is a civil parish
in the Forest of Dean
, a local government district
in the English
county of Gloucestershire
. It comprises the districts of Lower Lydbrook, Upper Lydbrook, and Joys Green
Situated on the north west edge of the Forest of Dean's present legal boundary proper, lies the village of Lydbrook with its mile and a half long main street, reputed to be the longest main street of any village in England.
The area now forming the present village of Lydbrook has been inhabited throughout history. Artifacts from Hangerberry and Eastbach on the south west corner of the parish, and Lower Lydbrook show evidence of widespread activity from the Mesolithic period (Middle Stone Age 10,000 - 4,000 BC) to the present. Flint stone tools from surrounding fields confirm that the area was occupied and farmed for more than 4,000 years.
Lydbrook was inhabited by the Romans as there is evidence of a Roman homestead along Proberts Barn Lane, Lower Lydbrook. The timber building detected on the site may date from the 1st Century AD. A later building was constructed with stone walls. This building was still inhabited in the 4th century. The site was also a farming and agricultural centre in the Roman period. There is also evidence of Roman activity at Hangerberry with traces of a Roman pavement. We know that a Roman road came from Ruardean through Lower Lydbrook (tracing the Wye) to English Bicknor. A further ancient road existed between Joys Green and English Bicknor via Bell Hill. Traces of a Roman Road also exist from Worrall Hill to Edge End. These Roman track ways show evidence of following the course of previous prehistoric paths. In 1881 it was reported that a large quantity of Roman coins were found at Lower Lydbrook. Recent archaeological excavations by the Dean Archaeological Group in and around Lydbrook have recovered further coins from the Roman period, as well as other artefacts pre-dating and post dating this period.
For those living today there may be differences as to what comprises Lydbrook. There is the village of Lydbrook which for many would include Worrall Hill, Hangerberry and Stowfield. There is also the Parish of Lydbrook which includes Joys Green, Hawsley and High Beech. The complexities of boundaries for Lydbrook have been greater in the past.
Before becoming part of Gloucestershire, prior to the 12th century, the Forest of Dean lay in Herefordshire. For example, Ruardean was an extension of the parish of Walford in Herefordshire and St John's church at Ruardean was a daughter church of Walford Church.
In the same time as the Forest of Dean came into Gloucestershire the Forest had become the preserve of the Crown. The area now covered by Upper Lydbrook and Joys Green, would have been served in times past by the church at Mitcheldean. However from Norman times until the mid 1800s, it came under the Forest's Bailiff for Mitcheldean (in other words 'the Magna or Great Dean Bailiwick'), and thus was extra-parochial, or outside of a parish.
Lower Lydbrook was divided between the parishes of English Bicknor and Walford (served by the Church of St John the Baptist at Ruardean), with the Lyd forming the boundary. The mid 1800s saw the parochialisation of the Forest. Each area within the legal boundaries of the Forest came under both a church district and a civic district. In 1816 Upper Lydbrook and Joys Green came under the newly created church of Holy Trinity at Harry Hill, with a mission chapel built in Upper Lydbrook in 1821. By 1842 this arrangement was formalised by the newly created ecclesiastical district of Holy Trinity (Harry Hill, Drybrook).
The civic boundaries of the Forest differed from the church boundaries and from 1842 Lower Lydbrook and Upper Lydbrook became part of the Township of West Dean, with Joys Green coming within the westmost boundary of the Township of East Dean, the Railway line (constructed later in the 1860s) ran along this boundary. In 1852 Lower Lydbrook, Upper Lydbrook and Joys Green all became part of the newly created ecclesiastical parish of Lydbrook. It was much later in 1935 that the civic parish of Lydbrook was created.
Lower Lydbrook and Upper Lydbrook had developed as separate communities prior to the 17th century and remained so legally until the 1800s. A few of the older inhabitants of the village report that a toll gate once existed between Lower and Upper Lydbrook.
Lower Lydbrook was settled as part of the parishes of English Bicknor and Ruardean, and was the focus of the iron industry.
You only have to look at the location of housing in Lower Lydbrook to see a defined community adjacent to the Wye River and Lyd brook. The pond also served as a focal point, as well a community meeting places. Lower Lydbrook people were buried in the churchyards of Ruardean and English Bicknor (as well as a number being buried at Welsh Bicknor across the Wye). Upper Lydbrook lay within the Forest boundary which had been part of the Bailiwick of Mitcheldean, and had been encroached (housing being build within what was once strictly a Crown preserve), serving as a focus for the mining community.
