Place:St. Briavels, Gloucestershire, England

NameSt. Briavels
TypeVillage, Civil parish
Coordinates51.7366°N 2.638°W
Located inGloucestershire, England
See alsoSt. Briavels (hundred), Gloucestershire, Englandhundred in which it was located
Lydney Rural, Gloucestershire, Englandrural district in which it was located 1894-1935
Forest of Dean (district), Gloucestershire, Englanddistrict municipality in which it has been situated since 1974
Contained Places
St. Briavels Castle
source: Family History Library Catalog
the following text is based on an article in Wikipedia

St. Briavels (pronounced Brevels) is a medium sized village and civil parish in the Forest of Dean District of west Gloucestershire, England; close to the England-Wales border, and 5 miles (8 km) south of Coleford. It stands almost 800 feet (240 m) above sea level on the edge of a limestone plateau above the valley of the River Wye, above an ancient meander of the river. To the west, Cinder Hill drops off sharply into the valley.

The village, once known as 'Ledenia Parva' (Little Lydney), is sheltered behind the crumbling walls of its 12th century moated Norman castle, which was garrisoned by Miles of Gloucester, 1st Earl of Hereford for King Henry I as early as 1130. The castle was later granted to him with the Forest of Dean in July 1141 when he was made Earl of Hereford.


Coal mining, iron ore extraction, stone quarrying and forestry with Verderers have all been important primary sources of income in the Forest of Dean.

In the Middle Ages, local miners were highly valued for their digging skills during military campaigns. It is said that, after a particularly successful job undermining the foundations of Berwick Castle at Berwick-upon-Tweed, King Edward I granted 'Free-Mining' status to all Forest of Dean coal and ore miners. This authority gave Freeminers the right to dig for minerals anywhere in the Forest of Dean except beneath churchyards, orchards and gardens. To be a Freeminer, an individual has to be "born and abiding within the 'Hundred of St Briavels', of the age of 21 and upwards who shall have worked for a year and a day in a coal or iron ore mine or stone quarry within the Hundred".

From the 15th to the 18th century open cast stone mining was prevalent in the woods to the west of the village. Many millstones used in the mills and cider presses of the time were quarried in the Hudnalls [hills of the area] and rolled down the hillside to be transported away by barges on the River Wye. Between the 16th century and 18th century timber from the Forest was heavily relied upon for the construction of ships - and almost became exhausted, supplying to the demands of Drake, Raleigh and Nelson.

A Forester, is a resident natural of the Forest of Dean, born within the ancient administrative area of the Hundred of St Briavels. There are still several traditional Forester families living and working in the area keeping the ancient traditions and rights alive.

Freemining, free roaming sheep grazed on common land, and grazing of pigs in the Forest, are rights and responsibilities extended to the people of St Briavels that are still exercised today, although more so elsewhere in the Forest of Dean.

Registration Districts

Research Tips

Online sources which may also be helpful:

  • Volume 5, Chapter 3 of the Victoria County History of Gloucestershire found in the website British History Online expands on the subjects of freemining and foresters throughout the Hundred of St Briavels. The chapter includes maps of the various communities and their relationships to one another. There is an article specifically on St. Briavels.
  • GENUKI gives pointers to other archive sources as well as providing some details on each parish in the county. The emphasis here is on ecclesiastical parishes (useful before 1837)
  • A listing of all the Registration Districts in England and Wales since their introduction in 1837 and tables of the parishes that were part of each district and the time period covered with detailed notes on changes of parish name, mergers, etc. Respect the copyright on this material.
  • The FamilySearch Wiki for Gloucestershire provides a similar but not identical series of webpages to that provided by GENUKI
  • A Vision of Britain through Time has a group of pages of statistical facts for almost every parish in the county
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at St. Briavels. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.