Forest of Dean Local History



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 


RUARDEAN is a village and parish, 6 miles south from Ross, 9 north-east from Monmouth, 6 north-east from Coleford station on the Hereford, Ross and Gloucester railway, 2½ from Kerne Bridge and 119 from London, in the Western division of the county, hundred of Saint Briavels, county court district and union of Ross, rural deanery of South Forest, archdeaconry of Gloucester and diocese of Gloucester and Bristol, situated on the Herefordshire border and bounded on the west by the river Wye.

The church of St. John, built 1111, is a stone structure, having nave, south aisle, tower and spire and 6 bells. The register dates from the year 1540. The living is a rectory, yearly value £235 and 3 acres of glebe, in the gift of the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol and held by the Rev. William Penfold, M.A. of Lincoln College, Oxford. There is a Congregational chapel here, also one for Bible Christians. There are charities of £14 in this parish. Colonel John Vaughan is lord of the manor.  Kelly's Directory 1879

Who killed the bears?

The story began on Friday 26th April 1889 when four Frenchman, Gabriel Yas, Gabriel Huguet, Thomas Sirgent, and Alfred Gerard, two of whom were cripples, arrived in Cinderford with their two Russian Bears who were paraded around the town. Two of the four were in charge of the bears who each wore a heavy collar with a long chain attached. The other two carried a tin and collected money for the performances. The reception they had through the town was good. After completing a performance they started to move on towards Ruardean and were closely followed by a group of children and youths.

By early evening they had only got a mile out of Cinderford, when they were joined by a number of half-drunken men and a rumour was started implying that the bears had mauled a woman and killed a child. Around 200 men, women and children then armed themselves with clothes props, sticks and stones and attacked the bears and the Frenchmen. Huguet was assaulted and badly beaten and they managed to beat the youngest animal to death.


ruardean bear

Two of the Frenchmen escaped in fear of their lives. Unable to keep hold of the other frightened bear its keeper had to let it go and the terrified creature ran off. It was then pursued and shot by the out of control mob.

At Ruardean some of the villagers tried in vain to stop the attack and after the incident gave shelter and medical attention to the injured men.

The police later made a number of arrests. The men in custody, all mainly from the Ruardean Hill area, appeared at Littledean court on 3rd May 1899. There was an interpreter present on behalf of the victims.

Several of the accused men are said to have been wearing their pit clothes when it happened. Now in court, and no longer with blackened faces, the Frenchmen were unable to positively identify them.

However, for the majority of those charged the evidence was conclusive and overwhelming and those positively identified were fined heavily for the assault. Four had to pay £5 each, and three, 10 shillings (50p).

For actually killing the bears, one man was fined £1 and £20 damages, and seven others £1 with £5 damages. Charges against the remainder were dismissed for lack of evidence.


A correspondent writes:—The outrage on the bears in the Forest is but the revival of a latent superstition that the bears of itinerant exhibitors are fed upon the flesh of young children clandestinely obtained. The writer never sees a dancing bear in the streets without associating it with the tales which were told him in his youth by ignorant nursemaids and peasants. Gloucester Journal - Saturday 04 May 1889


A Forest of Dean correspondent sends the following extraordinary story. A very remarkable affair has occurred in Dean Forest, in which four Frenchmen were subjected to rough treatment at the hands of the colliers and others living in the neighbourhood of Ruardean Hill, near Cinderford. Two Russian bears which the foreigners had with them were killed.

It appears that the Frenchmen arrived on Friday morning at Cinderford. They were accompanied by two Russian bears of ordinary size. The animals were muzzled, and each was in charge of two keepers.

They exhibited about the town till about three o'clock the afternoon, and then took the road for Nailbridge en route for Drybrook, Ruardean, and Lydbrook. The party was followed out of the town by many small children. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of Nailbridge the report was started that a child had been killed at Cinderford, and a woman very much hurt, at the same time and place, by the bears.

The report, it seems, was a pure fabrication, but the poor Frenchmen and their quadrupeds who had been the objects of interest at once received the attention of a hostile mob. Without inquiring as to the truth of the story, scores of young fellows and boys who had collected intimated their intention to despatch the brutes. To this end stakes were torn up, garden clothes props, stones, brick bats, and other weapons, were used to attack the bears. Their keepers, unable to speak a word of English, went down on their knees and in great distress implored, by gestures, to be left alone.

Their entreaties were in vain, and several times the men were struck either with sticks or stones, and one received a serious blow in the neck with a half brick. In this way a couple of miles were traversed, and at six o'clock it was estimated that a mob of 200 persons had collected.

The bears became excited, and in the middle of the road within sight of Ruardean the smaller of the two beasts was killed outright by a heavy pole which someone level led at its head. Two of the Frenchmen escaped into a wood, and they have not been seen nor heard of since.

The other two, worn out with fatigue and fright, sank to the ground, thus letting the second animal go free. The beast jogged on as fast as it could, but was again captured and was shot dead.

Some persons who took pity on the strangers invited them into their houses and gave them shelter. The neighbourhood continued in a most excited state for some time.

Much sympathy is expressed for the strangers, who have lost their means of livelihood.

We are informed that the French Vice- Consul in Gloucester (Mr. J. B. Karn) has received a communication from Mr. M. F. Carter, of Newnham, stating that proceedings will be taken against some of the men alleged to have been concerned in the affray ; that the magistrates have power to make a grant of £10 compensation for the loss of the bears, and suggesting that as the Frenchmen not speak English Mr. Karn had better attend at Littledean Police-court when the cases came on, as interpreter, or make proper arrangements.

The French Consul at Cardiff communicated with Mr. Karn this morning by telegram requesting that he would take what steps might be deemed advisable for asserting the rights of the Frenchmen concerned.

The two men who escaped into the woods have arrived at Cardiff.

The matter is considered of such importance that Mr. Karn this afternoon proceeded to the Forest to make inquiries on the spot, preparatory to taking what action may be considered necessary.