The present community of Lydbrook seems to have had its beginnings in the 13th century. In a record of a sale of trees in 1256, mention is made of 'the Mill of Lydbrook'. Further early notes on Lydbrook occur in a survey of the Forest of Dean in 1282. The Lyd (a brook, which flows into the River Wye) formed, for part of its travels, the boundary between the Bailiwicks of Bikenore (English Bicknor) and Rywardin (Ruardean). Today many maps call the Lyd, Hough Brook, or Great Hough Brook, and How Brook which joins the Lyd is known on modern maps as Little Hough Brook. Listed in the 1282 entries of those who possessed cultivated land, William of Ludebrok (Lydbrook), appears under the parish of Bikenore, and under the parish of Rywardin. Rather than being two separate pieces of land in differing localities, it was probably that William's land will have included the brook, hence his inclusion in the records for both parishes. In addition, under the entry for Bikenore is recorded, Robert of Stoufeld (Stowfield). Thus the development of Lydbrook began at Lower Lydbrook. The village takes its name from the brook running its entire length - the 'loud brook' or lud brook to become Lyd Brook. The village developed as a site for the local iron and coal industries with the houses as an encroachment into the Forest tracing the Lyd brook which provided the water needed for industry and domestic use. The development of the encroachment, continued into the Bailiwick of Magna Dean (Mitcheldean), the area which became known as Upper Lydbrook and Joys Green. The village only became a place of population of any size 17th century onwards, but grew steadily since to remain static for almost a century and a half at a population of circa 2,500 between the 1850s and the beginning of the 1990s. However, from the beginning of the 1990s the community has begun to slowly depopulate. One call to fame of the recent past, which now is thankfully no longer true, is that Humphrey Phelps, in his book on the Forest of Dean recalls that in the 1950s Lydbrook had the highest incidence of tuberculosis in England.
Although Lydbrook is now developing as a useful centre for exploring both the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean with its several hotels and Bed and Breakfast establishments, its traditional connection is with industry especially with the iron, coal and timber industries.
The arrival of the Romans brought with them the iron industry into the Forest. The proven presence of a Roman community in Lydbrook provides for the possibility of an early iron industry. There will certainly have been iron ore and coal mines, at low or outcrop level. Records for industry in the post Roman and pre Norman periods are scarce and it is only from the thirteenth century that numerous records can be found. However, details about Lydbrook can be difficult to isolate, as Lydbrook was not a parish in its own rights, and activity at Lydbrook, is activity at Ruardean or English Bicknor. One attraction of Lydbrook was the northward fast flowing Lyd.
In the 1590s records exist of what became known as the Upper Forge at Lydbrook built by Thomas Bainham and later owned by Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex. In 1628 it was described as standing on "Hangerbury Common, below the King's Forge. By 1668 the Upper Forge had disappeared. Three other forges existed. The Middle Forge built int the 1590s was opposite what is now Beard's bakery building. After the demise of the original Upper Forge, the Middle Forge eventually took on the name of Upper Forge. The Lower Forge was built in 1610 (standing within two hundred yards from the Wye). Standing up-stream from the Upper Forge was the King's Howbrook Forge (also known as the Lydbrook Forge) built in 1612/13. This stood opposite what is now Brook House (was once the Yew Tree Inn). In March 1650 the Forge was demolished. Not far away and built in the same period was the King's Furnace powered by the Lyd (where the How brook joins the Lyd) this ceased by 1674. By the early 1700s only two forges existed, the Upper Forge (the re-named old Middle Forge) and the Lower Forge. In 1702 a further forge existed, although it location is now unknown, the New Forge. This forge was somewhere between the two others as it took on the name of 'Middle Forge'. By 1818 after many changes of hands both owners and tenants, the Partridge family dominated the iron works at Lydbrook. In 1622 there are details of a grist mill and a battering works nearby a disused cornmill. The Lower Forge became in its turn a Corn Mill. Existing also in Lydbrook around the 1690s was an Anvil making works.
By 1798 tinplate production began in Lydbrook through the agency of the Partridge and Allaway families (Thomas Allaway was a tenant of the Patridges). The Upper and Lower Forges had been converted to tinplate works by the Partridges and then were leased by Allaway in 1817. It has been argued that tinplate production began in Lydbrook in 1760, which would have made it the earliest centre for tinplate production. The Allaways firm became 'Pearce & Allaway' in 1820, and then in 1850 'Allaways, Partridge & Co'. In 1871 the business was leased to Richard Thomas who moved into the village and lived at the Poplars, Upper Lydbrook. Thomas expanded his business taking over Lydbrook Colliery and Waterloo Colliery. Richard Thomas died in 1916. The works were closed during the First World War and ceased operating in 1925. The early tin works and rolling mills stood where Meredith & Sons and Lydwood works are today.
In 1818 James Russell purchased the Ironworks upstream of the Upper Forge, opposite the Bell Inn, where he created a wireworks. The enterprise was run by the family until its closure between 1890 and 1900.
In 1912 Harold J Smith purchased land at Stowfield and erected the Lydbrook Cable Works. The First World War provided a number of contracts with employee numbers expanding from 40 to 650 with double shilfts being worked. With the end of the War, came a slump in business, and in 1920 the Official Receiver was brought in ending Smith's connection with the factory. The business was bought in 1925 by Edison Swan Electric Company.
With the greater resources available the plant at Stowfield further expanded, and was well placed to help with the Second World War possessing one of only four machines for making lead alloy tube needed for P.L.U.T.O. - (Petroleum Lines Under The Ocean), which allowed fuel to be supplied to the Allied invasion force in Europe from Britain. In the late 1940s, Edison Swan was swallowed up by the Associated Electrical Company. Integrated with the Siemens Cable Works at Woolwich the Stowfield Factory at its height employed approximately 1,100 people. The Cable Works came to an end in 1966 when the factory was bought by Reed Paper Group, which in its turn was taken over by a Swedish Company SCA. If there were any personal losses to Harold Smith as a result of the Cable Works being taken into receivership these were soon reversed as in the same year he opened the 'Temco Works'.
