Your Forest of Dean Local History


Blakeney School was built in 1865
Local History 
Dean Mining & Railways 
Warren James & the Riots 
Celts & Romans 
Who Killed the Bears? 
St. Anthony's Well 
Forest of Dean Witchcraft 
Local War Heroes 

Some  Blakeney & Awre History

BLAKENEY, a chapelry in Awre parish, Gloucester; on the W side of the Severn, and on the South Wales railway, near Gatcombe station, and 3½ miles S by W of Newnham. It has a post office ‡ under Newnham, and fairs on 12 May and 12 Nov. Real property, £4,159. Pop., 1,079. Houses, 211. The living is a vicarage in the dio. of G. and Br. Value, £232. Patrons, the Haberdashers' Company. The church is modern. There are Independent and Baptist chapels and two public schools.

AWRE, a tything and a parish in the district of Westbury-on-Severn, Gloucester. The tything lies on the river Severn, and on the South Wales railway, 2 miles SE of Newnham; and has a post office under Newnham, and a r. station. The parish includes also Bledisloe, Hagloe, Etloe, and Blakeney. Acres, 6,115; of which 2,035 are water. Real property, £10,888. Pop., 1,526. Houses, 287. The property is much subdivided. Part of the land has been washed away by the Severn. Iron pyrites occur. The weaving of cloth is carried on. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol. Value, £530.* The church is in good repair. The vicarage of Blakeney is a separate charge. Sternhold, one of the translators of the English metrical version of the Psalms, was a native.
1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales

Roman Blakeney  At Legg House, in Church Square, the remains of a high-status Roman stone building that was occupied between AD 75-150 was uncovered by Dean Archaeology Group between 1990-92. They found a length of wall with a first-century stone-built structure. In addition, pottery and hypocaust tiles indicated the possibility of a bath house. This is believed to be the structure recorded from local folklore by Ralph Bigland in 1786.

In May 1992 Mr.B.Johns, excavated a Roman site on his own land near Blakeney. He found a rare and complete exotic bead of slightly biconical form. It was black with applied yellow and white spirals and chevrons. Little is known about this type of bead but it apparently became common after 400 AD and is thought to be possibly Teutonic in origin. He also uncovered some sherds of Oxfordshire colour-coated table-ware.

The 1997 Mill End Lane excavation

This excavation by Cotswold Archaeology was commissioned following a field evaluation in February 1997 (by Barber) which had identified Romano-British metal-working deposits within the southern part of a proposed development area (now the area bordered by Mill End Lane and Butler's Mead).

The site suggested an early focus of occupation immediately east of the line of the reputed Roman road. Because these remains were vulnerable to damage during the construction of three house plots in the new development, an archaeological excavation was required as a condition of planning permission by Forest of Dean District Council.

The occupation span appeared to span from the later second century through to the later fourth century AD. 

Excavations in advance of the development revealed ditches, hard-standings, waste pits and a hearth (dated to third and fourth centuries AD), which are thought to have been on the periphery of an ironmaking site.

Examination of charcoal indicated that the fuel for smelting was derived from coppice woodland.

Phil Riches whilst chair of the Dean Archaeology Group. reported “Iron ore was the Forest’s most vital resource before and during the Roman occupation. We know that it was extracted from scowles (open iron ore working sites) around the Forest and taken to Blestium (now Monmouth) to be turned into weapons. 

Nine Roman coins were recovered during the excavation. They dated from between the last quarter of the third and the end of the fourth centuries AD.

A  number of metal objects were also found. They included a lead fragment, one copper-alloy object, 20 iron nails and five other iron object fragments, and two iron hoops, possibly from the axle of a cart. 

In one trench, a slab-lined, circular oven-base with an associated cobbled-surface was uncovered.  

Examination of 1064 sherds revealed that the pottery discovered included products from the large regional industries, notably Severn Valley wares, Dorset black-burnished wares, Oxfordshire colour-coated wares and mortaria and micaceous greywares. Another find was a Midlands grog-tempered storage jar.