It has often been claimed that the men involved in this incident were not from Ruardean. Unfortunately census and gaol records now available end that speculation. Of the eight men found guilty of causing the death of the bears, six were from Ruardean, one from Drybrook, and one from Harrow Hill.

George Wilkes, who at 49 was the oldest of those convicted, was the longtime landlord of the Jovial Colliers at Nailbridge. His 21 year old son, Robert Wilkes, was also among the guilty men.

Littledean House of Correction records show that, except for George Wilkes, all were employed as colliers. 

It is highly likely that there were some Cinderford colliers in the mob who were never identified and probably that was what angered the locals



From "The Offences Book" of Drybrook Police Station  3rd May 1889
George WILKES (49)  Fined £5 or 1 month imprisonment for assault. Fined £1 plus £20 damages for killing the bears, or 1 month imprisonment
Ernest CINDERY (29)  Fined £5 or 1 month imprisonment for assault. Fined £1 plus £5 damages for killing the bears, or 1 month imprisonment
George RAWLINGS (22)  Discharged on the charge of assault. Fined £1 plus £5 damages for killing the bears, or 14 days imprisonment
Robert WILKS (21)  Fined 10 shillings or 7 days imprisonment for assault. Fined £1 plus £5 damages for killing the bears, or 14 days imprisonment.
Henry BALDWIN (27)  Fined 10 shillings or 7 days imprisonment for assault. Fined £1 plus £5 damages for killing the bears, or 14 days imprisonment
Joseph HOPKINS (19)  Discharged on the charge of assault. Fined £1 plus £5 damages for killing the bears, or 14 days imprisonment
Isaac BALDWIN (28)  Discharged on the charge of assault. Fined £1 plus £5 damages for killing the bears, or 14 days imprisonment
Arthur GOLDING (21)  Discharged on the charge of assault. Fined £1 plus £5 damages for killing the bears, or 14 days imprisonment.

William BALDWIN (15)  Discharged on the charge of assault. Discharged on the charge of killing the bears 

Thomas MEEK (21)  Fined £5 or 1 month imprisonment for assault. Discharged on the charge of killing the bears 

Joseph HARDWICK (26)  Discharged on the charge of assault. Discharged on the charge of killing the bears 

George TIPPINS (22)  Fined £5 or 1 month imprisonment for assault. Discharged on the charge of killing the bears 

Sidney RAWLINGS (19)  Fined 10 shillings or 1 month imprisonment for assault. Discharged on the charge of killing the bears 

William WILLIAMS (23)  Fined 10 shillings and costs for assault. Discharged on the charge of killing the bears


The Courtcase. A large crowd collected outside the Littledean Courthouse Yard long before the time at which the Court was opened, but none but witnesses and persons having other business were admitted.

George Wilkes, Robert Wilkes, William Baldwin, Ernest Cindery, Henry Baldwin, George Rawlings, Joseph Hopkins, Thomas Meek, Isaac Baldwin, Joseph Hardwick, Sidney Rawlings, George Tippins, and Arthur Golding, colliers and labourers of Ruardean neighbourhood, were charged with that they, on the 26th of April in the township of East Dean, in the parish of Ruardean,did unlawfully and maliciously kill two bears, the property of Gabriel Qugant Yas, Gabriel Balent Huguet, Thomas Sirgant, and Alfred Gerand ; with having at the same time and place unlawfully assaulted and beaten the four French subjects, and with illtreating and torturing the two bears at tbe same time and place.

Local witnesses for the prosecution were James Barnett from Nailbridge, 16 year old Milsom Symonds and Benjamin Kirkhouse from Ruardean, Henry Vick of the Morse, 17 year old Arthur Vick, Arthur John Brain, Mark Westaway, and Henry Jones.

They all gave evidence describing the brutal attack upon the men and their bears. Clothes-props, sticks, and stones were used.

The case of assaulting the men was first taken. Gabriel Balent Huguet, a native from the south of France, said that he was with three other Frenchmen and two performing bears, working Cinderford, and when leaving on the day in question many children followed them. At the bottom of the town some men joined tbe crowd. They came behind them saying something which they could not understand, and throwing stones at them. Witness recognised Wilkes senior as being one who was there throwing stones, and hitting him with short sticks. Over 40 men were there. He could not recognise any others for they had black faces and different clothes on.

They were continually beaten, and witness could not tell when the children left. Witness was hit with a stone in the back and with a stick in the side, and was twice knocked down and kicked. He at last became unconscious. He could not say whereabouts he was left, for there were no houses. He could not say what public-houses they were near when they were commenced to be beaten. (Police Constable White here stated that they were the Old Inn and the Engine.)


After hearing the evidence the court considered George Wilkes to be the worst offender, and next to him Tippins, Cindery and Thomas Meek.

For the assault G. Wilkes, Cindery, Tippins and Meek were fined £5 each, and in default one month's imprisonment; and Robert Wilkes, Henry Baldwin, and Sidney Rollings 10 shillings each, or seven days imprisonment.

For killing and attacking the bears George Wilkes was fined £1 and £20 damages, or one month, Cinderby £1 and £5 damages, or one month, and Robert Wilkes, Henry Baldwin, George Rollings, Joseph Hopkins, Isaac Baldwin, and Arthur Goulding £1 and £5 damages each, or 14 days, costs to follow in each case.

Joseph Hardwick and William Baldwin were discharged.


At Littledean Petty Sessions annual licensing day on August 23rd 1889, Police Superintendent Ford opposed the renewal of the license of the Jovial Colliers for George Wilkes. "This man, it was alleged, instigated the recent attack on the Frenchmen and their bears."

Fortunately for George, Mr. F. F Goold, instructed by Mr. Bradstock, appeared in court to support him and put in a document to support the license signed by a large number of inhabitants praying that it might be renewed.

Superintendent Ford gave Wilkes a good character and his license was renewed.



