The large steep hill that you see on the right is the spoil heap from the colliery that was working coal here until 1962. It is usually known locally as Princess Royal Colliery, although to miners that worked there it was often referred to as Park Gutter. The Park being Whitemead or Knockley Park and gutter being somewhere that plenty of water flows. The spoil heap was known for its “volcanoes” areas where steam and smoke from spontaneous combustion of coal fragments deep in the tip escaped at the surface.
In 1891 the Princess Royal Colliery Company was formed to run Park Gutter colliery and Flourmill Colliery. A rail line called the Oakwood Branch of the Severn and Wye railway was soon extended up to here to reach Park Gutter. It crossed the road just down the hill where the road levels out a little. It left the main line 3/4 of a mile away at Tufts Junction At the same time the rope-worked tramway was laid from Flourmill Colliery to Park Gutter.
The shaft sunk here to the High Delf coal seam was 187m deep. Pursuing the coal seam further as it sloped downwards took the working depth below the surface to 457m. In the 1930’s the annual output from the High Delf seam was around 300,000 tons. That’s about 41 twenty ton loads per day. To keep the workings “dry” about 20 tons of water had to be pumped for each ton of coal won. At its peak Princess Royal employed 1,300 men and had an output of 1,000 tons per day.
The Pit Baths
A few of the minor colliery buildings survive below the spoil tip but on this side of the road were the “pit baths”.
These showers and drying rooms were welcomed by the miners and even more so by their women-folk who became freed of the tasks of preparing”tin baths” full of hot water for their men to wash away the pit dirt acquired during their shift down the pit. They also no longer had to dry out the pit clothes after every shift as this could be done in the pit baths building. (Image from Facebook)
After the colliery closed the “pit baths” were used by H. J. Roberts of Cinderford, not for bathing but for the sale of various items including furniture, ex Ministry stock, new tools etc., binoculars etc. and carpets.
The buildings were threatened with demolition after H. J. Roberts left and despite efforts to find a new use, the main of the pit baths buildings were demolished. However, some lower rooms remain as a home for a colony of lesser horseshoe bats.
Along the road to the left you will soon pass some new industrial units. Will from ‘Float in the Forest’ explains what goes on in his unit:
“Floatation is a relaxation therapy where you float effortlessly on the surface of warm salty water. You feel comfortable and weightless in the peace and quiet, and you can choose to have the light on or off. As your muscles relax your mind can too. The float centre is next to the former location of the Princess Royal Colliery pit baths, where at the end of a shift, the miners would emerge from the darkness with their ‘butties’ and would wash away the dirt of the day and emerge refreshed and renewed. Likewise, you will emerge from your float feeling rejuvenated and reset.Will – Float in the Forest
The miners would go into the darkness of the pit and bring back the treasure of coal, and in the quiet darkness of the floatation pod you can find the treasures of self-knowledge and peace of mind. Find out more at https://floatintheforest.co.uk“.
Further along the road on your right look out for a Forest Enclosure Boundary Stone. The stone is about 3ft high, the inscription is on the opposite side of the stone and reads:
A R P
11 3 23?
LINCOLN C. COMMR.
The area of the enclosure was 11 acres, 3 Roods and 23? perches.
The Earl of Lincoln was a Commissioner of Woods and Forests, during the period 1841-1846. The commissioners oversaw the work of the Deputy Surveyor of the Forest of Dean- who was also a crown official and was based at nearby Whitemead Park.