The ' Dean Road' is believed to rest upon foundations laid in Roman times and had a pitched stone surface and kerbstone borders. It begins at Highfield above Lydney and cuts through the Forest. It crosses the Viney Hill to Yorkley road, and passes over the Blakeney to Parkend road near Blackpool Bridge which itself rests on foundations laid in Roman times.  The road can then be followed through the woods to Soudley where it disappears under today's road to Littledean. It is then tracked past Guns Mills to Mitcheldean and vanishes in the direction of Ariconium (Weston under Penyard). In 1972 a hoard of over 3000 Roman coins was discovered alongside the road near Oldcroft.

Superintendent William Ellison - a Blakeney constable in 1848

William Ellison (bn 1828), a tailor's son from Minety in North Wiltshire, joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary in January 1846.

He was moved around the Forest stations from 1848, serving at Blakeney till 1852, St Briavels till around 1857, and Coleford till 1860. Whilst at Coleford he was promoted to Sergeant in April 1856. In 1861 he was Sergeant at Gloucester's busy Bearland Station and May 1866 saw him promoted to Superintendent and posted to the Campden District.

In May 1847 he had been stationed as a constable at Stonehouse. It was there he received his first reprimand from the Chief Constable. 18th May 1847 - For absenting himself for 6 hours without leave from his station at Stonehouse. 'Reprimanded'

Shortly after that incident he was posted to Blakeney in the Forest of Dean. He received his second reprimand in May 1848. For allowing a prisoner to escape from the Blakeney Station. 'As Supt Lander had not forwarded the handcuffs to the station - not proceeded with.'

He was in trouble there again on the 14th of August 1848. For improperly interfering in a case where two men had been summoned for Drunkenness, by allowing them to settle the matter by paying the costs. ' Removed from charge of the Blakeney Station.

He had married Elizabeth Creed (bn 1830) at Tebury in 1847 and four of their children were born in the Forest of Dean area. Henry Edwin Ellison - baptised at Blakeney July 1851, William Stephen - baptised St Briavels April 1853, Mary - baptised St Briavels March 1854, Catherine and Martha - baptised at Coleford in May 1858.

On the 20th of April 1850 he was in trouble again, this time visiting Cheltenham. For neglecting to report his arrival at the Cheltenham Station when in pursuit of two men who had committed a murder in Newport (Mon.). 'Reduced to Constable 2nd Class for 3 months.'



His only reprimand as a Superintendent was in January 1874. 'Not sending in a report made by Dr Long against PC Vick of the Thornbury Station as soon as he should have done.' "I must express my disapprobation at the length of time taken by Supt Ellison in sending in this report. At the very latest it ought to have arrived at this office on Friday morning (Jan 3rd) . This is not the first time I have had to remark on the dilatory way the Superintendent has lately done his duty. If a change does not take place I will have to find someone who will do the work in a more satisfactory manner.

William Ellison received his of £80 per year pension on the 1st of July 1878. Unfortunately it was forfeited in April 1879 by order of the Quarter Sessions when he was imprisoned for forgery.

According to the Gloucester Prison Registers, in February 1879, William Ellison was incarcerated and awaiting trial, the charge being  "Forging several receipts and embezzling five sums of money." On 15th February 1879 he was found guilty at Gloucester Assizes of forgery and embezzlement committed while on active duty. The prisoner had appropriated sums of money forwarded to him by the Chief Constable to pay tradesmen's accounts, returning forged receipts for the same. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years penal servitude.  

Awaiting trial at Gloucester where in earlier years he had been the Police Sergeant must have been extremely difficult.

The 1881 census records him at Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight and his wife and one of their children, staying with their daughter's family in Gloucester.

He appears to have had some good fortune after being released.  He was given work as a lodge keeper by the Duke of Beaufort at Badminton which was not far from the town of Campden where he had served 12 years as a Police Superintendent. Here he and Elizabeth stayed for at least a decade and, in later years were given accommodation in the almshouses on the Duke's estate. William Henry Ellison died there in June 1901.


  The Death of Sergeant William Morris at Viney Hill 

Sergeant William Morris was born at Whitchurch, Shropshire in 1863. Before being a policeman he was for 4 and half years  a footman for Mr W C Lucy at Brookthorpe, near Stroud.

He joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary in 1884. After first serving at Cheltenham he was posted to Parkend in the Forest of Dean. During the following years William served at several stations in the Forest, Lydney, Newnham, Cinderford and St. Briavels. In 1890 he married 31 year old Whitecroft born barmaid, Mary (Minnie) Aminda Morse, whose father was inn-keeper of the Nags Head at Yorkley Slade.

In 1892 he was promoted to Sergeant and posted to Stroud and before the end of 1894 was back in the Forest taking charge of Lydney police station and replacing the late Sgt. Clarke.

William and Minnie had three children, Ethel, born at the Nags Head Inn, Yorkley in 1891, Sidney Harry 1892 at St. Briavels, and Ernest Leonard at Stroud in 1894. At the time of his death William Morris had been Sergeant at Lydney for eighteen months.

On the evening of Saturday 9th November 1895, he was in charge of a number of police who had set a trap hoping to catch some poachers red-handed at Arams Farm, Newnham. It was on land owned by local magistrate and lord of the manors of Newnham and Ruddle, Russell James Kerr. Also in attendance were the landowner's gamekeepers.

When the three poachers entered the farm yard, the hidden police and gamekeepers rushed in and swiftly apprehended two of them. They were identified as colliers, Joseph James age 28, and Moses Virgo age 24. The trio were equipped with netting, pegs, sacks and had four rabbits in their possession. The third man, quarry worker James James, alias 'Sheepskin', escaped. The Gloucester Citizen on November 15 1895 reported "He can run like a hare and jumped like a steeplechaser. Whoever the man was he led keeper Button a fine dance. He cleared a hedge in good style, but the pursuer was "button holed" at this point, and the quarry got away."

The police then surrounded and searched a house at Old Furnace Bottom for Sheepskin James. Not finding him there, they split into two parties, one of which was Sergeant William Morris from Lydney station and PC Cornelius Harding from Blakeney who suspected that Sheepskin James would be heading for his home at Woodside,Viney Hill.

When Joseph James and Moses Virgo appeared in court on 16 November charged with trespass and taking four rabbits they were found guilty. Unfortunately one of the magistrates on the bench that day was landowner Russell James Kerr.

Moses Virgo, was sent to prison for three months and Joseph James for one month. On 20 November 1895, the Gloucester Citizen reported that "James James, quarryman of Viney Woodside, Blakeney, better known as 'Sheepskin', a notorious character, who was wanted for poaching, was apprehended at his home this morning by PC Jones. The prisoner was found hiding between the joists in the ceiling upstairs, and was secured without trouble."  On 22 November, Sheepskin James was sentenced to three months in prison.

On the same evening as the above incident, Saturday 9th of November 1895, three young football-playing colliers from Whitecroft were among members of their local team celebrating the defeat of the Blakeney side that afternoon. The young men often worked together and their families only lived 20 yards apart on Chapel Hill, Whitecroft. 24 year old James Morgan, his brother George, who was 19, were the sons of labourer George Morgan, and were employed at Pillowell Level Colliery.

18 year old George Hill who worked at Princess Royal, was the eldest son of widower Thomas Hill. The father, now a platelayer for the Severn & Wye Railway, was a former police officer who had himself served at Blakeney Police Station.

The trio had stayed at the Cock Inn in Blakeney until 'last orders'. Leaving the public house they appear to have been boisterous and noisy.

On the way home via Viney Hill they approached the east corner of the All Saints burial ground when their intoxicated singing and shouting attracted the attention of Sgt Morris and Constable Harding who were in plain clothes and still out searching for the poacher Sheepskin James. Sgt Morris appears to have known the three men. He is reported by PC Harding to have said "Now young men your houses are at Whitecroft. You had better make your way there as fast as you can!"

At that point in the moonlight there was a confrontation and a fight started. Later the constable admitted that he struck the first blow that seriously injured 19 year old collier George Morgan. According to Harding, George Morgan then threw a stone hitting Sgt Morris on the head. Harding was knocked to the ground and the men ran off.

Tragically, Sergeant William Morris's head wound had resulted in a brain hemorrhage and he was dead.

Mr James Turley, who lived in one of a cluster of cottages opposite the churchyard, was awakened by a man knocking on his door who informed him that he was a constable from Blakeney. Mr Turley dressed quickly and went downstairs. On going outside he saw a body lying on the ground. He then lifted him up and Mrs Turley brought out a chair so that he could sit and support the sergeant while Harding went for assistance. He later reported that the poor man's head had fallen forward as though his neck was broken.