Milson Symonds from Ruardean16 year old Milson Symonds from Morse Lane, Ruardean, was one of the witnesses for the prosecution. He testified that he saw the four Frenchmen and two bears in the Morse Road being followed by a mob throwing stones.

Cross-examined he testified seeing some of the action from the top of a wall and that the little bear was attacked near the Pike at Ruardean by men with sticks and stones and only survived for ten minutes.

He identified several of the prisoners as being present in the crowd. George and Robert Wilkes and Henry Baldwin struck one of the bears with sticks across the head, ribs, and back. Farther along he saw William Williams and Henry Baldwin strike the bears.

He saw Henry Baldwin throw stones on to the back of one of the bears when it was on the ground. He could not say who killed the bear, there were so many beating it.



Indignation remains to this day as the people of Ruardean felt their village had been wrongly accused. They blamed colliers from Cinderford.  The term 'Who killed the bears?' existed for many years as an insult, directed particularly towards the people of the village.

The news of the killing of the bears had spread far and wide even into South Wales. A subscription list was opened and the sum collected amounted to £36. The money was given to the animals' owners to compensate them for their loss and livelihood. The French consul at Cardiff took charge of the men, who were later sent back to their homes in France.

A news correspondent present at the Magistrates court wrote:- ''This case was most disgraceful and the worst that had ever come before the local magistrates", and one Forester who sat on the bench wrote as follows:- ''Many of your readers will have heard of the most barberous assault upon four innocent Frenchmen and their two equally innocent four-footed companions. May I express on behalf of at least 99 out of every hundred of my neighbours, our utter abhorrence of what has transpired. I have been requested from several quarters to endeavour to offer to these poor foreigners, and through them to the friendly nation to which they belong, some more tangible expression of public sympathy than mere words. I propose, therefore, to open a subscription list on their behalf, and shall be most happy to receive any contributions myself. I would add that it is not so desirable that the individual subscriptions should be of a considerable amount, or that the number of subscribers should be large. This would furnish a practical assurance to our neighbours across the channel that, although the event has cast a stain upon the fair name of our Country, it is repudiated by all in every class whose opinion is worth anything."

See the 1964 interview of an eye witness


View an 1889 South Wales Newspaper Report


'Warning' by F.W Harvey (1926)

A man there was, a gentle soul,

Of mild enquiring mind,

Who came into this neighbourhood

Its wonders for to find.


He sought for vines on Viney Hill,

He wondered much to find

That Drybrook was reverse of dry

It so perplexed his mind


That every man he chanced to meet

He'd stop to question; and

Was answered courteously and fairly

By all within this land.


They told him who had put the lid

On Lydney; who the ale

Misspelt in Aylburton.

And he Delighted in the tale.


And still, like little Oliver,

He softly asked for more;

And with the utmost courtesy

Was answered as before;


Until one sleepy summer's eve

He came all unaware

Unto a place called Ruardean,

And asked 'Who killed the bear?'


The man arose and punched him flat;

Another punched his head,

And when the rest had done with him

Our gentle friend was dead.


The moral of this simple tale

Is plain. Dear friend, beware!

If you should visit Ruardean

Mention of any bear.


Fanny Bennett and the death of six infants at Ruardean Woodside

Charles Bennett was christened at Ruardean on 16th January 1797. His parents were William Bennett (1775-1847) and Lydia Gagg (1776-1826). An elaborate family wall monument inside Ruardean church, plus the fact that they appear to have been land-owners, leaves the impression today that the local Bennett family were reasonably well off.

In 1825 Charles married Frances (Fanny) Walding at Abenhall and went to live at Woodside, Ruardean.

Between 1825 and 1829 Fanny gave birth to three sons and a daughter, but only two boys survived. Charles himself was 32 when he died in 1829. It was unfortunate for Fanny that his will stipulated that, should his widow remarry, she would lose the ownership of their house. Consequently, two years later, when she formed a relationship with a young collier, Thomas Yapp (or Yeapes), she did not wish to become homeless and took in her lover as a lodger.

In 1842, suffering from pulmonary consumption, and knowing she had not long to live, Fanny decided to confess her crimes to her sister and the parish priest. Her main reason for the confession was her wish to have the six children buried in consecrated ground.


ruardean woodside

Ruardean Woodside today


In November 1842 the Spectator reported - 'A guilty conscience has discovered a series of crimes. Frances Bennett, a woman living at Ruardean Hill, in the Forest of Dean, being ill, sent for the Reverend Henry Formby, the Curate of the place, and told him that she had successively killed six children which she had had by a man named Yapp. As the first five were born, they were drowned, and buried beneath the floor of a brewhouse ; the last lived for two days; but being sickly, she poisoned it. The Police searched the brew- house, and dug up the six skeletons ; and an inquest was held on the skeletons on Tuesday but Bennett, who had recovered, now denied her story. The Curate and her sister, however, deposed too distinctly to her confessions when ill for her to retract ; and she and Yapp were detained in custody ; the inquest being adjourned. One, which seems to have been the chief source of solicitude when Bennett was ill, was the desire to have the six bodies removed from the barn and buried in a churchyard.'

After the police search and the recovery of six infants' bodies, 20 year old PC Samuel Fowler was instructed to stay at the house with the seriously ill Fanny Bennett. He later gave evidence that she repeated her confession to him in the presence of her sister.

At the inquest, on 16th November 1842, Ruardean's 26 year old vicar, the Reverend Henry Formby, was examined by the coroner and admitted that the woman had made disclosures and confessions to him, but as they were made to him in his spiritual capacity, he must decline to divulge them. *

Though he had taken the oath in court to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" he nevertheless persisted in declining to give evidence as to what the woman told him.

The Gloucester Journal, in its report of the inquest, stated, "This conduct on the part of a Protestant clergyman of the Established Church, which is somewhat singular, and we apprehend not quite recognised by the laws of the country, astonished both the coroner and the jury."

