crossed just north of Lydney from Purton to Sharpness. Opened on the 21st of July 1879, it was damaged beyond repair in 1960. On the 25th October 1960, in thick fog, the bridge was hit by two barges carrying petrol to Sharpness docks. The collision knocked down two piers that fell on the barge and 5 people were killed.

The Western Region of British Railways planned to reconstruct the bridge but after further damage in 1961, they considered it to be damaged beyond economic repair.

Drawing by Lydney's E J Rice from a 1903 photograph    

There was no need for a replacement after the report by Dr Beeching entitled 'The Reshaping of British Railways' was published in 1963. It included Sharpness in a list of passenger services to be withdrawn. Passenger services ceased there in November 1964 and goods facilities were withdrawn in January 1966 and the station buildings later demolished.

The Railway System in 1911

Trains to and from Lydney today

 

The Dean Forest Railway is a 4 1⁄4-mile (6.8 km) long heritage railway that runs between Lydney and Parkend in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

The route was part of the former Severn and Wye Railway which ran from Lydney to Cinderford.

The society that operates the line started steam locomotive operations in 1971, and bought the trackbed and line from British Rail in 1986. Reaching Both Lydney Junction and Parkend railway stations by 1995 and 2005 respectively.

Trains are operated by both steam and heritage diesel locomotives, and heritage diesel multiple units.

The Dean Forest railway has been given the former GWR signal box that stood slightly to the east of Codsall station in Staffordshire. Its removal was completed in July 2007, and is expected to be placed at the newly restored Whitecroft railway station.

CrossCountry are now providing a combined fare for travel to Lydney mainline station (on CrossCountry services only) and then onto the Dean Forest Railway.

The Dean Forest Railway plans to extend its heritage services a further 2 1⁄2 miles (4.0 km) through/into the middle of the Royal Forest at Speech House Road (close to the nearby Beechenhurst Visitor Attraction), bringing the line to a total of about 6 3⁄4 miles (10.9 km) in length. Wikipedia

See their web-site



Treasure Trove of Bronze Age Gold Bracelets Found at Woolaston.

What is believed to be six Bronze Age gold bracelets have been found by a metal detecting enthusiast from Fife in Scotland while on a November 2013 weekend rally organised by the Forest of Dean Metal Detecting Club in a field overlooking the Severn Vale. The bracelets may have belonged to a child who lived in, or visited the Forest of Dean area, around 700 BC.

Forty four year old Steve Moodie, who spends much of his time metal detecting around the beaches of Fife, discovered six 3,000-year-old pure gold children's bracelets just inches below a farmer's stubble field at Woolaston. He at first thought he had discovered a can but soon realised he had unearthed one of the biggest hauls of BronzeAge artefacts ever found anywhere in the country. Steve has been told the treasure trove could be valued at as much as six figures and the sum being split 50/50 with the landowner. The treasure is now in the hands of the British Museum for analysis and cleaning and that may take up to two years.

'Big Steve' had already made a significant discovery in Falkland eight years ago when finding a Bronze Age gold ring, now at the St Andrews Museum, and believed to be the first of its kind to be discovered in Scotland.

Around 140 people attended the weekend metal detecting rally which was sponsored by Lydney Rugby Club. Dave Warren of the Forest of Dean Metal Detecting Club said: “The rally went really well.The finds were amazing overall and not just the Bronze Age treasure. Over the weekend people found a silver hammer coin, a Bronze Age axe head, and a Roman broach and coins. The big discovery, the Bronze Age bracelet, is a very significant find for this area.”

Kurt Adams, a County finds liaison officer, was there to verify any of the findings.


The excavations of the Roman site at Park Farm, Lydney Mead, in the 1950s

When a sewerage trench, across Park Farm culvert from Aylburton, was being dug in the early 1950s, the debris from what appeared to be a Roman villa was discovered.
An exploratory dig in 1954, led by Dr. Charles Scott-Garrett
, uncovered the wall of a building. It had a flag-stone surround and was later revealed to be the northward wall of the small room in building 2.


Fitchet's 1987 illustration rotated to approximately north-south, and the site area shown from above.
A creek surrounds the northern section. The track running left to right is Mead Lane, Aylburton, opposite the present-day Taurus Centre. If our reading of this sketch is correct, the top unexcavated building lies across the lane.
 