After a short time, Constable Harding returned accompanied by PC Webb and gamekeeper Button. The body was then conveyed to the Albion Inn (now Old Albion House) at Viney Hill where it was examined by Doctor Lunn.

On the morning after the incident Mr Turley found a parcel containing a football suit close to where the fight had taken place and some spots of blood were discovered at the corner of the churchyard wall. A blood stained half brick was found near the location by Superintendent Ford. PC Harding's blackthorn (staff or truncheon?) was also recovered broken in two.

The three colliers were arrested at their homes in Chapel Hill, Whitecroft early the next morning and their injuries confirmed that they had been in a fight. They were first detained at Blakeney police station and later moved to Coleford.

On 27th November all three were charged with the murder of Sgt Morris and the attempted murder of Constable Harding. They were transported to Gloucester gaol by train. At Parkend a large crowd of colliers lined the station platform to show their support. The committal of the three colliers on the capital charge strengthened the feelings of the mining community in their favour and soon a large fund was raised to cover their defence costs.

Their trial took place at Gloucester Assizes on 18th February 1896. The evidence presented was often contradictory and Harding's evidence was open to question. The defence lawyers argued that because that night the police were in plain clothes, and as the three colliers were not committing any crime, it was apparent that the defendants felt they were being attacked by strangers. All three had not been in any trouble with the law previously. The apparently heavy handed Constable Harding's evidence was sometimes contradictory and 19 year old George Morgan's injuries quite serious and far worse than PC Harding's who had admitted that he had struck the first blow. Their defence also argued that the defendants were justified in repelling an unprovoked attack.

The jury found George Morgan guilty of manslaughter. A formal verdict of acquittal was returned in the case of the other two who had both plead guilty to common assault. George Morgan was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment, his brother James Morgan to six months, and 18 year old George Hill to one month.

The handing down of these obviously lenient sentences was probably because the judge viewed that there had been no concerted action on the part of these men.

There was a great deal of public sympathy for the family of Sergeant Morris and a subscription fund was set up to raise money for them.

The funeral of Sergeant Morris took place at Lydney on Wednesday afternoon, 13th November 1895. He was held in great esteem in the town and as a mark of respect local tradesmen closed their premises from 11 o'clock till two o'clock.

He was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary's, Lydney on Wednesday the 13th of November 1895. The spot selected for the grave was next to Sgt Clarke, who had preceded Sgt Morris at Lydney.

The Chief Constable, with inspectors, superintendents, sergeants and constables to the number of over 60 men attended and it was reported that the church was crowded. An inscribed headstone was erected on his grave. Today it reads -William MORRIS, h/o Mary Aminda, Late Sergeant of Police, Lydney Glos, 10 Nov 1895, 32. Mary Aminda, w, 1 March 1942, 82. In the midst of life we are in death. Of whom may we seek for succour but thee O Lord.

His widow Minnie (1859-1942) did not remarry. Following the death of her mother Selina in 1898 and her father William Morse in 1899, she took over the Nags Head at Yorkley Slade and the care of her disabled brother Howard Henry (Harry) Morse (1865-1908). She was listed as licensee there on the 1911 census. Mary Aminda Morris was 82 years old when she died at her home, Southville, Yorkley Slade, in 1942.


The Blakeney 'Gang' in the 1890s

In the 1890s it was claimed by the local establishment that a group of men from the Blakeney Hill area were exercising a system of terrorism over the inhabitants of the Forest. There were questions asked in the House of Commons. The Deputy Surveyor of the Forest of Dean, Philip Baylis, who resided at Whitemead Park, Parkend, thought the situation serious enough to ask for a troop of cavalry. Instead the Chief Constable, Admiral Henry Christian, only sent eight additional officers. 

To understand these actions today, it has to be seen as a part of the continuing struggle by Foresters which resulted in a number of violent confrontations and covert actions between the Crown and commoners in the Blakeney area.