The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw the village grow through the rise of industry. The first commercially successful blast furnace was sited in Lydbrook and was working as early as 1608. By the eighteenth century had become important for the production of tin plate, and a book published in 1861 compared Lydbrook to Sheffield. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the iron trade was in decline but the coal industry was growing fast. Lydbrook having its own collieries - Arthur & Edward (also called Waterloo as it opened in 1815), The Deep Level, The Old Soot Bag, The Old Engine, Worrall Hill Mine. Lower Lydbrook's situation by the Wye brought about its importance as being a loading place for coal to be taken by barge to Hereford. The flat bottomed barges were dragged originally by men - until the construction of a tow path in 1811. This trade declined after the construction of the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal, but the canal was soon superseded by the railways, which as far as Lydbrook is concerned has 'come and gone'. The community was served by two railway stations and a halt, Upper Lydbrook, Lower Lydbrook (the Halt) and Lydbrook Junction. Not even the famous Lower Lydbrook Viaduct remains which enabled the lines from Cinderford via Bilston and Serridge to connect with the Ross on Wye to Monmouth line. The viaduct rose some 87 feet above the roadway below, linking Forge Hill on the east with Randor on the west. It was built in 1872 and first used for traffic 26th August 1874. The line was closed to passengers in 1929 and to goods in 1951. It was dismantled in 1966.
New industries replaced the old with the rise of a cable works, but this closed in 1965, replaced by Reed Corrugated Cases (since mid 1991 re-named SCA Packaging Ltd). Others in Lydbrook found employment with Rank Xerox at Mitcheldean. Other employment in the village is offered through the existence of a small number of light engineering works and three saw mills. The new industries differ from the old because they did not grow out of the Forest because of the minerals, but because of the availability of a work force. Only the saw mills (employing a small number of people) represent a connection with traditional Forest industry. Modern road communications with the surrounding areas has opened the village up to outsiders with the new phenomena of holiday homes, being once the cottages of the Foresters.
Pubs, Clubs & Restaurants
- The Courtfield Arms - on the Ross Road, was once known as the New Inn
- The Forge Hammer - on Mill Row. Since March 2008, has operated an Indian restaurant in its back room.
- The Royal Spring Inn - on Vention Lane, was once a hunting lodge
- The Garden Café - an organic restaurant based in an old malt-house
- Belvedere House B&B - 4 star, contemporary accommodation.
- The Anchor Inn - a traditional English Inn, formerly known as the Anchorage
- The Lydbrook and District Community Social Club - used to be the British Legion club, and is still popularly referred to as the Legion.
- The Jovial Colliers
- Lydbrook Athletic Social Club - affiliated to Lydbrook Athletic F.C. and based in the basement rooms of the Memorial Hall.
- The Mason's Arms, Hawsley - more commonly known as The Bush (only open at weekends)
- The Sawyers Arms - Mill Row, Lower Lydbrook
- The Recruiting Sergeant - now Lydbrook Viaduct Stores, a bed and breakfast establishment in Lower Lydbrook
- The Green Parrot - at the beginning of Vention Lane - now demolished
- The Quay Inn - along Quay Row, Lower Lydbrook. Now part of the Fishing Lodge
- The Bell Inn, Central Lydbrook
- The Pack of Mules, Central Lydbrook - became a sweetshop for a time and is known today as Jasmine Cottage
- The Prince of Wales, Central Lydbrook
- The Crown and Sceptre, Upper Lydbrook - just below the parish church
- The Queen's Head, Upper Lydbrook - a few doors away from the Jovial Colliers
- The Yew Tree, Upper Lydbrook - now a residential home for old people called Brook House
- In addition to the public houses, various establishments existed which sold alcohol. There was an industry in brewing beer and cider which was sold under licence. One of the more well known places was the Tinman's Arms in Lower Lydbrook.
One interesting fact about the area is that the village of Lydbrook has the longest 'high street' in Britain, however as a village community it has less than a dozen shops.
- Lydbrook Post Office
- Central Stores - a general store and off-licence, with a bakery.
- The Wye Fry fish & chip shop
- Jen Styles hairdressers
- The Bridal Cottage - a bridal gown shop
- Joys Green Post Office
- A corner shop
- Worrall Hill Post Office (was destroyed in 1997)
When commerce was at its height in Lydbrook there would have been more than thirty shops, today there are far fewer. The loss of shops owes itself to improved transport and the arrival of the supermarkets in the nearest towns. The following is a list of some of the shops that once existed in Lydbrook.
- Wallace Davis Butchers - this became Finn Parsons Boot & Shoe Repairs and then became a car garage.
- W. Preece, Ironmongers - this became Everall's Ironmongers - now demolished.
- The Cinderford Co-operative, Upper Lydbrook - this had previously been a shop trading under the name of The Upper Lydbrook Cash Supply Stores
- Philip Bros. Baker, Grocer & Drapers.
- Mrs Black's cake shop - this became H. Evans, Men's Hairdresser which, in turn, became L. Trigg, Workshop. Now owned by Mrs Jones.