Charles Scott-Garrett (1885-1972), at that time President of the Forest of Dean Local History Society, lived with his wife Gladys at Sandford House in Aylburton.
An experienced archaeologist, he had previously been involved in the uncovering of the Chesters villa site at Woolaston between 1932 and 1935.
On August 9th 1955, he and Gladys, with four other members of the Society, began a dig that would continue until 18th February 1960.
On that first day in 1955, Mr N.P Bridgewater proceeded to follow the already partly excavated wall of Building 2, while Dr. Scott-Garrett in another trench, found the eastern edge of a 2 feet six inches wide internal wall from a second larger building which he later named Building 1.

Maurice Fitchet's 1987 diagram rotated 90 degrees, with our added text.

Over the following four and a half years, four buildings were identified. None appeared to include the luxury of baths and decorated floors found at the Chesters site. Here the ground surfaces were mainly flagstones, with one coarse tessalated area. In 1960 he returned briefly to the site and completed the excavation of 120ft of a wall in the area of a probable fifth building. On Fitchet's diagram above, part of it is shown to the left of Room 1959.

Only the discovery of a couple of coins was recorded. One, found on 29th September 1955 14 inches below the turf, was identified as a Trajan from AD 103 and another from the reign of 4th century Constantine.

Building 1 is divided into ten rooms. One of the those, (H), included a possible stairway base. The whole building covered an area 75 feet by 43 feet.

Some of the floors had tesselated, or opus signinium surfaces (made of tiles broken up into very small pieces, and mixed with mortar), and others, flag-stones.

One room had a fire trench, but there is no evidence of a hypocaust system.

A broken quarter segment of a mill-stone was uncovered as part of the floor of the corridor.

 

Dr. Charles Scott-Garrett (1885-1972) was well known for his interest in Forest of Dean archaeology.

A Scotsman, born near Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, Charles played in an international rugby trial in 1909 and was also a prominent hockey player.

He came to the Forest to manage the manufacture of acetone, which was used in the manufacture of munitions, at the Speech House Road Distillation Works near Cannop, in 1914.

He married a Clifton clergyman's daughter, school-teacher Gladys Browne (1888-1960), at Bristol in 1916.

During the following years his work led him to travel extensively in England and much of Europe.

In 1919 he was awarded the MBE after being nominated by Winston Churchill.

Moving back to the Forest in 1930, he and Gladys settled at Sandford House, Aylburton.

In the years following, Charles became known in the archaeological world after discovering a complete fossil, about 10 feet in length, of an Ichthyosaurus, on the Severn shore at Awre.

A great friend of Frank Harris from Lydney, he partnered him during the excavation of the Roman Chesters Villa at Woolaston in the 1930s, and in later years, joined the Forest of Dean Local History Society, participating in their early 1950s digs at the Norman Camp in Littledean, and the Tidenham Chase Bronze-Age Barrow.

Dr. Charles Scott-Garrett became President of the Society in 1953.

He died at Ross-on-Wye in 1972.

 

The dimensions of Building 2 are 55 feet by 38 feet. It has a heavily flagged floor and some evidence of resurfacing. One section with a gully may have been the site of a latrine. The floor surface of the small room consists of flagstones set in concrete.

In the main room there is also a drainage trench entering at the centre of the south-facing wall. It runs parallel with the internal wall, and ends in a sump.

Building 3, which lays across Mead Lane, was not excavated. The trial trenches produced a number of finds and probable flagged flooring.

The fourth building, Room 1959, is an annex to Building 2. It has a flagged floor and evidence of a brazier hearth. Dr. Scott-Garrett believed that to be for a navigation beacon.

A wall, thought at the time to be of a fifth building, heads WSW from a point between Building 2 and Room 1959. It was excavated in late 1959 and early 1960 for about 120 feet as it heads west.

The large quantity of pottery and other finds suggest that what has so far been uncovered on this site may be only a small part of a large villa, or settlement, and possibly even a naval or military barracks complex.

At the end of his excavation notes Dr. Scott Garrett had copied an excerpt from M.P Charlesworth's 'The Lost Province' in which the possibility of a local Roman naval depot is discussed.