Trouble had started in 1893 when Philip Baylis was appointed Deputy Surveyor. He was determined to rid the Forest of commoners permanently and to extend the enclosures in the Forest up to the statutory limit which had been the cause of the riots back in Warren James's time.

A census of Forest of Dean sheep in 1898 recorded that commoning was carried out by 236 people with a total of 10,851 sheep. His threat of a complete ban fanned the flames of rebellion in the Blakeney area.

In early May 1895 Blakeney's vicar, Alexander Pringle, a supporter of the Deputy Surveyor, wrote a letter to the local press in which he claimed that the area was becoming notorious for its 'exceptional lawlessness'. He related that there had been numerous acts of atrocious cruelty to horses, donkeys, and sheep, as well as fowls stolen, the motive being to drive out from their privilege of pasture other persons in the Forest. He went on to claim that the police authorities, from the Chief Constable downwards, have done their best, but hitherto had failed. He concluded by saying "In exceptional circumstances there ought to be exceptional law, for the condition of affairs is worse than in Ireland."

For our 19th century ancestors, poaching on private land was often a matter of survival and it was no surprise that they often came into conflict with local landowners and their gamekeepers. Historian, David Jones, wrote that the poacher was ... such an ordinary figure, an accepted and normal part of rural life. In the second quarter of the nineteenth century poaching was widely regarded as one of the fastest growing crimes in Britain, and, unlike arson, highway robbery, cattle-, horse- and sheep-stealing, it continued to be a prominent and permanent part of the rural scene even in the 1880s and 1890s.

Poachers were overwhelmingly working people, and in the Forest, usually colliers. This was a classic case of a social crime which the Magistrates and the landowners were determined to stamp out. It was also convenient for those in authority, when writing to the newspapers, or addressing Parliament, to lump all those in opposition from the Blakeney area, as a 'gang'.

It is also important to remember that those magistrates were often also the major landowners in the area with a vested interest in extending the enclosures.

The name most commonly associated with the 'Blakeney Gang' was Walter Virgo. Born in 1845 to farmer, James Virgo and his wife Charlotte Yemm, he had six brothers and four sisters. He came to the attention of the police from 1869, with his offences including poaching, drunkeness, carrying a gun without a licence, sheep-stealing and brawling. During the 1890s his sons all appeared in  front of the magistrates charged with similar offences.

In 1893 he was, not for the first time, in conflict with Philip Baylis. The Deputy Surveyor's keepers had impounded some of Walter's sheep which were later rescued on a night raid at the pound. Baylis retaliated by impounding more of the sheep and placed a fine of 3 shillings on each of them. Walter Virgo swore revenge.

Baylis at that time wrote - "This man Walter Virgo is one of a family that has a most notoriously bad character in the Forest - and I am informed that Walter Virgo has been convicted of sheep stealing and has also on two other occasions been tried at Gloster for offences but acquitted - and at present he and other members of his family exercise a system of terrorism over the inhabitants of the Forest and it is commonly stated that if other people incur their displeasure or turn animals out on the Forest by which the pasturage used by the Virgos would be lessened, the animals are either driven over quarries - or killed or injured or some other injury inflicted.

George Rowlinson from Cinderford, a Methodist minister and the local miners' trade union leader, and Sydney Elsom JP from Yorkley, also a Methodist minister and leader of the Freeminers, were highly critical of the comments, and those of Baylis's supporter, the vicar of Blakeney, Alexander Pringle. They accused them of becoming hysterical and vastly exaggerating the outrages to try and tar the whole Forest community with the actions of a very small minority in an attempt to justify enclosing the Forest. At the same time they did condemn the actions of the Blakeney men. 

The heavy police presence in the Blakeney area soon resulted in clashes between police and locals. On the evening of April 30th, 1895, two of the sons of Walter Virgo, Aaron (26) and Moses (28), and their friend Evan Davies, were walking towards the Swan Temperance Hotel in Blakeney around midnight when they were stopped by some policemen who included PC Newport and PC Jones. They were asked about the contents of a bag they were carrying. The encounter soon developed into a brawl between the trio and a number of police. PC Newport and Aaron Virgo both finished up with injuries. It turned out that the bag had only contained stinging nettles. When arrested the brothers claimed that during the encounter they had been roughly handled by the police officers and brought a charge of assault against PC Newport. 