- V. Wilce Fish & Chips - demolished to enlarge the Jovials.
- Ravenhill - this became A. Hall, which became James and then became Evans General Stores.
- Curly Jones Fish & Chips - now Fisher's Builders.
- Beard's Central Bakery, Central Lydbrook - now a light engineering works.
Almost forgotten as a fact is the place the churches played in providing education in Lydbrook. Situated in Lower Lydbrook was a school provided by the Goff Endowment Charity. The venture lasted from 1820 to the late 1830s. The school in Upper Lydbrook was founded by the Church of England
, which had provided a series of schools throughout the Forest in Mitcheldean, Christ Church, Drybrook, Woodside, the Hawthornes, Lydbrook, Park End, and Cinderford.
The local school was founded by the Reverend Henry Berkin, as part of the National Schools, who erected a chapel schoolroom in 1822. The original building measured 50 feet long by 30 feet wide, and was fitted with benches with railed backs, and in the words of Henry Berkin "will contain about 400 persons". After 1851, with the erection of Holy Jesus Church, the chapel continued as a school and also served as the church hall. In 1872, fifty years on from 1822, the allocation of space being more generous per person, the school was (according to the record of the time) enlarged to "seat 250 pupils". On 20th January 1908 the beginnings of a new school had been erected as the 'Lydbrook Temporary Council School' to 'relieve the Lydbrook National School', with an intake of 35 boys. These will have been the senior boys. The new buildings were being erected across the main road from the old school on the west side of the village. By the autumn of 1909 the new school had been completed. The Headmaster, Mr Bishop transferred with the pupils on 6th September 1909. The school was due to be opened 30th August 1909, but the building work had not been completed so the children had the benefit of being granted an extra week's holiday. The registered number of 26937 belonging to the Lydbrook Church of England Infant School (alloted in April 1897) was transferred to the Lydbrook Council Infants' School, 30th August 1909.
Joys Green school was erected in 1882 as a result of the Education Act of 1870, and was implemented by the Dean School Board which in those years had the management of the schools in the area. School meals began in both schools in the early 1940s.
Other notable buildings
The oldest surviving building in Lydbrook is today known as The Priory
, which in fact had never been a Priory
, but was originally known as Lidbrook Farm
. Once the home of the Probert family. The architectural design requires a date in the mid-1500s for this building, owing to the close timbered framework when oak was more plentiful, as opposed to square timbered style of the later period. There is a secret room in this building and claims for tunnels extending from Courtfield
and the Anchor Inn
. A Priest hole
has been argued for, but smuggling has been suggested as an alternative. The house is also reputed to be haunted
The Old House
Further up the village, in Central Lydbrook, opposite The Anchor Inn
is the second oldest house in the village. This is (rather confusingly) called The Old House
, and is a red-bricked and square-timbered house which at one stage belonged to Roger Kimble, father of Sarah Siddons
(née Kimble - a famous actress 1755-1831). It has an extension built on the side which boasts the date '1718'.
Both The Priory and The Old House are situated in the oldest parts of the village in Lower and Central Lydbrook. It would not be surprising if even older structures were eventually discovered within other houses in Lower Lydbrook.
The two largest centres of housing positioned west and east of the valley are Worrall Hill
and Joys Green
. The former district took its name from the Worrall family of English Bicknor
and the name 'Joys Green' came from Jay's Green
on account of the numerous Jays
seen in that locality.
Lydbrook Parish Council
It was only in 1935, with the creation of the civic parish of Lydbrook that Joys Green became a full part of the parish. The first parish council
meeting was Wednesday 10th April 1935 at 6.30 pm. Present were E.J.Flewelling, W.A.Morris, S.W.Hatton, W.J.Edwards, F.E.Cooper, R.J.Morgan, Luke Wilce and William Preece. W.A.Morris was elected as the first Chairman. Mr S.A.Grail was unable to attend due to illness. Mr Morris served for just over a year and resigned, at the meeting October 19th 1936 owing to retirement and his moving away from Lydbrook. Stan Hatton took over as Chairman and remained Chairman until his resignation 14th May 1973. At the first meeting of a newly elected council, on the 25th June 1973, Arthur Cooper became Chairman and remained so until May 1991, when Brian Payne took over, followed by Edward Lusty in May 1993 and Bruce Hogan in May 1995.
Centres of community
Old School Rooms
The Church of England mission chapel completed in 1822, not only provided a place of Christian
worship, but provided a school (hence its title of the old school rooms) and a church hall. After 1909 with a new school replacing the building, and a parish church replacing it as a chapel, the mission hall served as a parish hall with all manner of activities taking place.
Another early meeting place was the old 1 penny reading rooms in Mill Lane. The reading rooms were provided by the owners of the tinplate works which began in the mid-1800s. The reading rooms closed down in 1928/9.
The Anchor Hall adjacent to the Anchor public house provided a meeting place in the early part of the 20th century. A cinema was installed in 1914 run by the Albany Ward Company of Lydney. The Anchor Hall closed in the mid 1920s.
