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Thread: Princesss Louise Iron Mine. Forest of Dean

  1. #1
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    Default Princesss Louise Iron Mine. Forest of Dean


    Princess Louise Iron Mine Forest of Dean.
    ………Although the Forest of Dean is relatively well known as a former coalfield not many folk are aware that at one time it was Iron Ore that ruled in the area long before King Coal staked his claim. Princess Louise was one of the deep iron ore mines established sometime around the early 1800s……history is a little sketchy but it has been said the shaft was over 500’ deep. The mine probably closed when the bottom fell out of the ‘home produced’ Iron Ore market between 1880 to roughly 1920-ish….. mainly due to the 2 reasons of……..
    A: the easy reserves of ore throughout the country had generally been worked…. ……….(For ‘easy’ read ‘shallow –ish’….that is somewhere above 600 deep feet or so…not cos they were faint hearted in those days…..simply because they weren’t mechanically able to deal with the general quantities of water usually encountered below that sort of level in the ‘usual’ ironstone strata)...
    B: Iron Ore was being won and imported in considerable quantities from newly established Spanish ore mines at a much reduced price to what we here in the British Isles could produce it for. (Nothing changes there then!…we show ‘em how to do it…they beat us at our own game…)
    Princess Louise was part of a whole complex of Iron mines in this small area which included the China Bottom Mine (which my Great Granddad started work in as a 10 year old and which was always known as ‘Cheney Bottom’ by us kids growing up in the area and a favorite playing place), the Ebbw Vale Shaft (probably named after where its owners came from???), New Dunn Mine, Clearwell/Old Ham/Old Bow Mines (parts of which are known nowadays as Clearwell Caves and are open to the public), the Noxon Park Mines, Oakwood Mill Deep Level, Easter Mine, Sling Pit and British Pit.
    ……..All of these mines were more or less closed by the First World War, then re-opened for the duration of that war, then most were closed again quickly afterwards…..
    The exception was the Old Ham / New Dunn Mine complex which was re-opened yet again during the Second World War. This was in an effort to feed some of the demand for Iron Ore that the war had obviously created. Financially and physically however the effort was a bit of a washout because by the time the pit was shut again in 1946 more iron and steel had been put down the mine in the form or rails and supports and tubs etc than had been mined! When I worked at the engineering firm that occupied the New Dunn site in 1978 one old fella who still worked there had been employed in the pit during the WW2 period and he recalled coming up the shaft in the cage for the last time.
    The Princess Louise Mine has a brick lined shaft which is approx 20 feet or so in diameter…..I can’t find any details as to the cage arrangements but seeing the size of the shaft I have to guess there may have been 2 cages operating side by side. The shaft is flooded to within about 40 feet or so of the top so how deep it actually is now is anyone’s guess……..looking down into the very murky water you certainly wouldn’t wanna jump down in there to find out though……..Around the shaft are the various remains of walls and buildings all steadily disappearing into the undergrowth, also to one side towers the remains of a large stone retaining wall.
    Just along the bank from this iron mine lie the remains of a typical Forest of Dean Free Mine. I’ve included a few photos of this site out of general interest and also to show how close the iron and coal mines were….literally yards apart…….both underground and on the surface………. This is a really typical layout of a free mine….2 collapsed ‘drifts’
    (entrances/ roads/adits etc!)….only a matter of 30 feet or so apart……..a wrecked galvanized steel hut….a few bits of rail lying about and a simple wharf that once loaded the coal away to a ready market…….I remember this particular pit working in the early 1970s…… (yeah….I’m that old!)
    Should any of you like to visit the Forest of Dean for a mooch at the mines etc be aware that the Coal Authority are very busy in the Forest of Dean filling and capping every single shaft (large or small) that they can find but…….. for the foreseeable future the Princess Louise may be safe…….being an iron ore mine shaft the Coal Authority isn’t really interested in it….but…….that’s not to say that Forest Enterprise / The Forestry Commission hasn’t got some destructive plan in mind though…………..
    On to the photos………….
    The first view you get of the shaft……

    A good size hole in the ground….

    A very good size hole in the ground……

    Some deep….dark….murky water…..wanna jump?

    the retaining wall…….

    One of the older drifts on this hillside……

    my bushy tailed GSD decides to inspect the old stone lined drift……..

    a nice set of rail partings rusting away……

    a long disused miners cabin………….

    one of the collapsed entrances to the derelict free mine………….

    last one…my GSD doing her best to look like she’s a werewolf deep in the old drift…….