After unsuccessfully trying to persuade the clergyman to state everything Fanny Bennett had told him, the coroner was forced to rely on the testimony of her sister. One of the strange features in this case is that the sister, who lived next door to the accused, gave evidence that neither she or any of her female neighbours, at any time suspected that Fanny was pregnant.

After the inquest the jury reached their verdict - Frances (Fanny) Bennett, aged 37 was charged with willful murder and 34 year old Thomas Yapp with being an accessory to murder.

On the next evening, Thursday 17th November, Fanny was taken from the Forest of Dean to Gloucester gaol in a fly driven by a medical man named Bird. She died at the hospital there on the morning of the 25th November 1842.

Thomas Yapp (Yepps) was also imprisoned the same day and summoned to appear at the Spring Assizes. On April 12th 1843 he was discharged after the prosecution decided to offer no evidence.

Census and parish records show that he carried on working as a collier. He does not appear to have found another partner and died at Lydbrook in 1862.

*Ruardean's curate, Henry Formby, was closely associated with the Tractarian Movement, a group formed within the Church of England, originating at Oxford University in 1833. It sought to link the Anglican Church more closely to the Roman Catholic Church while affirming the continuity of the Church with early Christianity and strove to restore the High-Church ideals of the 17th century. The teaching and practices of the Movement are still today maintained in the High-Church tradition within the Church of England.
In January 1846 Henry Formby ceased being an Anglican and joined the Roman Catholic church. After attending a theology course he was ordained a priest in September 1847. For many years he was chaplain at the Dominican Priory of St Peter, at Hinckley, Leicestershire.

The Horlick Family of Ruardean

Peter Horlick (1771-1841), a saddler, moved from Cranham, near Stroud, to Ruardean and married a local girl, Ann Vaughan, in February 1796. The couple had three daughters before Ann died in 1806. His wedding to his second wife, Lettice Vaughan (1772-1816) was at Gloucester in 1807. After Letty's death in 1816, Peter's third wife was Betty Edwards, who he married at nearby Walford in 1817. There were a total of nine children from the three marriages. peter horlick's grave

Only one of his sons survived to adulthood. He was James, also trained as a saddler, who was born to Lettice in 1809. James Horlick's older sister, Elizabeth who was baptised at Ruardean in 1801, married William Nockells (1801-1868) at St. Marylebone, London  in 1824. He was born at Shadwell, Middlesex (now part of Tower Hamlets). Their only son, William Nockells, who was  born in 1824, completed his education at St. John's College, Cambridge in 1855. He became the rector of  Ifield parish in Kent during the late 1850s and vicar at Rayleigh, Essex in the 1870s.

After Elizabeth's husband died in 1868 she moved back to Ruardean where the 1871 census records her living at Lawn House (The Lawn today?) with her two servants.  She died in January 1878, only two months before her brother James, and is believed to be buried at her son's parish in Rayleigh, Essex.

In 1837 James Horlick (1809-1878) married Priscilla Griffiths (1816-1874), who was also a native of Ruardean. They had four sons, John Griffiths Horlick (1839–1844),  Peter Horlick (1842–1901), James Horlick (1844–1921), and William O Horlick  (1846–1936). Their first born, John, died when only 5 years old.

James Horlick snr was a saddler and harness maker with two employees,  a landowner of several properties at Ruardean, on the committee of a Friendly Society and the Prosecution Club, a parish overseer, and in 1861, the census taker.

The Prosecution Club formed in October 1839, a year before the Forest's first police-station opened,  held its meetings at the Bell Inn, Ruardean which was situated opposite the church. Its rules and regulations aimed to financially help members to prosecute  cases of burglary, theft, arson, or wilful damage at the Assizes or Quarter Sessions. It was still active in 1878.

James Horlick's sons were sent to a private school in Hampshire. William appears on the 1861 census during the Easter holiday staying with a schoolmate, one of the Snow family, in a village near Winchester, while James was visiting his cousin, the Reverend William Nockells, Rector of Ifield, Kent, son of Elizabeth Horlick (1801-1878).


James and William Horlick attended a small private school at Micheldever, Hampshire in the 1860s which was run by William Pettit from Cheltenham. This item from an 1861 Hampshire newspaper reports James Horlick receiving a prize for Latin, a subject essential for his future pharmacy studies. William excelled on the sports field. He was a regular member of the school's cricket first team.


After completing their education two of the brothers moved to London, where James joined a homeopathic chemist in Tichborne Street, close to Piccadilly Circus, and William, a saddler in nearby Lisle Street.

James Horlick snr was also involved in brewing and contributed his malting experience in the early 1870s when his sons were seeking a new drink formula. James junior's experiments in the granary at Ruardean involved mixing fresh milk with wort, a liquid extracted from malted barley and wheat during the brewing process. The mixture was then reduced to granules by slowly removing its moisture in a copper bain-marie floating in a boiler. The temperature in the bain-marie did not rise above the boiling point of water and enabled the process of lengthy periods of evaporation without the mixture burning.

He sold his three cottages at Cinderhill, Ruardean in July 1877, probably to help finance the building of his sons' new factory in Racine. He may also have helped out his eldest son Peter, whose business went into liquidation a year earlier.

When James died in 1878 his assets were listed as under £50.


William's grandfather, Peter Horlick, had a brother, Alexander, still living at Cranham, who was born in 1774. A timber merchant, he had married Frances Lovegrove there in 1794.

One of their eight children was Joseph Alexander Horlick (1813-1889).  He served a seven year  apprenticeship as a blacksmith and wagon-maker. In 1843 he married local girl, Arabella Lediard (bn 1824), from Cranham and in 1844, migrated to America with his new wife and baby son, arriving at Racine on August 14th.

Racine  is a city in Wisconsin located on the shore of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Root River around 76 miles from Chicago.

