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British Industrial History

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Lydbrook Iron Works

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This entry covers a variety of works producing and processing iron in Upper and Lower Lydbrook, in the Forest of Dean, from the late 16th to the 20th century. One of these is featured separately - see Lydbrook Ironworks.

It is now hard to imagine that this narrow wooded valley once teamed with industrial activity, and it is now difficult to positively identify the sites of the iron works. One exception is a large flat area of hard standing immediately north of the through road, where pieces of iron slag and cinders are in evidence. Other clues to the area's character are found in the names of buildings, such as Forge Row, The Forge Hammer (pub), Tinmans Arms (ex-pub), Anchor Inn. Anchor? The village is close to the navigable River Wye. In passing, the landlord of the Anchor Inn in 1869/70 was also the owner of the Lydbrook Chemical Co (Robert Russell)[1]

Cyril Hart[2] produced a sketch map showing the location of seven of the undertakings, from an area close to the River Wye to 1½ miles up the Lyd Brook valley.

Furthest from the River Wye was the King's Howbrook Furnace (built 1612-13), on the Great How Brook, which was dammed to provide a pond. The sketch map also shows Waterloo Corn Mill at this location.

After serving the furnace, the stream fed another pond, where it met another stream (the Lyd?). This pond fed the King's Howbrook Forge, about 1/3 mile downstream of the furnace, and built at the same time. Hart also shows a 19th century corn mill at this location.

Moving further downstream, at the junction with Little How Brook, and served by a pond fed by that brook, was Lydbrook Upper Forge, built c.1590. Lydbrook Chemical Works is shown at this location, next to the main road.

Then followed three more ponds, evidently serving Russell's Wireworks (19th C.).

Next came the Anchor Inn, followed by the site of a succession of iron works, namely Lydbrook Middle Forge (later called Upper Forge), built c.1590 and working in the 17th and 18th C. Later there was a rolling mill here, and part of the tinplate works. Further downstream and immediately before a cluster of houses, was an 18th - 20th century tinplate works. This narrow site, extending about ¼ mile alongside of the B4234 road, includes the area of hard standing mentioned above, was doubtless the Lydbrook Ironworks which was largely demolished in 1930. Beneath this hard standing, the Lyd Brook has been culverted. It re-emerges in the group of new and old houses, whose lanes include 'Forge Row' and 'Mill Row'.

Lydbrook Ironworks was served by the railway (latterly the GWR), and no doubt a steep incline was needed to join the main line, given the elevation of the former Lower Lydbrook Viaduct.

The final site down the valley was Lydbrook Lower Forge, for which Dr Hart gives a build date of 1611 and an operating period of 17th - 18th C. There is now a pub called the Iron Forge at this location.

Signs of a tramway are to be found on the northern slope of the valley. A house bears the name 'Incline Cottage', with a horse-drawn tramway wagon featured on its sign.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] 'Gloucestershire Pubs' website
  2. 'The Industrial History of Dean' by Cyril Hart: David & Charles, 1971