During the Great War
a committee was formed to provide items for the welfare of the servicemen on leave. After the War the committee was left with £100. The committee and the Men's Institute (founded in 1892) formed a general committee and proposed the building of a Memorial Hall. Public subscriptions were sought, and a grant from the United Services Fund of £88 was obtained. The local Women's Institute
had an original aim of erecting their own headquarters but joined in with the Memorial Hall committee providing from their own funds £100. In 1920 the committee purchased the building and lands known as 'The Poplars', and on the 11th November 1926 the Lydbrook Memorial Hall, Men's and Women's Institute came into being at a cost of £3,150 opened by the blind Victoria Cross
holder of Coleford
, Captain Angus Buchanan.
Lydbrook Silver Band
In times past several bands entertained the village; the Old Trafalgar Band, Arthur & Edward Band - early 1900s, Excelsior Band, Morgan's Band and the Lydbrook Junior Reed & Brass Band - 1920s. This latter band became the Onward Band then was renamed the Lydbrook Silver Prize Band in 1924, eventually named the Lydbrook Silver Band or Lydbrook Band. The present Band headquarters was built on the site of the Old Engine Colliery in 1955.
1st Lydbrook Scout Group
The Boy Scout
Group in Lydbrook was founded in 1909 and met in the reading rooms at Lower Lydbrook. A photograph of the scout troop exists dated 1912. Apart from a brief reference in the Women's Institute
history of Lydbrook published in the late 1950s and the photograph nothing else exists on the troop of this period. A new troop was founded in 1926 with Howard Roff as Scoutmaster. The troop may have been disbanded prior to the onset of the Second World War
. Howard Roff had retired from the position of Scoutmaster in 1937. The troop now was attached to the Church and met in the Old Chapel. In the 1950s and in the 1960s Scouts were part of the church's youth work, but the loss of the Hall in the 1960s caused their eventual demise. The former troops had all been affiliated to the Boy Scouts Association (post 1967 called 'The Scout Association
). In 1989 a church based Scout Group affiliated to 'The British Boy Scouts and British Girl Scouts Association' (part of the Order of World Scouts
), was founded admitting Girls into membership alongside the Boys and using the church as a base. This venture ended in circa 2000.
Senior Citizens Committee
This committee is at present and has been for a number of years the only welfare organisation in Lydbrook. The committee was formed in 1952 and known as the Lydbrook Old Folks committee. The funds were raised throughout the public houses and clubs but the headquarters was the Jovial Colliers. Original fund raising events included smoking concerts, dances, fetes, sponsored walks, bazaars. Collection bottles and boxes were placed in all the public houses. A bank account was first opened in 1957, Lloyds Bank at Cinderford. At this time Mr J Duggan was Chairman, Mr A Harris Secretary and Mr C Wadley Treasurer. Each year the pensioners of the village aged 65 and over received a parcel of groceries to the value of 7/6 or seven shillings and sixpence (37 1/2 new pence). This became too complicated to deliver and vouchers to the same value were issued to be redeemed in the local shops. Those able were in addition treated to a summer outing, with those unable to travel presented with an additional voucher. The value of the voucher has been in recent years £8.00 Present fund raising consists of coffee mornings, skittles matches, bingo and harvest auctions at public houses and social clubs during Autumn.
In 1985 a group of parents got together and put on a short play for the children of Lydbrook School. The pantomime
was the Queen of Hearts. In the following year the same group, plus a few more performed the Pied Piper in aid of the recreation ground fund for the new playground equipment. After that event it was decided to formally start 'The Lydbrook Players' and a committee was elected and a constitution drawn up. A grant from the council in 1986 aided the players to get off to a good start. The first public production was in 1986 with Dick Whittington. A spring production complements the annual pantomime. charity work is also included within the organisations scope. Other pantomimes have been Alladin - 1987, Cinderella - 1988, Jack and the Beanstalk - 1989, Robinson Crusoe - 1990, Robin Hood - 1991, Snow White - 1992, Sleeping Beauty - 1993, Snow White and Red Rose - 1995, Dick Whittington - 1996.
History of Christian worship in Lydbrook
A Roman coin
found in Hangerberry dated 353 AD has a Christogram
on the reverse side (X+P Chi-Rho the Roman initials for Christ), demonstrating that the Roman Empire
was an early Christian
Empire in this period. This provides a likelihood of Roman Christians in Lydbrook in the 4th century
. The name 'Stowfield' would suggest a Roman Temple site
, although no archaeological work has taken place to affirm or disprove this. If this was the case by the 4th century with the conversion of the Empire to Christianity, a Christian place of worship would have supplanted a previous pagan shrine. A portion of a bronze cross 10th/11th Century was found on the river bank at Lower Lydbrook, evidence of Christian activity in Lydbrook late Anglo Saxon
or early Norman
period. At Eastbach a district on the boundary of the parish with English Bicknor a stone Holy Water stoup
was found, adorned with a face and crosses. The dating is 11th century
or earlier, indicating either a church or private chapel of this period existing at Eastbach. From the Norman period onwards Lower Lydbrook on the west side of the brook was part of the parish of English Bicknor and served by the church of St Mary. The east side of the main road was covered by a chapel of ease to Walford parish at Ruardean, served by the church of St John Baptist.