It was a frontier town until connected by rail to Milwaukee and Chicago in 1855. Its proximity to those two large cities, and the Western frontier, provided a ready market for manufactured goods.


horlick house ruardean

On the left is True Blue House, now Fern House, the home of Peter Horlick (1771-1841). The plaque above has it built in 1769. To its right is Horlick House where his son James Horlick snr (1809-1878) and his wife Priscilla lived.



horlick granary

The granary at Ruardean where the Horlick brothers experimented with their malted drink formula in the early 1870s


On arriving at Racine Joseph Horlick worked as a carpenter for about two years; and then, like his father in Painswick, Gloucestershire, entered the wood and timber business, supplying large quantities of piles and timber for bridge piers, docks, etc. He continued in that business until 1853, when, having purchased a piece of stone property at the Rapids, he turned his attention to dealing in the lime and stone business, later branching out in farming, milling, and ice supply. He went on to hold several public offices of trust, and was a prominent Freemason. The couple had six children, four sons and two daughters. 

Already a wealthy man, he took a trip to England in 1869 and, while visiting his cousin James at Ruardean, persuaded 24 year old William Horlick to return to America with him.

William stayed for around one year. During that time he fell for his cousin, Joseph's 19 year old daughter Arabella, and the couple were married at Racine on the 16th of November,1870.

On the day of their marriage they started on the trip back home to settle in England.

The 1871 census records the couple living at High Street, Ross, a few miles from Ruardean, where his occupation was recorded as a saddler employing two men.

In September 1872 William and Arabella, now accompanied by their first child, returned to the USA on board the City of London

He then went to work in his father-in-law's stone and timber business.

From early 1872 there was a huge demand for stone and building materials after the Great Chicago Fire, a conflagration that had burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871. It killed around 300 people, destroying roughly 3.3 square miles of Chicago, including the City's central business district, and left more than 100,000 residents homeless.

The same night of that disaster, an even deadlier fire annihilated Peshtigo, Wisconsin and other villages and towns north of the city of Green Bay.

In 1874, William entered into a co-partnership with the family firm of J. A. Horlick & Sons, now listed as manufacturers and dealers in lime, stone, cement, stucco, flour, etc. By early 1875 he had moved with his family to Chicago to superintend the branch of the business supplying building materials to that rapidly re-emerging city.

Joseph Horlick's home at Racine in the 1870s


Joseph Alexander Horlick (1813-89) was musically inclined, inventing and patenting a piano bridge in 1869. In 1874 he moved back to his Gloucestershire birthplace leaving his sons to take over the business.  One of his many interests was bell-ringing, having been a member of the Painswick ringers before migrating to America. He presented a bell to Cranham church on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887.

He was a popular member of the community and a Justice of the Peace when he died at Rock House, Wotton in July 1889 aged 76. In his honour bell-ringers rang half-muffled bells for 30 minutes at the local church.


James Horlick, is recorded on the 1861 census as staying with his cousin, the Rev. William Nockells, (born 1824) Rector of Ifield, Kent. William was the only son of Peter's daughter, Elizabeth Horlick (1801-1878) who had married William Nockells in London.

James later obtained a position to train as a pharmacist with a London based German chemist, Gustav Mellin, who was in the process of developing a nutritious infant food, "a milk modifier" to mix with milk and water. The new product, Mellin's Food for Infants and Invalids, was announced in 1866 and produced at Mellin’s Marlborough Works in Stafford Street, Peckham.

One of the things James learned from Mellin was that the marketing was as important as the product itself. Their largest competitor, Nestle’s, used national press adverts to warn potential customers that “impure milk is one of the chief causes of sickness among babies.”

Mellin fought back by sending out free samples, together with a pseudo-scientific booklet claiming to new mothers that his formula was better for their babies than breast milk.

Another lesson James learned would have been the need for adequate finance to set up this type of business. Mellin was himself declared bankrupt in 1869 and only survived by making a legal arrangement with his creditors.

Contemporary legend relates that James Horlick left the company in 1874 to join his brother William in Chicago to market a new product. He was certainly still with that company in April 1873 when he married Margaret Adelaide Burford, the daughter of a Leicester builder, at St. James, Westminster, and gave his home address as 16 Tichborne Street, Gustav Mellin's home.

There is, however, another possible reason for his arrival in New York on the Parthia in September 1874. He may, at that time, have continued to be employed as a representative of Gustav Mellin.

1874 was an important year in the Mellin company's history. They formed an agreement with Theodore Metcalf & Co. of Boston (later known as Doliber-Goodale) to promote and distribute their product in the USA.

Did James Horlick broker the deal and perhaps also own shares in Mellin's?

Mellin's Food was soon to become a major success when promoted all over the USA in women's magazines. By the end of the century, it was a highly successful product worldwide.

James Horlick certainly appears to have made New York his home. He and Margaret with their 3 month old baby Ernest, who was born on board a ship carrying the couple from New York to Racine, are recorded on the 1880 New York census. Their other two sons, James Nockells Horlick 1886, and Gerald Nolekin Horlick 1888, were both born there.

At Chicago in late 1874 the brothers formed the partnership of J & W Horlick to manufacture an artificial infant food. William, obtained their first US patent on 18 May 1875 for the product.

One source relates that this was contrary to the wishes of James, who was away from Chicago at the time. He believed that the patent might give too much information to their competitors, but he may also have been fearful of being in breach of contract with Gustav Mellin.

James, mainly working from New York, took responsibility for marketing to the medical profession and pharmaceutical trade, and William in Chicago looked after the production and financial side of the business. They followed a Mellins practice with their national adverts offering free samples. The product immediately enjoyed success.

In 1877 the Horlick brothers opened their single storey factory on the outskirts of Racine, Wisconsin, manufacturing "Horlick's Infant & Invalids Food".  It is believed that James Horlick's father-in-law, Joe Horlick from Racine, assisted with the finance but we also know that their father, James, sold three cottages he owned at Cinderhill, Ruardean, in July 1877. When he died his assets were listed as under £50.

Their business was incorporated in 1878 as the Horlick Food Company.

The first building housed eight reducing boilers based on their original bain-marie principal with steam encased in a copper jacket replacing the original boiler and floating bain-marie.