Convicted at Littledean Court of assaulting PC Newport, the Virgo brothers each received a prison sentence of one month's hard labour, and Evan Davies a ten shilling fine for assaulting PC Jones. The charge against PC Newport was dismissed.

Philip Baylis later alleged that if there had not been other constables present PC Newport would have died in the assault. 

Evan Davies was to have another encounter with PC Jones. In September 1895 he was appearing at Littledean Court again. Fisherman Henry Davies, and his sons, Harvey and Evan, were charged with being in possession of an unseasonable salmon.

PC Jones gave evidence that he was on duty at Milcombe Head on the 5th of September when he saw the three defendants coming up the Severn in a boat. They came ashore at Milcombe Head. Harvey Davies was carrying a bag and when asked what was in it he said " a fish". The constable asked to see it and when shown an 18lb salmon said he would have to take possession of it. Henry Davies then produced a glass bottle from his pocket and threatened to knock the constable's head off. PC Jones eventually took possession of the fish plus three nets. Henry and Harvey were both fined £5, plus 10 shillings, the value of the fish.

On the night of 9th February 1896, locals near Blackpool Bridge heard three loud explosions. The next morning, workers employed by Messrs Williams of Cinderford, the timber merchant who had the contract for fencing and enclosing Blakeney Hill, found that the firm's steam sawing machine had been dynamited.  Baylis was in no doubt that the Virgos and the Blakeney Gang were to blame, and the Forest Commissioners went on to offer a reward of one hundred pounds for any information. No one came forward to claim it. 

The next major event took place only two months later. In the early hours of April 3rd 1896 a worker at the New Fancy colliery noticed part of the woodland on fire near the Lodge at Russell's enclosure. He alerted John Hatton the keeper residing there who quickly rounded up other keepers and woodmen to beat out the fire. As soon as they had dealt with that blaze their attention was drawn to another.

The Dean Forest Guardian later reported that "it appears that the outbreak occurred at several  places simultaneously, and no sooner had the men put out one blaze, than their attention was attracted to another, and this went on for hours, and in the opinion of one authority, somewhere before mid-night on Saturday, somebody deliberately made at least thirty fires in the district referred to" 

When, next day, Philip Baylis examined the damage he reported that fifty separate fires, over a line between two and three miles long, had been started in the enclosures. Most probably "by some person or persons carrying a small lamp such as miners use and just pushing it into the dry fern where there happened to be a suitable place." He went on to say that had the wind not died down and some light rain fallen, this attempt to burn down the Forest would have succeeded. He was in no doubt that this was the work of the 'Blakeney Gang'.

Baylis used these outrages in an attempt to put pressure on the Forest Commissioners to enclose the Forest. He claimed that the Virgos were the main beneficiaries of the right to common. The Commissioner decided that he was being misled by Baylis and urged him to compromise. 


In June 1898, a memorandum by Sir Edward Stafford Howard, the Commissioner for the Forest of Dean, signaled the end of Baylis's ambition to have all sheep removed from the Forest. He wrote - "the number of persons keeping sheep as well as the number of the sheep themselves is very much larger than I had been led to expect, so that the matter will have to be dealt with very carefully and by degrees, no wholesale prohibition being in my opinion possible. It will be desirable to take means to let the owners of sheep know that their animals have no legal right in the forest but are only there on sufferance ... Apart from this, and so long as the rightful commoners do not step in to prevent it, the Crown will not interfere with the sheep." 

Walter Virgo died in 1903. He is buried at the Blakeney Tabernacle, an independent chapel and surrounded by others who were involved in the 1890s disturbances.

There was no way that he, his family or workmates would have attended the Anglican Church at Blakeney where their enemy, the Reverend Alexander Pringle, preached.


Reverend William Wickenden (1796-1864)  'Bard of the Forest'

The Reverend William S Wickenden (1796-1867) was born at Etloe near Blakeney and baptised at Awre.

Poet, novelist, humourist, and satirist, William was known as 'The Bard of the Forest'. His Blakeney family were farmers around Etloe and Nibley.

He published a number of books, one of which was dedicated to "the memory of that great benefactor of the human race, Edward Jenner, M.D."

