The history of the Forest of Dean as a timber-producing Forest
Archaelogical research has abundantly shown that the primitive lands of a wide area, of which the Forest of Dean is a survival, were densely wooded. The abundance of wood was eroded through centuries by assarting, industrial activity, neglect, and wanton spoliation. The vicissitudes of Dean from early times to Domesday, through the era of wooden ships, to modern commercial forestry, have not hitherto been fully described. The thesis is believed to be the first based on research into the records and development of a timber-producing forest. It treats of Dean (a) in its progress from natural woodland, and later hunting preserve, to an example of silviculture including use for recreation, education, and scientific purposes, and (b) as producing timber for multifarioias uses. The course of the Crown's use of the Forest is made clear. Particular attention is given to:- 1. Species of trees, from early times to the present day, and the uses of the cover. 2. Extent of (a) the Forest under forest law and (b) the extent (the lesser) of its woodland cover. Effects of afforesting and deforesting. 3. Forest law as operative in Dean. Its (a) administration; (b) decline in severity; (c) beneficial aspects; and (d) lapse into desuetude. 4. Customs common to forests: pannage, communing, and estovers. 5. Factors in reduction of the cover; assarting, gift, sale, lease, and theft. 6. Reservation, conservation, and replenishment. Changes in growth and quality of the cover. 7. Inadequacy of replenishment when timber was needed for ship-building. 8. Timber and wood for (a) the king's works, (b) gifts, (c) mining of iron-ore and coal, (d) charcoal-burning for smelting and forging, (e) fuel, building, and other local requirements, (f) quarrels for cross-bows, (g) ship-building, and (h) modem wood-processes. 9. Oak bark for tanning. 10. Beginnings of silviculture. Sowing and planting from the mid-seventeenth centuiy. The first planting of conifers in c.178l. 11. Attainment of scientific silviculture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 12. The multiple use of the Forest: commercial timber- production, education, scientific, and recreation. The thesis concludes with an explanation of Dean's present condition, and its function as an important national Forest.
Hart, C.E., “The history of the Forest of Dean as a timber-producing Forest,” Centre for English Local History Theses and Papers, accessed April 12, 2021, https://elhleics.omeka.net/items/show/124.