Roman Catholics in the Elizabethan period might have been catered for by the Roman Catholic Monastery at Courtfield over the River Wye. Although a local history produced circa 1958 discounted the idea of a tunnel from the house now known as the 'priory' (previously known as 'Lidbrook Farm') to Courtfield, the centre of a Roman Catholic settlement, sponsored by the Vaughan Family, a recent tale suggest that around 25 years ago workmen found a brick lined tunnel but filled it in and left it unreported so as not to hold up the building programme. Given the mining expertise in the area, such a project would not have been too difficult. Until the late 1960s, a group of people could be seen crossing the river from Lower Lydbrook by ferry to attend Mass at Courtfield. Also within reach over the Wye stands Welsh Bicknor Church. A church was founded on the site in the 6th century with a further structure built in the early Norman period. The present church at Welsh Bicknor is Victorian and was built in 1858/9 by the then Rector The Reverend Frederick Aldrich-Blake, who also had a large Rectory built which now serves as a Youth Hostel. These churches are still within reach over the railway bridge, now a footpath.
Nonconformist places of worship began in the Forest from the late 17th century with the arrival of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Ejected clergy of the Established Church such as Thomas Smith, vicar of Longhope who registered as a Presbyterian Minister in 1672, at Longhope, furthered the cause of Presbyterianism. Little survived of these causes into the 18th century. The Independents (Congregationalists) provided early successes with a base at Mitcheldean with its chapel founded in 1662 by an ejected established clergyman, named Stringer. The Independents continued with modest successes into the 20th century. The Baptists provided a bridgehead into the Forest with a chapel at Coleford where the Baptist cause began in the late 17th century. Methodism in the Forest although having tentative beginnings in the second half of the 18th century, only really gained a strong foothold in the early 19th century and thus was late on the scene with the establishment of several circuits by the competing Methodist denominations.
Up until the 19th century the religious aspirations of the people of Lydbrook, both conformists and Nonconformists were served by various places of worship all within a few miles distance. The establishment of direct religious teaching and worship in Lydbrook developed in an 80 year period spanning most of the 19th century. As to which denomination could claim to be the first is a matter of conjecture. The mode of establishing a new church was common amongst all of the denominations. Working from an established base just outside the Forest a minister or layman would start a cottage meeting. As soon as the congregation was strong enough a separate church would be formed.
Church of England and the Lydbrook Mission Chapel
In 1809 the Reverend Henry Berkin began his appointment as an assistant curate of the parish of Mitcheldean. Adjoining this parish were Forest areas which have since become the parishes of Drybrook and Lydbrook. Henry Berkin became concerned as to the plight of the Foresters "destitute of churches or ministers whom they could call their own". In 1812 he travelled around the areas of Forest adjoining his parish, visiting cottages where families would gather to hear him teach. Large crowds of up to 200, would gather in some places to hear him explaining the Holy scriptures. In 1814 Henry Berkin moved to a curacy at Weston-under-Penyard
, but maintained a connection with the Forest. At Harry Hill, the Foresters encouraged him to build a large place for a regular meeting. After meeting with the Bishop Dr Ryder, Henry Berkin set about building a church, the Foresters could call their own and in 1817 Holy Trinity Church was built, serving both Drybrook and Lydbrook, Henry Berkin becoming the first perpetual curate (now styled 'Vicar'). The missionary work still continued in the cottages at Lydbrook, but it was not too long before Henry Berkin built a small mission chapel to serve Lydbrook in 1821, completed in 1822 (on the site of the present vicarage). The chapel functioned as a school, a place of worship, and as a place for social gatherings. It was served by the assistant priests appointed by Henry Berkin, with residence in Lydbrook. The salary of the curate at Lydbrook was at least in 1835, according to the records, supplied by a gentleman who was above 90 years of age. Lydbrook chapel was the fourth church in the Forest. (Upper Lydbrook being within the Forest boundary). The first church within the Forest was Christ Church in 1816. The second being Holy Trinity. The third church within the Forest was St Paul's, Park End completed at the beginning of 1822.
Curates of Holy Trinity serving at the Lydbrook Mission Chapel
1821 Isaac Bridgeman
1822 J Herbert
1822 W Marshall
1824 W Burkitt
1827 J Chell
1840 R T Budd
1844 W C Badger
1846 J G Croker
1848 G Tatam
1851 H Algar
In the second decade of the 1800s, the Reverend William Woodall, Wesleyan Methodist
minister of Monmouth
had established a preaching circuit within the Forest of Dean and as part of this venture, a house was registered for worship in Lydbrook on May 15th 1813. Despite this early foothold, it took until 1864 to build a small chapel in Lower Lydbrook. The chapel was situated almost under the viaduct. From 1824, James Roles of the Oakengates Primitive Methodist circuit had established a circuit of cottage meetings at Pillowell, Lydbrook, Broad Oak, Little Birch, West Hide, Shecknal, Coppice Wood, Garroway Common, and Yorkley. The usual custom of the Primitive Methodists was to name the chapels after Old Testament place names. By 1828 the Primitive Methodists had built the 'Ebenezer Chapel' at Upper Lydbrook. It had the honour of being the first Methodist church in the Forest. It was first enlarged in 1852 (the same year the new parish church was opened). The year after, in 1853 Charles Dickens
had published his 'Christmas Stories' containing the 'Christmas Carol' which portrayed the character 'Ebenezer Scrooge' associating the name with a foreboding character. The chapel was further enlarged bringing about the present building completed in 1912, with the name 'Ebenezer' being omitted. A second primitive Methodist chapel 'Mount Tabor' was built at the Reddings in 1862. Schoolrooms were added in 1892. The Wesleyan chapel closed in 1956. The congregation and cause of the Wesleyans had never been very large in Lydbrook. The redundant Wesleyan chapel served as a warehouse until its demolition in 1966. After 1934 with the Methodist Church Union all the chapels belonged to the same denomination and were served by the same minister and two chapels still served the area. Mount Tabor chapel closed in 1960 and was sold and is currently being turned into flats. Sadly on Sunday 28th July 1991 the last of the Methodist chapels in Lydbrook closed. One consolation was that the Sunday school - 'Sandra's group' as it was known, transferred to the parish church to become 'The Sunday Club'.
