Gloucestershire GL16 8AE


Coleford is the administrative centre of the Forest of Dean. It is a small market town in the heart of the Forest, approximately four miles (6 km) east of the Welsh border and close to the Wye Valley.

In medieval times Coleford was a settlement on a ford through which charcoal and iron ore were probably carried. By the mid 14th century hamlets called Coleford and Whitecliff had grown up along the road in the valley of Thurstan's brook.
Iron-ore forges or furnaces were not permanent structures and moved with the availability of fuel (charcoal) for smelting. Coal was being mined to the north and east of the settlement and limestone was being quarried at the south-west end of Whitecliff before the 17th century. Like most of the Forest settlements, gouging for minerals was the main source of revenue.
During the 17th century Coleford was a Parliamentary stronghold and the focus of a Civil War skirmish. Things didn’t really start happening in the settlement until after King Charles II was restored to the throne, when a market charter was granted in 1661. A new market house (now demolished) was built in 1679. Much building took place within the town and by 1710 it was reckoned to have 160 houses.
Among the older surviving buildings in the market place the Old White Hart Inn dates from the 17th century. In the late 18th century and the early 19th the town also expanded along its other streets and most of its older houses were rebuilt. All that is left of the original church is the clock tower in the centre of the market place.
A prosperous future for the town was envisioned in 1798, with the building of Whitecliff Ironworks on the south-western edge of the town. The furnace began operating probably in 1801 or 1802. A second furnace was built beside it before 1808. Unfortunately the venture was not profitable and by 1816 the furnaces were abandoned. The surviving ruins are open to the public for viewing.
The Railway
During the early 19th century tramroads were the main way of transporting product from the Forest mines and ironworks to a waiting world.
In 1875 the Severn & Wye Railway Company opened a branch line from Parkend to a station on the south-east side of Coleford. A second railway from Monmouth in Wales to Coleford, using parts of the old tramroad route, was completed in 1883. It ran to a station next to that of the Severn & Wye Co. A junction was made between the two railways in 1884 after the Monmouth line had been taken over by the Great Western Railway (GWR).
Unhappily, the Severn and Wye line, on which passenger services had ceased in 1929, was abandoned in 1967 and the track between Whitecliff and Parkend removed by 1971. But it is not all bad news - some railway buildings at Coleford, including a goods shed, have been incorporated in the Coleford GWR Museum opened in 1988.
For information on the Museum and its restored loco and rolling stock go to:
With the closure in the mid 1960s of many of the coal mines in the Forest of Dean, things looked pretty grim for many Forest communities. Unlike Cinderford, Coleford has been able to reinvent itself and become a major centre catering for the modern thirst for Adventure Tourism and healthy pursuits. Walkers, cyclists, canoeists, cavers and rock climbers flock to the area. Its proximity to the Wye Valley and all the delights of the Forest of Dean has brought new life and prosperity to this little town.
Contact & Further Information
Getting There
- By Car:   Take the B4234 from Lydney through Parkend to Coleford.
- By Bus:   No. 30 Gloucester-Cinderford-Coleford bus.  
Google Maps - Coleford

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