A late Roman fort at Caernarvon, down by the waterside (Caer Seiont), and Roman fortifications at Caer Gybi ( on Holyhead) suggest that a watch may have been kept there; in the south-west Carmarthen was certainly occupied during the fourth century, and a typical 'Saxon Shore' type of fort exists at Cardiff. 

On the south side of the Bristol Channel there appear to be two Roman signal-stations at Martinhoe and Old Burrow (to the west and east of Lynton), and these must have been intended to give warning to the inhabitants of Roman Somerset- a county thick-set with villae- and possibly across the Channel to Cardiff.

 It must be admitted that so far no signal-stations have been identified in West Wales, but they may still exist and await discovery, and there are slight indications of some inland in the counties of Montgomery, Radnor, and Brecon.

 But there is at least a probability that the government took precautions in the west as well as in the east, and it would be interesting if we could but learn what was the main base of the scouting-craft ( scajae exploratoriae), with camouflaged sails and rigging, that Vegetius mentions, and where lay the naval repair depot (reliquatio ), whose existence is revealed by an official who made a dedication at Lydney in Gloucestershire.

At the end of this text Dr. Scott-Garrett had written in capitals - OUR PARK FARM SITE!!

 

The dedication at Noden's Temple

Because of the missing text on the above dedication, Latin scholars could only guess at its full original inscription.

One translation interprets it as  “To the god Nodens, Titus Flavius Senilis, officer in charge of the supply depot of the fleet, laid this pavement out of money offerings; the work being in charge of Victorinus, interpreter on the Governor’s staff.”

 

In the Weald of south-east England stamped tiles of the Classis Britannica (the Fleet of the Britannia Province) have been found at sites associated with the production of iron.

The largest of these is at Beauport Park, near Battle, East Sussex, where more than 1000 tiles were used to roof a substantial bath house adjacent to a large iron smelting site. Other iron production sites where tiles have been found are at Bardown, near Wadhurst, Sussex, and Little Farningham Farm, near Cranbrook, Kent. Three other sites where tiles have been found had access to navigable water in Roman times, and two of them, at Bodiam, and at Boreham Bridge near Ninfield, both in Sussex have associated ironworkings. The implication is that the Britannia Roman Fleet not only transported iron but was involved in its production as well.  Wikipedia

 

It is quite obvious that here at Lydney is a site that cries out to be fully excavated using modern technology. It certainly appears to be the source of the wealth that later created Noden's Temple.

Sadly, Dr. Scott-Garrett's uncompleted work left many more questions than answers.



Greenwood's 1824 map shows the waterways around Lydney and Aylburton in 1824. Even at this time, a creek leading into Lydney Pill came quite close to the present day A48 at Aylburton. 

Until the Stuart period, quite large ships were constructed at Lydney, including the 306-ton, 22-gun frigate 'Forester' in 1657 and the 620-ton frigate 'Princess' in 1660.

The town was the home of Sir William Wintour, Admiral of the Fleet of Queen Elizabeth I in 1588. Many of the ships who fought the Spanish Armada were built here.

The one-mile canal was opened in 1813.  (map from TAB archives)


The waterway access to Aylburton and Lydney Park on Isaac Taylor's 1777 map.

 

In the early 19th century the Newerne stream, sometimes known as Cannop brook, or the Lyd, flowed down the centre of Newerne village and formed the head of the inlet called Lydney Pill.
Plummer's, or Nass brook, crossed the north-eastern part of the parish, reached the pill further south at a place called Cross Pill.
Park brook flowed down to Aylburton, had a branch running from that village across the fields to the ironworks called Lower Forge, north- west of the head of the pill.

 

 

Our OS map shows the area between Mead Lane and Stockwell Lane, Aylburton in 1924. It indicates 'traces of Roman paving' on the A48 in the Vine Hall area.

Apart from the Park Farm dig at Lydney Mead, there have been other local 'finds'.

A possible occupation site, with sherds of Roman pottery, was found near Darken Lane, Aylburton, by Dr. C. Scott-Garrett. It is approached by the hollow-way which leads up Stockwell Lane & Darken Lane.