church at Lower Lydbrook did not owe its impulse to the Coleford mission but to work carried on in Herefordshire. Mr Edward Goff who died in 1813 had left eleven thousand pounds to establish schools for the benefit of poor children in Herefordshire and places contingent. Schoolmasters were employed during the week for the education of the children, and on the Sunday were employed for preaching. A Mr Wright had established a schoolroom in 1820. The building doubled up for Baptist worhsip and preaching on Sundays and was licensed as such on 7th November 1823. The work continued in Lydbrook until sometime in the late 1830s. For nearly two decades there existed two chapel schoolrooms. The mission chapel at Upper Lydbrook would have been the larger of the two and by 1935 had grown to such a large size in congregation, thoughts were on enlarging the building. The fortunes of the Baptist cause may not have fared so well as the endowment grant was transferred to Lay Hill Baptist church in Herefordshire proper. Whilst the loss of the schoolmaster meant the loss of a full time worker for the Baptist cause in Lydbrook, the main concern of the Goff Charity was education, and this was probably being served by the Anglican mission chapel founded a little after. In addition by the middle 1820s the Baptist were competing for the affections of the resident population with four other denominations (Anglican, Wesleyan Methodist, Primitive Methodist, Independent). The church did not survive the loss of the school and schoolmaster. In 1857 twelve members separated from Lays Hill Baptist and re-formed the Lydbrook Baptist Church in the old reading rooms. In 1863 the church appointed its first Minister, and the services at the Old Reading Room were packed to capacity, so land was purchased at Lower Lydbrook, and a church completed and opened in November 1864 at the cost of £700-0-0. In the spring of 1872 a foundation stone of an enlarged chapel was laid, but the work was held up owing to the local navvies taking up work with the creation of Lydbrook branch railway (presumably better paid!). The line was completed in August 1874 and allowed the building of the enlarged chapel to continue, and this was completed in September 1875.
United Reformed Church/Congregational
The founding of an Independent chapel in Lydbrook may well owe itself to a former Anglican priest. On March 11th 1821, the Reverend Isaac Bridgeman was appointed assistant curate to the Reverend Henry Berkin. In addition to the mission work at Lydbrook, Henry Berkin had founded a chapel-schoolroom at Littledean Hill. Curates to Berkin served at both mission chapels, but were based at Littledean. Bridgeman had developed an affection for nonconformists and often worshipped and worked with them. Due to this 'irregularity' on November 4th 1822, the Bishop of Gloucester
revoked his licence and interdicted him from officiating in any church in the Diocese of Gloucester. Bridgeman stayed within the Forest and by 1823 had built up five congregations, one of which was sufficiently large enough to build a chapel 'The Tabernacle' at Brains Green, Blakeney Hill, this becoming Bridgeman's mission base. The congregation at Lydbrook met at the house of James Russell, ironmaster. Bridgeman will have used the following he built up at the Lydbrook Mission Chapel to create the independent congregation. Initially Bridgeman used the Church of England Liturgy but by 1825 had joined himself to the Congregationalists
and thus further their missionary endeavours within the Forest of Dean. It was a further sixty one years before the Congregational chapel was built at Worrall Hill in 1884. The chapel was enlarged in 1888. In 1972 it became part of the United Reform Church with the Union of the Congregational church and Presbyterian church.
Mission Chapel, Forge Hill
The last of the seven church buildings to be erected in Lydbrook was the Independent mission chapel on Forge Hill, built in 1889. The Reverend Arthur William Latham, Baptist minister at Lydbrook 1883-1900 appears on the Deeds as a Trustee and is also mentioned throughout the account rendered by the solicitor to the Trustees. The Baptist involvement was probably due to a dispute between the founders of the mission as to whether there should be a Trust Deed or not. Mr Latham, Baptist minister for Lydbrook was called in to advise on the Trust Deed. The mission seems to have been, and remained a joint venture between Non-conformists. It certainly always remained an independent venture. Once full to capacity, over the length of years the congregation declined to such a point where only occasional services were held, and the building eventually fell into disuse. Previously to this decline services were held most Sunday afternoons, with an average attendance of 8. A ladies meeting was held on Thursday evenings. The chapel closed in 1980. When the last remaining Trustee of the mission died (Alderman Stan Hatton), the Charity Commission approached the vicar of Lydbrook (the Reverend Stuart Parker) who organised four new trustees (one from each of the four Lydbrook Churches) to consider the charities future.
