Marian's Brick Works (Forest of Dean)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Coordinate 51.802358, -2.634532
Adm. div. Gloucestershire
Vicinity Between the prongs (A4136 and B4228) of the fork in Staunton Road, at the southeast end of the Forest of Dean
Type Establishment
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Defunct
First Record 1870
A.k.a. Marion Works; Marion's Brickworks; Marion Brickworks; Marion's Brickyard; Marion's Brick Kilns/Works
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The site of Marian's Brick Works (Forest of Dean).
The site of Marian's Brick Works seen from the air / Google Earth Street View.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-09-24. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2022-04-25. Photo of brick courtesy Colin Wooldridge, from Dave Sallery's "Old Bricks – History at Your Feet". Permission obtained with the kind assistance of David Kitching. Photo of kiln and surroundings used with the kind permission of Tom Bint, webmaster of Deanweb.

Marian's Brick Works were located between two prongs (A4136 and B4228) of a fork in Staunton Road, adjacent to the part of the Forest of Dean that is known as Marian's Inclosure. The names of several other localities within or quite close to the Inclosure also include the element "Marian". Pending the discovery of any evidence to the contrary, it seems likely these place-names referred to Maid Marian, possibly inspired by the existence in the area of an inn named after Robin Hood in the first half of the 19th century. A Robin Hood Iron Mine, located a mere 150 meters NW of Marian's Brick Works, is said to have been established in 1871, while Marian's Brick Works were already considered "old" in 1870, when the name is first recorded. Production had started by 1821 and ceased in the 1940's, the kiln and other buildings subsequently being demolished.[1]

A brief history

In 1870, James Thompson, an 18 year old roadman from Coleford, wrote in his grandly titled journal, "The Original Directory to the Royal Forest of Dean 1870":

Marion's Brickyard is very old. There is plenty of clay here and two kilns for burning of bricks and other places for different perposes [sic] and uses. There is a house and garden with fruit trees. It is close to the road with wood around it. There is plenty of water here.[2]

While bricks were already being made in the Forest of Dean by the early 19th century, the industry expanded considerably after digging of clay and sand was permitted under license from the Commissioners of Woods in 1838.[3] The history of Marian's Brick Works, though we do not know under which name, goes as far back as 1821 when it was in the possession of a James Machen. A James Hall who seems to have taken over in 1822 went bankrupt in 1860. The brickyard was taken over by Jones & Co. in 1867 and in 1876 passed to a William James. Through most if not all of its documented history, many of the workers at the brickyard came from the neighbouring village of Scowles.[4] In 1925 the brick works were taken over by Coleford Brick & Tile Co. Ltd., a company still in business, which built another brickyard at Hawkwell in 1936 and closed down Marian's Brick Work in the 1940's. The kilns and some buildings were demolished in the following decade, when the site became a sawmill and fence factory.[5]

A 6" O.S. map of the area published in 1884, based on surveying carried out 1879-80, is currently the earliest verified map source, but the brick works are probably also included on a slightly older map which is not available online (see Maps below). They are also included on the later O.S. maps (to 1949) listed below.

Marian = Maid Marian?

As noted above, the proximity of Marian Brick Works to a mine named after Robin Hood gives us good reason to think that the brick works, and by implication the other localities in this vicinity with "Marian" in their name, were named after Maid Marian. The Victoria County History of Gloucestershire notes that several of the brick works that came into being in the Forest of Dean after digging of clay and sand was permitted in 1838 were attached to local ironworks.[6] The short physcial distance between the two enterprises makes it likely that this was the case here. It would obviously strengthen the case for identifying Marian as Maid Marian. It may be noted that two contributors to a Forest of Dean local history forum are inclined to see a connection between the Robin Hood mine and the "Marian" place-names in this part of the forest.[7]





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