The flatter area to the left was once the site of Saunders Green Sawmills and before that was the site of Princess Royal Colliery Brickworks. The brickworks had 6 brick kilns that produced red/orange coloured bricks. These were marked ‘PRC’ and can still be found in old walls, sheds and piles of rubble all over the area to this day.
The late Ken Kear of Saunders Green recalled:
“The Brickworks closed not long after 1951. The efficiency of the brickmaking depended a lot on the weather. Rain would slow down the process. The ‘perfect’ bricks from this works were made from 1 skip of ‘Bailey’ clay and 2 skips of ‘High Delf’ clay, but no ‘Bailey’ and 3 of ‘High Delf’ had too much combustable material and the bricks would burn. Bailey clay came from the tip along “The Bowsan” (road) and ‘Fancy’ clay was also brought in . The clay grinding Mill was powered by electricity. The clay was ground, riddled, mixed, pressed and fired, – 2 fires going at any one time. It took 2 days for the hot bricks to cool down. If there was too much combustible material in the clay, the stack of bricks would melt and slip.Ken Kear of Saunders Green
“The nearby Charcoal works was visited by a man named Falkes (possibly from Hereford) who used the traditional charcoal making method of cords of wood covered in turf. He had a bivouac ‘teepee-like’ cabin complete with a hole in the top to let out smoke. It was constructed of sticks, covered with sacks of a very thick material covered with tar. Ken recalls Falkes was still producing charcoal in this way at Whitecroft in the 1930s”.
Brian Coldrick who grew up in Saunders Green describes the Green in the 1930s and 1940s:
The Brickworks, which started operating in the 1930’s to utilise waste material from the Princess Royal Colliery tip, … became an adventure playground for the local children. Dens were built in the brick stacks, potatoes baked on the kiln fires, no doubt they had blackened skins but as far as I recall were delicious on the inside, or maybe the memory is fading. Another adventure was being allowed to accompany some of the truck drivers when delivering bricks to customers around the district and of course there was always cricket and football on the green, albeit on a bit of a slope. Sadly today some of these activities would fall foul of the Health and Safety rules.Brian Coldrick who grew up in Saunders Green.
The Green was conveniently situated for shopping at Whitecroft or Bream, Dentists and Doctors could be found at Bream and Lydney, Mr Butson (Kears bakery) regularly delivered bread. Williams and Cottons sent someone each week to collect the grocery order, Eddy Ruck the packman came on his weekly round to serve just about everything, if it wasn’t in his box he would bring it next week. Rowlinsons from Cinderford regularly called to supply shoes for the family at a moderate weekly rate, you could get your horses shod at Parkend, and if the cart was attached you could call in and get a load of coal from Princess Royal Colliery on the way home through Knockley wood.
Every year there were social gatherings at haymaking and thrashing with a good supply of bread and cheese and cider for those who assisted. Although life was hard for some, it was quite simple and at the end of it all Mr Morse was available to tuck one away to rest in a hand crafted box. What more was needed, everything from the daily milk, delivered and measured from a pail (plus a drop for wastage) to your final resting place.
In the 1930’s/1940,s three tracks gave access to the Green, two from the Brockhollands road and one from the Bream road ,opposite the PRC, as this has become the only metalled road today we will start the tour from there.
Sid (Wilding) worked at the PRC and in later years was one of the men who moved the loaded coal wagons a short way down the line to the marshalling area to await transfer to Lydney, no doubt some of the coal continued its journey on barges. Occasionally these full wagons would break free of their moorings, or the sprocket man, and head off down the slope at a fair rate of knots, usually jumping the track before reaching Fryers Level, the grapevine soon clicked in, news of the derailment spread quickly, free coal for all. I can only imagine the reason why PRC did not succeed in recovery was A) they were not told in time or B) they were just not quick enough. Without doubt some cottages were warmer than usual during the following winter.