Church at Joys Green
On 20th August 1989 the first of a series of monthly church services was held at 6 pm at Joys Green School, sponsored by the parish church. The frequency was increased to fortnightly in October 1991. In the summer of 1991 the Baptist followed holding a monthly morning service in the school.
Church of Holy Jesus and the Parish of Lydbrook
In 1842 the Crown divided the Forest into ecclesiastical districts, one of which was the Holy Trinity district. Within that district, the Forest Church, served the village of Drybrook and the daughter church, the mission chapel served Upper Lydbrook. By the middle 183O's the congregation at the Lydbrook mission chapel had so grown, that in 1835 at a meeting of the Dean Forest Commissioners, following representations from the Bishop of the Diocese and clergy of the Forest, it was recommended that the mission chapel at Lydbrook be enlarged to the status of a church. Although this recommendation was not followed through, in the late 1840s a new church was planned. The work on Lydbrook parish church began in 1850 and was completed in 1851, when Lydbrook became a parish in its own rights and with its own vicar. Although the first building for worship in Lydbrook was erected in 1822, the church began well before then with Henry Berkin's itinerant preaching starting in 1812.
On Sunday 12th August 1850 the foundation stone of the new church was laid. The Reverend J Burdon, Rector of English Bicknor (who was responsible for the spiritual welfare of those living in the area of Lower Lydbrook within his parish) had worked hard to accomplish the building of the church, collaborating with the Reverend H G Nicholls, perpetual curarte of Drybrook, the Reverend William Penfold, perpetual curate of Ruardean (appointed March 1851, Ruardean having become an ecclesiastical parish in its own rights in 1844), and the Reverend E Machen, rector of Mitcheldean. The building cost the grand sum of £3,500. The largest proportion of this money -a generous donation of £2,000 was a gift from the Edward T Machen, Deputy surveyor of the Royal Forest (father of the Rector of Mitcheldean) and his relatives. Messrs Alloway-Partridge gave £250 and a grant of £230 given by the 'Incorporated Society for Promoting the Enlargement, Building and Repairing of Churches and Chapels' on the condition that the seats were to be free for the use of the poor for ever. The word 'free' was to be painted in a conspicuous manner on each seat' !
The cost of the church was met as follows:
Edward T Machen and family £2000.0.0
Her Majesty's Commissioners of Woods £250.0.0
Her Majesty's Church Building Commissioners £100.0.0
Incorporated Society for Building Churches £230.0.0
Diocesan Funds £200.0.0
Messrs. Allaway and Partridge £250.0.0
Private Donations £470.0.0
As the foundation stone was laid just after the feast of the Name of Jesus (August 7th 1850) the dedication became 'The Holy Jesus'. The dedication was once thought to be unique, but two other churches have been discovered of similar dedication although having been built later; a Roman Catholic church in Manchester built in 1869-1872 by the architects J.A. & J.S. Harrison which was dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus and the Church of the Holy Name, Cumbernauld New Town, Glasgow, part of the Scottish Episcopal Church and dedicated in 1958. The Church at Lydbrook was consecrated on the 4th December 1851 by Dr Ollivant, Bishop of Llandaff (Dr Monk, the Bishop of Gloucester being to ill to attend). Upwards of a 1,000 people attended, 50 of these being clergy.
From then on Lydbrook was a parish on its own. In 1858 the reported attendance was 150 attending Matins and 250 attending Evensong! The number of communicants for the parish in that year is given as 40 per week. The present day figure stands at around 35, with a higher average throughout the year of about 40 per week.
The original chapel served as a National Day School until 1909 and was used for church functions until its dilapidation in the 1960s. In 1975 it was demolished to make way for the present vicarage, which is the third in the village. The first vicarage, built in stone stands to the south east of the church 500 yards south, down the course of the old railway line. In May 1879, the vicar, the Reverend Henry Hoitt applied for permission to walk on the line from the vicarage to the church and schools. The Severn & Wye Railway granted this request but limited to Sundays only. The vicarage was sold in 1961 due to extensive repairs needed. The house now serves as a Bed and Breakfast establishment under the name 'The Old Vicarage'. A new house was purchased, 'Mirey Stock' in 1962, 3/4 mile south of the church. This served as the second vicarage. Its distance from the church in severe weather proved impracticable, hence the building of the present vicarage in 1975.
The patronage (or the right to present a priest for appointment as vicar) originally belonged jointly to the Crown and Queen's College, Oxford. The two patrons took turns in presenting new vicars. In 1884 the alternate right of patronage was transferred from Queen's College to the Bishop. In 1961 the Crown transferred its interest in the patronage to the Bishop, leaving the Bishop of the Diocese as the sole patron. Although legally, the Bishop has the right to appoint, advice has to be sought from representatives of the parochial church council.
Original article and copyright
The original article which formed the basis of this information was provided by the copyright holder, The Reverend Dr Michael Foster, and came from a Church Guide published in 1991.