Dr Jenner, who achieved world-wide fame with his discovery of a vaccination against smallpox, and two of his friends, were generous enough to send young William to St. John's College, Cambridge. There he obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree and went on to be ordained into the Church of England. He was appointed Curate at Lassington near Gloucester and later resigned that post to become a full-time writer in London.

His description of the Severn bore was acclaimed as one of the best:- 

"And see! Hoarse Boreas shakes the craggy shore,

And circling eddies mark the whitening bore, 

And wave impelled by wave, tremendous sound, 

And like a deluge, whelms the hissing ground". 

He was the author of numerous works, poems and tales, which secured the favourable notice of reviewers. The Monthly Magazine spoke of him as " a writer of undoubted genius".

He appears to have been a sufferer from Alzheimer's in his later years. His obituary in a local paper related, "Although of late years of comfortable and independent circumstances, he laboured under the hallucination that he was in a state of poverty, and appeals had been privately made by him to that effect which surprised and alarmed his relatives and best friends." 

A notice in the Gloucester Journal placed by concerned friends on 28th November 1863 had stated, "We have been requested to caution the public against entertaining any applications for pecuniary relief from the Rev. W. Wickenden, and to recommend persons so applied to, to refer to the Rev. C. Y. Crawley, of this City."

He died in London on 6th February 1864. In his will, the unmarried cleric left to relatives various sums of money totalling £400 pounds,(about £25,000 in today's money), his property at Etloe Villa and the land at Caneys Fields, Etloe.  Clark's Pool Fields, Nibley, which lies at the flat top of 'Old Hill', half a mile south of Blakeney, was left to his great nephew, William Wickenden, who was later recorded as living at Nibley Mill in 1901.

One of his works, 'Prose and Poetry by the Bard of the Forest,' can be read on Google ebooks.


An Archbishop from Blakeney - Baron Stuart Yarworth Blanch (1918-1994)

Stuart Yarworth Blanch was born at Lower Viney Hill Farm, Blakeney on 2nd February 1918, the youngest of three sons of farmer and collier, William Edwin Blanch, and his wife, Elizabeth (Bessy) Yarworth, the daughter of Clearwell butcher, William Yarworth. The couple had three sons, William James (1901), Ronald John (1907), and Stuart Yarworth Blanch (1918).

William Edwin Blanch (1871-1923) was born at Ellwood, and previously worked as a colliery banksman. His father, and Stuart's grandfather, William Blanch, had been a free-miner at Gorsty Knoll and innkeeper at Woolaston.

Stuart's father had only been a farmer at Blakeney for four years when he was killed in an accident while out shooting rabbits on the farm in August 1923. Tragically it was his youngest son, 5 year old Stuart, who was the first to discover the body.

Soon after William's burial in the family grave at Clearwell, his widow and sons, William, Ronald, and Stuart, moved to Tulse Hill in London.

Both of Stuart's brothers were to do well in their chosen professions. William James Blanch worked for the Inland Revenue and became an Inspector of Taxes, and Ronald John Blanch progressed to become an executive at Lloyd's Bank.

Stuart attended a local school, and became a choir-boy at their local parish church, Holy Trinity, Tulse Hill.

In 1927 he won a scholarship to the prestigious Alleyn's School, at Dulwich. There he read Classics.

When the 18 year old left school in 1936, his mother could not afford to pay for him to go to a university. He later related, "I originally intended to become a journalist, having read Classics at school, but jobs were scarce and journalism in particular was difficult to get into without contacts". In the end it was through the influence of his former headmaster, R.B. Henderson, that he obtained a position with the Law Fire Insurance Company in Chancery Lane, London. He later recalled, "The job taught me a great deal, not just about administration – how to write letters and so on – but how to deal with people from all walks of life."

After three years with the insurance company he decided it was time for a change. He was all set to become a cub reporter with the Brixton Free Press when war broke out.

On March 16th 1940, Stuart joined the RAF. After initial training he found himself drafted into the RAF police and was soon promoted to Corporal. It was during that time he read voraciously and engaged in discussions organised by the chaplains. This experience, he later related, was part of his conversion.