Romano-British pottery was uncovered north of Mead Lane, near the southern edge of the road, during excavations immediately before the A48 Lydney bypass was built in 1992.

In 1999 a  large heavy base silver ring was recovered from the spoil heap of a Severn Trent trench outside 28 High Street, Aylburton. It was identified at Caerleon Museum as being C2 in date.

In 2004 a Roman cosmetic scoop, looped at the top, probably part of a set, and a C1/2 Roman 'dolphin' brooch, were found near Tump Farm.

 

Lydney's Norman Castle 

A tower keep castle situated on a hilltop, it was only 250 metres from the Romano-British temple.

During  Mortimer Wheeler's Roman excavations at Lydney Park in 1929, an earthwork at Little Camp Hill was trenched and found to contain the remains of a small stone-built castle.

The site, until that time, had been regarded locally as a small camp, associated with the larger Roman 'camp' at Noden's Temple. On Ordnance Survey maps it appeared under the name 'Outpost'.

With Lord Bledisloe's permission and encouragement, the

site was partially excavated in May and June of 1930 by the Australian archaeologist, Dermot Armstrong Casey F.S.A.

There is no documentary evidence for the date of the castle's construction, but Casey, considering the type and construction, dated it to between 1100 and 1189 AD.

From his plan it appears to be similar to that of Carisbrooke Castle, on the Isle of Wight, whose Norman stone walls were erected around the same period.

Although there is no direct record of the ownership of Lydney castle, in the Domesday Survey it is recorded that William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford, made a manor at Lydney.

The purpose of the castle, which appears to have been demolished in Medieval times, has not been ascertained. D A Casey suggests that it may originally have been built to protect the area's substantial iron trade.

A gate tower was found at the entrance and another tower at the south west angle of the castle walls. In the inner bailey, where the curtain wall joined the keep, a small annex had been added later, with an oven alongside. On the north side of the keep the masonry was standing to a height of nearly nine feet.

The oven was found to be roughly constructed of stones set in clay, and paved with Roman hypocaust-bricks, among which was a quantity of Roman tesserae. These bricks and tesserae were doubtless brought from the Roman Temple site on the adjoining hill.

This may indicate that a fair amount of the Castle's less specialised building materials were most probably obtained from the local Roman sites.

 

The keep measures 30ft by 23 ft 6 inches inside, and 57ft by 50ft at the base outside. The outer part of the wall at the south-west corner of the keep was 12ft thick.

The lower part of the curtain wall is battered on the outside west of the keep, the battered portion is standing to its full height above which the face is vertical and the wall is 7ft 10 inches thick.




Among the finds were, some pottery, a fairly large number of oyster shells, three keys, the head of a pike, shears, a miner's pick, horse-shoe nails, a lead plumb bob, a part of a whistle made from a bird bone, a piece of deer antler with saw marks, probably intended to be a knife handle, the remains of a number of animals, and two belt buckles.

The castle's 1930 excavator, Dermot Armstrong Casey (1897-1977), was born in South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia, and educated in England, at Eton and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.

His older brother, Baron Richard Gardiner Casey, was Governor General of Australia from 1965-69.

Commissioned in the Royal Horse Artillery in 1916, Dermot was sent to the Western Front.

He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in 1918 when directing the fire of his battery in the face of an enemy advance.

A member of the Fellowship of Antiquaries, from 1929 he assisted the well-known British archaeologist, Mortimer Wheeler, on sites in England, including the Roman excavations at St. Albans in 1933.

He again joined Mortimer Wheeler at Taxila, India (Pakistan) in 1944.

Back in Australia, Dermot was a founder of the Anthropological Society of Victoria, president in 1947 of the Royal Society of Victoria, and honorary ethnologist to the National Museum of Victoria for forty years.In the 1950s, he became a foundation member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

In his 1977 obituary, colleagues acknowledged Dermot's skill as an excavator and master of exposition, while appreciating his modesty, good humour and generosity.


Sources -

The notes of Dr. C. Scott-Garrett.

Archaeology in Dean by Cyril Hart.

The Archaeology and History of Ancient Dean and the Wye Valley by Bryan Walters.

The New Regard.

The Lost Province by M.P Charlesworth.

The Antiquaries Journal

T.A.B archives

Wikipedia

 





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