Dean Heritage CentreGloucester
Camp Mill
Gloucestershire GL14 2UB
 

 

The Forest of Dean in west Gloucestershire hides its industrial past in beautiful woods and deep, narrow valleys such as Soudley, home of the Dean Heritage Centre (DHC).

This 19th century water-powered corn mill houses a fascinating collection of artefacts rescued from all over the Forest. The collections illustrate the ancient methods of mining iron ore, smelting and coal mining, as well as forestry and the wildlife found in a royal hunting Reserve. We can experience the traditions and lifestyles these types of activities spawned.

Genesis of a Museum
More than thirty-five years ago, concerns were being raised by the people who had always lived in the Forest of Dean, that their occupational and social history was being lost. In response, a Museum Trust was established and in 1981 the current site was presented to the Trust. After a lot of hard work restoring the site and buildings, the Dean Heritage Centre was opened in 1983.
 
The Site
The Centre consists of a museum in a restored 1876 Corn Mill, a millpond and working waterwheel set in 5 acres of woodland. Within the grounds are a genuine forester’s cottage and garden, a charcoal burners’ camp and a replica freemine dug into the hillside.
 
Accommodation - Search & Book through Booking.com here: 

 

 
The museum
The museum itself comprises five modern galleries displaying a wide variety of artefacts from industries such as coal and iron mining, forestry, timber, stone-working and clock making.
 
Among the more noteworthy artefacts in the museum's collection are a working beam engine, Thomas Sopwith’s 1838 geological model of the Dean Forest, and the Voyce collection of 18th and 19th century longcase clocks.
 
- Gallery 1 – Pre-historic & Early History
Displays include fossils, pre-historic tools of the first farmers, early Roman occupation and iron mining.
 
- Gallery 2 – Medieval to 18th Century History
Here is explored the history of the Dean as a Royal Medieval hunting forest. Forest Laws were introduced to protect the deer and the boar hunted by Kings, and the woodland in which they grazed. Special courts and officials known as verderers administered the rules. (See this website’s article on ‘Speech House’.)
 
Also featured is the part played by the Forest of Dean in the English Civil war; then discover how Admiral Horatio Nelson saved the Forest from destruction.
 
- Gallery 3 – Industry & Society
Covers the Forest’s industrial past from the Victorian era onwards including local mine disasters and rescues. Also covered is fishing on the Rivers Severn and Wye and the many cottage industries carried on such as carpentry, cobbling and blacksmithing.
 
- Gallery 4 – WWII to the Present Day Gallery 4 is also known as "Gallery 41". This is the community space and houses contemporary exhibitions and art.
 
- Gallery 5 – Power & Transport from 1800s The gallery features a working Beam Engine, which was made at Hewlett's iron foundry at Camp Mill, the site of the present Museum. It also features other working models and interactives demonstrating the use of steam power.
 
The Millpond
The millpond is fed by a stream running from Morgan's Pool, the lowest of the Soudley Ponds The water from the millpond drives the waterwheel, generating hydro-electric power for the Centre.
 
The millpond is a great place to just sit and enjoy the moorhens, mallard and mandarin ducks cavorting in the calm waters. Other birds that frequent the waterside setting include; pied and grey wagtails, dippers, green woodpeckers, kingfishers, herons and the occasional cormorant.
 
Accommodation - Search & Book through Agoda.com here:
 
The Forester’s Cottage
This early 20th century Forester’s cottage was moved stone by stone from its original location. The cottage is furnished and decorated in authentic Victorian and Edwardian period style.
 
Like many Forest cottages of the time, it is a two-up, two-down, with, on the ground floor, a well-appointed sitting room with a harmonium, Victorian chaise-longue and a collection of period china, and a kitchen with an authentic cast-iron range.
 
Upstairs there can be found two bedrooms, a children’s room, and a master bedroom which also contains a cot. The bedrooms do not have wardrobes, but, as houses of the period would, instead contains chests to store clothing.
 
Outside there is a wash-house containing a copper for washing clothes, along with a washing dolly and mangle.
 
Behind the house lies the garden planted with vegetables of authentic period varieties, and an orchard. Tradition is maintained with the presence of chickens to provide eggs, and Gloucester Old Spot pigs, kept for their meat.
 
The pigs were grazed under the trees on fallen apples. They were also released into the Forest to feed on acorns during the late summer, a right dating from medieval times known as pannage. Two ferrets are also kept in the garden to catch rabbits for the table.
 
This writer’s best friend lived in a cottage just like this and it brought back many happy memories spent in the front parlour jiving to 78 rpm vinyl records on her wind-up gramophone.
 
The Charcoal Burners’ Camp
The camp is situated in the woodlands, adjacent to the Centre and is where demonstrations of traditional turf and earth charcoal burning take place twice a year. The charcoal burners hut is used during these burns as a place of shelter and sleep for those doing the night shifts.
 
For dates of Charcoal burning demonstrations, go to:
 
Free Mine entrance
Harvey’s Folly is a replica of a freemine entrance, dug into the side of a hill, by retired freeminer, Dave Harvey.
 
In 1296, Forest of Dean miners from the Hundred of St Briavels were used by King Edward I at the siege of Berwick-on-Tweed in the Scottish Wars of Independence, to undermine the town's defenses and regain it from the Scots. As a result, the king granted free mining rights within the Forest to them and their descendants; the rights continue to the present day.
 
Other Fun Activities
- Ferret Walking: Here is something you won’t get anywhere else – Ferret Walking! The Centre is home to three resident ferrets, visitors can take the furry mammals for their daily walk. Please note: Ferret walking is available Monday to Friday and only in good weather.
 
- Chainsaw Carving: The Centre has the UK’s only demonstrations of chainsaw carving. The talented team of on-site carvers create anything from 3inch mice to 8 metre long dragons.
 
- Walks in the Woods: Starting from the museum, a forestry trail can be followed through centuries-old oak and beech woods up to the summit of Bradley Hill, where a panoramic view of the valley can be seen; including the 1846 Zion Chapel and the old railway tunnel, excavated in 1894 and which runs beneath the hillside.
 
The Centre has a full programme of events and there is always something happening. This writer was brought up in the Forest of Dean and is delighted to see her childhood brought back to life. The DHC is fulfilling its raison d’être and well worth visiting.
 
Opening Dates, Times & Admission
The Dean Heritage Centre is open throughout the year with reduced hours in winter. Go to:

During bad weather the Centre recommends wearing waterproof clothing and sturdy shoes.

Disabled Access
Wheelchair access to Galleries 1,2,3 & 5. Limited access to Gallery 4
 
Facilities
Gift Shop & Cafe
Picnic Tables & BBQ hearths
Adventure Playground
Woodland Walking Trails
 
Accommodation - Search & Book through Lastminute.com here: 
 
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone  +44 (0)1594 822 170
Mail   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Getting There
- By Car:
From the A48, Gloucester to Chepstow road, take B4227 to Lower Soudley. There is ample free car parking  
 
Google Maps - Soudley Ponds