Clifford Harrison, at that time chairman of Horlicks Ltd, UK, related in 1954 that "Some-when late in the 1870s James Horlick was attending a Medical Convention (where, I am not sure, but I think it was Cincinnati) and when talking with a number of doctors, one of them suggested to James Horlick that he should give thought to providing the perfect infant food - namely one that contained milk and required only water for its reconstitution."

James apparently accepted the challenge and after several years of experimentation the brothers succeeded in evolving the popular formula we are familiar with today.

A part of the process employed in its manufacture involved boiling the milk in a vacuum to one hundred and forty degrees, and removing all water.

In 1883, they secured U.S. patent 278,967 for the first malted milk drink mixing powder, and in 1887, the partnership were producing, for the first time in world history, a food product in powder form containing clean rich milk combined with extracts of malted barley and wheat that would keep indefinitely. Originally named and sold as “Diastroid” it was later called "Horlick's Malted Milk".

The product was very popular and business swiftly grew by leaps and bounds. It often became difficult to meet the demand.

At Racine a program of building was instituted. As demand grew, new reinforced concrete buildings were added resulting by 1906 in a plant covering an area of fifteen acres and employing 350 workers.

In 1889 James Horlick established the New York branch of the business, and in 1890, returned to London to set up an office  at 39 Snow Hill Road, London, for importing the Wisconsin-made product and distributing it worldwide. He later moved to 34 Farringdon Road, which remained the company address in England until the establishment of the factory at Slough in 1907.

His brother William was not enthusiastic about the establishment of a UK factory and that probably accounts for it being sixteen years after his arrival in the UK before James Horlick bought the green field site at Slough from nearby Eton College.

The factory was built by Mr. A.G. Christeson, a mechanical engineer who was sent to America for a detailed briefing on the equipment there.

Once started the English operation soon surpassed the production from the one at Racine.

The Horlicks factory in Stoke Poges Lane is today described as perhaps the most beautiful historical industrial building still standing in Slough.The entire project cost around £28,800 (about £9 million today).

During World War I, the nutritional drink was popular both at home and in the overseas services.

In World War II the tablets were supplied to Allied troops as an energy boosting treat. They were commonly included in lifeboat and liferaft rations and aircrew escape kits.

In 1945 the American branch was acquired by the English office from Alexander J. Horlick, the surviving son of William Horlick.

Undergoing an executive reorganization in 1953, the Horlick's Corporation was finally purchased for approximately 60 million dollars by Beecham Group Limited of England in 1969. At that time the extended factory was producing 30 million pounds of powder a year.

After 100 years of production, Horlick's Corporation ceased production altogether in the United States in 1975.


Few people realise that commercial radio was booming in the 30s, long before the pirate ships and the legalisation of Independent Local Radio. A full 20 years before commercial TV arrived in the UK, Horlicks were among the pioneers of commercial radio advertising.

In the 1930s when the state-owned BBC held the broadcasting monopoly, Horlicks was spending more than one-third of its advertising money on radio advertising, using the European based stations Radio Luxembourg and Radio Normandy. 

As well as its daily Horlicks Tea Time Hour, it broadcast Horlicks Picture House at 4pm on Sundays on both Radio Luxembourg and Radio Normandy, featuring the well-known stars Vic Oliver, Webster Booth and Helen Raymond, plus the Horlicks All-Star Orchestra.

In the 1950s, on Radio Luxembourg, Bob Danvers-Walker announced the "Adventures of Dan Dare". Whilst former Dick Barton actor Noel Johnson took the part of Dan, Digby was played by John Sharpe, Peabody by Anne Cullen, and the Mekon by Francis De Wolfe. Other parts were played by up and coming actors, like Kenneth Williams and Ralph Richardson.

The Dan Dare Radio Show encouraged young listeners to enroll in the Horlicks Spacemans Club, and then marketed a series of related items that could be bought - usually for 6 pence and a label from a Horlicks jar.


William Horlick kept his battered cornet and the saddle-making tools as reminders of his early years of relative impoverishment in England. When he died at his Racine home in 1936 he was 90 years old and left a $17 million estate (about $287 million today).

He had given the Racine community such substantial gifts as the Memorial Hall, a maternity wing at St. Luke’s Hospital in memory of his daughter Alice, Island Park, Horlick Athletic Field, and land for the high school that was named in his honour.

A mountain range in Antarctica was named after him by Admiral Richard E. Byrd who, like every polar explorer for twenty years, had survived on Horlick’s health food.

His three surviving children commissioned a family mausoleum from the Harrison Granite Company of New York, to be built at Racine at a cost of $36,000.

Sir James Horlick bought Cowley Manor – near Cheltenham in 1895 and extensively remodelled it to resemble the Villa Borghese in Rome. At the edge of the Upper Lake, just above the Victorian cascades, a cast concrete urn pays homage to the fact that this was the first private house in the UK to use concrete as a building material.

The chairman and president of Horlicks Ltd, he held the office of Deputy Lieutenant of Gloucestershire and was a Justice of the Peace. Sir James was High Sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1902, and created 1st Baronet Horlick, of Cowley Manor, Gloucester on 18 July 1914.   He died in 1921 at the age of 77.

Their father, James Horlick snr (1809-1878), unfortunately died at Ruardean in 1878 and was not around when his two sons found success. His wife Priscilla had passed away in 1874. His will revealed his assets as being under £50.

The other son, Peter Horlick (1842-1901), carried on with the family's saddlery business at Ruardean. He married a local girl, Alice Thompson (bn 1854) in 1872, and the couple had two sons and a daughter, Alexander Nockells Horlick (1876), Alice Maud (1880), and Oliver Peter (1885).

Peter was not a successful businessman. In addition to his saddler's shop, he opened a grocery business at Ruardean but that failed in 1876.

Peter's son, Oliver Peter Thompson Horlick (1885), became part of the management of the Horlicks company at Slough. In 1933 he and his wife Mabel, with their 11 year old son Gerald, sailed to Australia to open a factory there.

