Early history

The area now forming the present village of Lydbrook has been inhabited throughout history. Artifacts from Hangerberry and Eastbach on the south west corner of the parish, and Lower Lydbrook show evidence of widespread activity from theMesolithic period (Middle Stone Age 10,000 – 4000 BC) to the present. Flint stone tools from surrounding fields confirm that the area was occupied and farmed for more than 4,000 years.

Lydbrook was inhabited by the Romans as there is evidence of a Roman homestead along Proberts Barn Lane, Lower Lydbrook. The timber building detected on the site may date from the 1st Century AD. A later building was constructed with stone walls. This building was still inhabited in the 4th century. The site was also a farming and agricultural centre in the Roman period. There is also evidence of Roman activity at Hangerberry with traces of a Roman pavement. We know that aRoman road came from Ruardean through Lower Lydbrook (tracing the Wye) to English Bicknor. A further ancient road existed between Joys Green and English Bicknor via Bell Hill. Traces of a Roman Road also exist from Worrall Hill to Edge End. These Roman track ways show evidence of following the course of previous prehistoric paths. In 1881 it was reported that a large quantity of Roman coins were found at Lower Lydbrook. Recent archaeological excavations by the Dean Archaeological Group in and around Lydbrook have recovered further coins from the Roman period, as well as other artefacts pre-dating and post dating this period.

Parish boundaries

For those living today there may be differences as to what comprises Lydbrook. There is the village of Lydbrook which for many would include Worrall Hill, Hangerberry and Stowfield. There is also the Parish of Lydbrook which includes Joys Green, Hawsley and High Beech. The complexities of boundaries for Lydbrook have been greater in the past.

Before becoming part of Gloucestershire, prior to the 12th century, the Forest of Dean lay in Herefordshire. For example, Ruardean was an extension of the parish of Walford in Herefordshire and St John’s church at Ruardean was a daughter church of Walford Church.

In the same time as the Forest of Dean came into Gloucestershire the Forest had become the preserve of the Crown. The area now covered by Upper Lydbrook and Joys Green, would have been served in times past by the church at Mitcheldean. However from Norman times until the mid 19th century, it came under the Forest’s Bailiff for Mitcheldean (in other words ‘the Magna or Great Dean Bailiwick’), and thus was extra-parochial, or outside of a parish.

Lower Lydbrook was divided between the parishes of English Bicknor and Walford (served by the Church of St John the Baptist at Ruardean), with the Lyd forming the boundary. The mid-19th century saw the parochialisation of the Forest. Each area within the legal boundaries of the Forest came under both a church district and a civic district. In 1816 Upper Lydbrook and Joys Green came under the newly created church of Holy Trinity at Harrow Hill, with a mission chapel built in Upper Lydbrook in 1821. By 1842 this arrangement was formalised by the newly created ecclesiastical district of Holy Trinity (Harrow Hill, Drybrook).

The civic boundaries of the Forest differed from the church boundaries and from 1842 Lower Lydbrook and Upper Lydbrook became part of the Township of West Dean, with Joys Green coming within the westmost boundary of the Township of East Dean, the Railway line (constructed later in the 1860s) ran along this boundary. In 1852 Lower Lydbrook, Upper Lydbrook and Joys Green all became part of the newly created ecclesiastical parish of Lydbrook. It was much later in 1935 that the civic parish of Lydbrook was created.

Lower Lydbrook and Upper Lydbrook had developed as separate communities prior to the 17th century and remained so legally until the 19th century. A few of the older inhabitants of the village reported that a toll gate once existed between Lower and Upper Lydbrook.[1]

Lower Lydbrook was settled as part of the parishes of English Bicknor and Ruardean, and was the focus of the iron industry. You only have to look at the location of housing in Lower Lydbrook to see a defined community adjacent to the Wye River and Lyd brook. The pond also served as a focal point, as well a community meeting places. Lower Lydbrook people were buried in the churchyards of Ruardean and English Bicknor (as well as a number being buried at Welsh Bicknor across the Wye). Upper Lydbrook lay within the Forest boundary which had been part of the Bailiwick of Mitcheldean, and had been encroached (housing being built within what was once strictly a Crown preserve), serving as a focus for the mining community.

Present community

The present community of Lydbrook seems to have had its beginnings in the 13th century. In a record of a sale of trees in 1256, mention is made of ‘the Mill of Lydbrook’. Further early notes on Lydbrook occur in a survey of the Forest of Dean in 1282. The Lyd (a brook, which flows into the River Wye) formed, for part of its travels, the boundary between the Bailiwicks of Bikenore (English Bicknor) and Rywardin (Ruardean). Today many maps call the Lyd, Hough Brook, or Great Hough Brook, and How Brook which joins the Lyd is known on modern maps as Little Hough Brook. Listed in the 1282 entries of those who possessed cultivated land, William of Ludebrok (Lydbrook), appears under the parish of Bikenore, and under the parish of Rywardin. Rather than being two separate pieces of land in differing localities, it was probably that William’s land will have included the brook, hence his inclusion in the records for both parishes. In addition, under the entry for Bikenore is recorded, Robert of Stoufeld (Stowfield). Thus the development of Lydbrook began at Lower Lydbrook. The village takes its name from the brook running its entire length – the ‘loud brook’ or lud brook to become Lyd Brook. The village developed as a site for the local iron and coal industries with the houses as an encroachment into the Forest tracing the Lyd brook which provided the water needed for industry and domestic use. The development of the encroachment, continued into the Bailiwick of Magna Dean (Mitcheldean), the area which became known as Upper Lydbrook and Joys Green. The village only became a place of population of any size 17th century onwards, but grew steadily since to remain static for almost a century and a half at a population of about 2,500 between the 1850s and the beginning of the 1990s.

Lydbrook Parish Council

In 1935, with the creation of the civic parish of Lydbrook, Joys Green became a full part of the parish.