When later posted to RAF Croydon he was able to visit London on several occasions and it was at a family party he renewed his acquaintance with a childhood friend, Brenda Coyte. There was, at that time, an instant mutual attraction between the two that marked the beginning of a period of remarkable correspondence in which they explored their faith together.

In 1942 Stuart volunteered for aircrew and in February 1943 was posted to RAF Cranwell to begin training as a navigator and commissioned officer. In July that year he married Brenda and shortly afterwards was posted to Canada to complete his aircrew training.

On his return to the UK he was posted to India and for the next eighteen months flew RAF Dakotas on reconnaissance missions over Burma from Calcutta. It was during this period he became an Anglican lay reader and sought ordination as a priest.

On demobilisation Stuart was accepted for ordination training at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He obtained a first class degree in theology in 1948, and was ordained a priest in 1949.

After three years as a curate in the Oxford parish of Highfield, he was appointed vicar of Eynsham. While there, three of their five children were born.

A part-time lecturer during this period, his lectures on the New Testament led to an invitation in 1957 to return to Wycliffe Hall as tutor and vice-principal.

In 1960 he was appointed Oriel cannon of Rochester Cathedral, and in 1966, the fifth bishop of Liverpool.

In February 1975 Stuart Yarworth Blanch was enthroned as Archbishop of York.

In many respects a private man he proved to have charismatic gift of friendship and humour. His winning personality also made him a popular broadcaster. In the following eight years he authored six books and made ten working trips abroad, fulfilling engagements in fifteen countries in Australasia, the Middle East, South East Asia and North America.

Such work took its toll and in early 1981 he suffered a breakdown. He resigned in 1983 and became the first Archbishop of York to be made a life peer. Retiring to Shenington, Oxfordshire, he took turn conducting services at his village church. He also undertook four lecture assignments abroad and wrote two more books.

Baron Stuart Yarworth Blanch died of cancer at a Banbury hospice in June 1994.

The Arrival of the Nonconformists

Things were not always easy for early Nonconformist ministers and preachers in the Forest of Dean.
Reverend John Horlick of Ruardean's Congregational Church described an incident at Newnham; "About 1797 Mr Collins, a clergyman of the establishment, attempted to preach an evening lecture in a dwelling house, but the service had not proceeded far before the windows were all broke, the people dispersed, and the family of the house were obliged to leave town."
It was also reported that later the Independents' pulpit was thrown into the Severn and the Wesleyan preaching house wrecked. 
After those incidents the mission established the meeting place at Littledean Hill, moving in 1805 to Littledean.
John Horlick in about 1832 noted how religion was taking a hold in the nonconformist chapels throughout the Forest. In one of his many writings he talked about the Evangelistic Ministers who helped to shape the religious beliefs of the Foresters.
In 1783 Richard Stiff came from Dursley to live in Blakeney and “Moved with sympathy and concern for the salvation of his fellow immortals, as soon as possible, he invited gospel ministers to come and preach in his own house, and to some of them he made a pecuniary acknowledgement, towards defraying their travelling expenses, to meet which he worked extra hours even till midnight”
Richard Stiff (1744-1815) went out into the Forest and preached under the extended branches of a tree. Gradually the suspicious Foresters took notice of this novel practice and were soon excited by the teachings of this man.
He helped to establish independent chapels at Littledean, Cinderford and Soudley and Lydney, and thought nothing of walking 17 or miles every Sunday to preach in different parts of the Forest.

Do you have anything to add to this page?  Any contributions, corrections or photographs would be very welcome.

 -BLAKENEY C.P. School 125th Anniversary  1865-1990 An illustrated history of the school - Pamphlet compiled by Ray Wensley
 -Gloucestershire Archives
-1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales
 -"Forest Story" by R.J. Mansfield
 -A Forest Beat: The Forest of Dean Police 1839-2000 by Geoff Sindrey & Ted Heath 
 -Walter Virgo and the Blakeney Gang by Ian Wright
 -The Forest of Dean Family History Trust


Blakeney Local History Scowles Hamlet
Bream Local Police History Scowles School
Cinderford Local War Heroes Tolkien
Civil War Dean  Lydney War
Coleford Lydney Park Warren James
County Police History Magic & Witchcraft Woolaston
Dennis Potter Mining History Woolaston History
History Parkend  
Horlicks Ruardean History