His older brother, Alexander Horlick (1876) , was the owner of Driffield Farm at Lydney which came on the market in 1907. The 1911 census records him living there with his wife of 9 years, Ellen, and two sons, Jim (7) and Jack (5).


All that remains at Ruardean Church today to remember the Horlick family are the gravestones of William & James's grandfather Peter (1771-1841) and their parents James and Priscilla (above). The neglected and broken tombstone of their brother Peter (1842-1901) lies on the graveyard grass in two pieces. His wife Alice Horlick (1854-1939), who died at Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire, was the last member of the family to be buried here. The church bell, presented by the Horlick family, and added to the original six with another from Sir Francis Brain in 1905, still rings out in their memory.


The visit to Horlicks of Slough by the Greek royal family in 1931


Front Row L-R: The Queen Dowager of Greece, Princess Helene of Romania, Princess Irene of Greece and Mr Oliver.P.Horlick. 

Second Row L-R: King George of Greece. Princess Katherine of Greece, Madam Christian Costy, Mrs J.N.Horlick. 

Third Row L-R: Prince Paul of Greece and Denmark, Mr Frederick.A.Kilby (Works Manager), Mr Peter Horlick, Mr.H.W Weathersbee (Sales Manager), Dr.C.R.Williams, Mr.C.J.Harrison (Publicity Manager)


The Reverend John Horlick. A number of erroneous accounts relate that the Reverend John Horlick (1778-1858)  and his family, some of whom were buried in the Congregational Church graveyard at Ruardean, were related to William & James Horlick. There does not, however, appear to be any connection between the Cranham Horlick family and those from nearby Painswick.

John Horlick arrived at Ruardean from Painswick around 1800 to be minister at the new Congregational church built in 1798. His father, Robert Horlick, a weaver, is believed to have been related to the family of clothier Zachariah Horlick (1706-98), the owner of Rock Mill, who lived at Hambutts House in Painswick and also owned a fair amount of property in Painswick.

Zachariah was a friend and financial supporter of Cornelius Winter, who was responsible for the building of a number of chapels, and the training of several non-conformist ministers, one of whom was John Horlick.

A sermon occasioned by Zachariah's death was written at Painswick, on July 1st, 1798, by Cornelius Winter, and later published.

It was the practice of Mr Winter to send out his students to preach in neighbouring towns and villages. In 1800 John Horlick was sent to the Independent chapels at Mitcheldean and Ruardean. He so impressed the locals that they asked for him to be their minister.

After consulting Mr Winter he accepted the invitation and on June 9th 1801 John was ordained at Ruardean.

Things were not always easy for those early Nonconformist ministers. John Horlick is recorded describing 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.

In 1832 John Horlick wrote about how religion was taking a hold in the nonconformist chapels throughout the Forest. In one section of his writings he talked about one of the early 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 was possible, he invited gospel ministers to come and preach in his own house, and to some of them he made payments, helping towards their travelling expenses. To raise the money he worked extra hours, sometimes even till midnight”

He  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 his teachings. He helped to establish independent chapels at Littledean, Cinderford, Soudley and Lydney, and thought nothing of walking 17 or more miles every Sunday to preach in different parts of the Forest."



The congregations at Ruardean and Mitcheldean at first were so small that they could only raise £30 per annum for his salary.

After a few years John Horlick managed to increase their numbers from 30 at Mitcheldean and 50 at Ruardean to around 150 at each chapel. He personally raised £600 to build a new chapel at Mitcheldean and enlarged and made improvements to the building at Ruardean.

In September 1850 a service to celebrate his 50 years as a preacher was held at Ruardean where he was presented with two purses of gold containing £65 (later increased).

In December 1851 he had a stroke which so affected his speech that he was unable to preach again. He was 81 when he died at Ruardean in February 1858.

His son, John Robert Horlick, (1818-1856) was the landlord of the Angel Inn at Ruardean from 1850 till 1855. He appears to have changed its name for a short period around 1851 when the census recorded it as the White Hart. Perhaps his non-conformist father was not too happy about its original name.


Ruardean Castle

Ruardyn castle was originally a manor house built in Norman times, and because of its strategic importance during the later Middle Ages the manor included a castle. It was built under a licence granted in 1311 to Alexander of Bicknor to crenellate his house at Ruardean.

The surviving ruins indicate that it comprised of a courtyard enclosed by buildings on its north east and south west sides, with a tower in the western corner. Carved stonework dates it to the 13th century. On the SE side of the courtyard are the tumbled remains of a gate house, with twin buildings flanking the entrance, from which a faint hollow-way leads SE along the spur towards the parish church. It is believed the site was probably enclosed by a wall. 

The area of the mound on which it stood, suggests a site of considerable size. In the 1930s, when the area was excavated by local treasure hunters, remains of a small chamber were uncovered. No evidence was found to indicate that this site was ever a motte and bailey castle.

Click on image for Google view

Click on image for more Castle site photos

The building suffered major damage during the Civil War in the 17th century. 

The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists ("Cavaliers") over principally, the method of the kingdom's government and expenditure. Around the Ruardean area a number of the landowners were catholics and supporters of the Royalist cause.

A staunch Roman Catholic, and a fervent Royalist, Joan Vaughan of Ruardean was the widow of John Vaughan. She was a daughter of Thomas Baynham of Clearwell, and grand-daughter of Sir William Wynter of Lydney.

Joan was an heiress in her own right and, acquiring her husband’s property, including the manor of Ruardean, on his death she went to live there. Records show that a large part of her income was derived from coal and a forge.

In 1641, a year before the start of the Civil War, regarded as a charitable and brave person, she was, at the age of 56, indicted for harbouring a priest at Ruardean. He was named in that indictment as John Broughton.

She seems to have employed Broughton as a steward whilst giving him a base to minister from. In the early part of 1632 he had been imprisoned at London having been accused of being a priest. The matter was not proceeded with and he had returned to the Forest and the protection of the Vaughans.

