42 – Saunders Green footpath crossing

Parkhill Level or Fryers Level

Just like Oakwood Mill Deep Level driven into the hillside at Mill Hill, Bream, at the bottom of this hill was another level called Parkhill Level or sometimes Fryers Level that started in the yard visible below us and passed beneath our feet.

Oakwood Mill Deep Level at Bream was driven into the hillside from an altitude of 332ft O.D. while Parkhill Level was driven in 200 feet lower from 122ft O.D. Parkhill level was tunnelled to enable iron ore to be more easily brought out from the deposits beneath Devil’s Chapel in the woodland on the horizon ahead to the right. It was 4,400ft long- although not all in the same direction as there was a cross-cut towards Noxon Park. The 200ft difference between the two levels proved unfortunate as very little ore was found in Parkhill level. Before reaching the iron ore measures, the level passed through coal seams also allowing some coal to be mined.

Although there is nowhere to spend it in these fields, you may have a £20 note with you. At the time of writing, the current £20 note, is the Adam Smith note. It was issued in March 2007. It features a portrait of Adam Smith, images of factory workers and a quote from one of his most famous books, ‘An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations’. In this book, Smith used the example of workers in a pin factory to describe the benefits of “division of labour”.

Adam Smith connection

Adam Smith observed that Traditional pin makers could produce only a few dozen pins a day. However, when organized in a factory with each worker performing a limited operation, they could produce tens of thousands a day. This was the reason why Smith favoured division of labour.

In 1820 there were 11 pin factories in Gloucester alone employing 1,500 people. By 1978 there remained only 2 factories producing pins: Whitecroft Scovill here and Newey Group in Birmingham.

On the banknote, just above the letter ‘n’ in England you can see a low building. This is said to be based on one of the buildings of Whitecroft Pin Factory down in the valley – still open for business when the note entered circulation.

A photo showing a view of Whitecroft, Pillowell and Yorkley
A view of Whitecroft, Pillowell and Yorkley. Fryers Level is in the foreground to the right, where the cars are parked, The Pin Factory comprises the low buildings in the centre – the slightly taller building has survived from the days of the ‘Patent Fuel Works’ and was known as the ‘Box Room’ to Pin Factory employees. Yorkley Wood is high on the hill to the right hand side, Yorkley itself is to the left

Victorian Housing Scheme

Across the valley to the right you may be able to make out terraces on the hillside. These were cut into the hillside as part of a failed 19c housing project of which we will find out more later. The 1881 OS map shows the roads to serve the houses. The roads were even named on the map – but most of the planned houses were never built.

From here it is sometimes possible to see the smoke from the steam trains of the Dean Forest Railway as they chuff along the valley floor between Lydney and Parkend.