    Hope you like.............:)


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  3. #2
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    That's some good history/info write-up there, smiffy. Nice find...tis interesting to see the different aspects of it in the area. I really like the stone-lined drift.
    Good stuff! :)
    Love the glowing-eyed werewolf, btw!
    "...If we lose our spiritual bond with the land they'll be nothing left of us as a nation..." Phil Rickman.

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    Whoa that shafts a bit dangerous.

    The whole area around there must be riddled with old workings. The set of points is a very nice find - I would have that in my garden with plants growing up it.

    Thanks for showing. :)

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    Is that a wolf in the last photo?:p
    Nice stuff there mate.
    In a surreal world it all makes sense

  6. #5
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    Think I might have peered down it once.

    In the Noxon/Oakwood Valley area?

    Close by someone seemed to have been doing some restoration work - recreating and old leat/culvert that ran along the top of one of the old iron mines.

    Great area for exploring.
    Some days you wake and immediately start to worry. Nothing in particular is wrong, it's just the suspicion that forces are aligning quietly and there will be trouble

  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by borntobemild View Post
    Think I might have peered down it once.

    In the Noxon/Oakwood Valley area?

    Close by someone seemed to have been doing some restoration work - recreating and old leat/culvert that ran along the top of one of the old iron mines.

    Great area for exploring.
    Yep thats it ......in the quarry next to the old leat yer thinking of is the China Bottom Mine (or Cheney Bottom) ........and it is / was a great area for playing /exploring in ..................the gang from my village spent hours down there damming up the streams , building 'camps' and generally mooching about in the old mines .:)

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    brilliant explore mate, thats one scary looking hound you've got there!

    BTW i meant to ask, i know nothing about mines but i was wondering, were do the the names of the various mines come from?, its the same with the cornish tin mines, i bet there's some interesting stories behind them
    Last edited by ricasso; 11th Jan 09 at 08:57.

  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricasso View Post
    brilliant explore mate, thats one scary looking hound you've got there!

    BTW i meant to ask, i know nothing about mines but i was wondering, were do the the names of the various mines come from?, its the same with the cornish tin mines, i bet there's some interesting stories behind them
    Good question mate.....
    ...Around here the names come from just about anything from what I can work out.....
    ....I think "Princess Louise" was named after one of Queens Victorias children ? Probably the pit was started maybe just as she was born or perhaps when maybe she had her 18th or 21st birthday or summat like that????
    Other pits in The Forest are named after their owners such as "Birches Engine Pit" owned by a ...Mr Birch ! ....some were named after the area they were in such as "Cannop Colliery"..........I really don't know where names like "Old Ham" and "New Dunn" may have come from...maybe from the natural cave system that they were a development of????? ..........."Sling Pit" was named (so I was told ) because when it was first started there was no cage in the shaft and men were lowered in a 'sling'..this was a more common practice in the Dean than you may initially think so the story could be true..........."Eastern United" and "Northern United" were so named becasue they were started to specifically mine the coal in the 'eastern' and 'northern' amalgamated coal gales of the Forest Coalfield...........
    ..........Parkend Deep Navigation" cos it was in the village of Parkend and 'deep navigation' was an often used term in mining in those days .perhaps to distinguish that you were operating a 'deep' mine as opposed to say a 'freemine type' of colliery that usuaully would be a lot closer to the surface.....
    ....There were literally a few hundred mines (coal and iron) at one time in the Dean............some of the coal collieries were really big employing over a 1000 men ........down to really small 2 or 3 man mines so any in particular you come across .just ask and I may know summat!
    Sorry to go on but I could talk fer hours about the mines of The Forest of Dean and coal mines in general.............:)
    Last edited by smiffy; 11th Jan 09 at 12:26.

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    don't apologise Smiffy, its good to be passionate about something relevant to you, you live in a gorgeous part of the county, glad its not to far from me :):):)

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    Some of the mines in the forest have really lovely names

    Strip and at it
    Perseverance
    Pluckpenny
    Snatchcrust
    Found Out
    Fair Play
    Shakemantle

    Evoking the hardship suffered by the miners in winning the coal or iron.
    Some days you wake and immediately start to worry. Nothing in particular is wrong, it's just the suspicion that forces are aligning quietly and there will be trouble


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