He apparently had knowledge of estate and woodlands management and was appointed the first Deputy Surveyor of the Forest of Dean in 1633, and remained in that office till the end of the 1630s.

On Joan Vaughan's 1641 arrest she was lodged in Gloucester gaol. The alleged offence was treason and subject to the death penalty on conviction. Fortunately her case did not come to court due to the intervention of King Charles and she was released.

As a kinswoman of the infamous Royalist, Sir John Winter, a man with many enemies, she and her family would have been thought a prominent target by her Roundhead enemies.

There does not appear to be a record of the destruction of Ruardyn Castle but we know that the Roundheads established a garrison at Ruardean and perhaps it was at that time there would have been a military action when the defending castle was possibly put out of action.

During renovations to the Crown Inn at Ruardean in the 1990s,  a Civil War period cannonball was dug up in the garden.

According to Rev. H G Nicholl's 1858 book where he writes about the Parliamentarians - "To check these invasions, the garrison of High-Meadow was carefully kept up. Ruerdean, six miles to the west, and well situated for guarding the Forest on the north, was made another military post, being intended to stop plunderers from the King’s garrison at Goodrich, and where there is a spot yet called “Shoot-Hill,” adjoining which many cannon-balls have been found.

Probably the site of the old castle at Bicknor was also converted into an out-station, guarding the two parallel valleys which there pass up towards the middle of the Forest from the Wye. This station would likewise assist, from its relative position, in transmitting signals between Ruerdean and High-Meadow, or even from Gloucester, if the Beacon, which formerly stood on the crest of Edge Hill, were included in the range. Such posts would be serviceable to the Parliamentary. Colonel Birch, when engaged in the siege of Goodrich Castle, not more than four miles north of Ruerdean; relates that his supplies would be drawn chiefly from the Forest, as indeed appears from a letter dated 4th July, 1646, in which he says, “We have supplies of shells for our granadoes from the Forest of Dean.”

It is highly probable that, like nearby Goodrich Castle, the buildings here were demolished to prevent future military use. Nicholls also wrote; "Several traditions of violence and blood, referring no doubt to this period, are preserved by the inhabitants of these parts of the Forest, one of whom reports an act of cruelty perpetrated on a householder living in the little hamlet of Drybrook, who was struck down, and his eyes knocked out, for refusing to give up a flitch of bacon to a foraging party. Another legend, relative to the same neighbourhood, preserves the memory of a skirmish called “Edge Hill’s Fight,” from the spot on which it occurred. It is true that some of the neighbouring foresters suppose it to be “the Great Fight mentioned in the almanack,” an idea which might perhaps have given rise to the story, were it not that a small stream which descends from the place in question bears the name of “Gore Brook,” from the human blood which on that occasion stained its waters."


The siege of Goodrich Castle by Colonel Birch in 1646.   

The outbreak of the Civil War in 1642 saw the castle under the control of the Earl of Stamford for Parliament however he soon withdrew and Goodrich was then occupied by Sir Henry Lingen for the King.

In May 1646 Colonel Birch placed his forces around Goodrich. At 2pm on June 13th he summoned the Royalist garrison to give up the castle on June 19th in the name of Parliament and offered his personal protection for the safety of the governor, Sir Henry Lingen, and his men.

Sir Henry answered by letter, carried by a drummer-boy, saying that the King had entrusted the castle to his care and until he had orders to the contrary, he would continue to hold it.

Colonel Birch then mounted a systematic attack which included the use of an enormous mortar piece specially cast for this siege. "Roaring Meg", as this artillery cannon was known, had a 15.5 inch barrel diameter and fired a 2cwt hollow ball filled with gunpowder.

In addition the water supply was cut to the castle and mining activity was started under its river side.

The defenders quickly ran out of cannon balls. Roaring Meg wreaked havoc on its walls and towers, and after only six weeks the castle was lost.  During the siege Colonel Birch, was so excited with his new weapon he personally fired the last 19 balls.

After the surrender around 170 Royalists, among them 50 gentlemen from many of the leading local families, marched out of the ruins and were taken prisoner.

The inside area of the castle was then partly demolished by explosives to prevent its future military use, and the main timbers and lead roofs removed.

The Roundhead force then moved on to Ludlow. On 9th July 1646 the Royalist garrison of Ludlow surrendered to Sir William Brereton. The town and castle were besieged by a strong Parliamentarian force led by Colonel Birch. There was some fighting on the outskirts of the town and some of the suburbs suffered from fire damage but that castle was surrendered by negotiation.


John Birch was born at Ardwick, Manchester in 1615. He moved to Bristol in 1633 where he set up a business trading provisions in the Severn Valley area.
He later became a successful soldier leading a regiment of the Parliamentary army and took a prominent part in the recapturing of the West Country from the Royalists.
He was at the siege of Bristol after being given command of the regiment of Major General Phillip Skippon who was wounded at Naseby, being appointed  Governor after the surrender.
On December 5th he received a commission by the Committee of Safety:- "To draw out 1000 foot and your own horse and march to Herefordshire" & "To endeavor to distress the city of Hereford and use all means to take it in." 
On December 18th he performed a surprise attack on the city and the Royalist garrison made only a token defence.
In March he was again victorious at the Battle of Stow, in May at Ludlow, and in July at Goodrich Castle.
After the successful siege of Raglan Castle in August he was appointed one of the commissioners involved in the nationwide surrender negotiations.
On December 9th he entered the House of Commons as MP for Leominster.   Source -



Horlicks Company website

Gloucester Journal


Archive newspapers
Kelly's Directory 1878

The Christian's penny magazine, and friend of the people [ed. by J. Campbell ..1858


The FOREST OF DEAN; an historical and descriptive account,  By H. G. NICHOLLS, M.A., 1858

1954 recollections of Clifford Harrison, Chairman of Horlicks Ltd, Slough.



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