Hopewell Colliery

Hopewell Colliery Museum

Useful Information

Location: Speech House Rd, Cannop Hill, Coleford GL16 7EL.
On B4226 between Coleford and Speech House Road, 2 km east of Coleford.
(51.799918, -2.577655)
Open: APR to SEP Wed-Sun 10-15.
Tour on the full hour.
Fee: Adults GBP 10, Children (4-16) GBP 8, Families (2+2) GBP 31.
Classification: MineCoal Mine SubterraneaMining Museum
Light: helmet and miners lamp provided
Guided tours: D=45 min.
Bibliography: Tony Oldham (2002): The Mines of the Forest of Dean, p 29.
Address: Hopewell Colliery Museum, Speech House Rd, Cannop Hill, Coleford GL16 7EL, Gloucestershire, Tel: +44-1594-810706, outside opening hours +44-7717-75068. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1822 gale at Hopewell held by James and Robert Morrell.
1863 rails laid to connect the mine to the Coleford Branch of the Severn and Wye Railway.
1880 4330 tons of coal mined.
1889 complaints by the Severn and Wye Railway Company.
1913 colliery owned by the Parkend Navigation Collieries Company Limited.
1997 Hopewell Colliery Museum and Working Mine opened.


The Forest of Dean Coalfield in west Gloucestershire is one of the smaller coalfields in the British Isles. During the Upper Carboniferous the area was a nearshore-intertidal environment of semi-marine estuaries and swamps. The sedimentary layers with the coal seams were folded during the Variscan Orogeny. The Paleozoic rocks were later raised forming a basin plateau with an asymmetrical syncline with a steeper eastern limb that surfaces in the area of Staple Edge and the Soudley Valley producing the steeply dipping strata. The miners were mining the Coleford High Delf at a depth of about 45 m. This coal seam was deposited during the Asturian Substage (309.5-308 Ma BP) of the Carboniferous Period.


This is an opportunity to visit a Freemine in comfort. One of the main features is a caplamp guided tour down New Road Adit to a previously worked coal seam, only 18 inches high and returning to the surface by a drainage adit driven in the 1800's by David Mushet. The tools of the miners' trade are all on display. There is free admission to Cafeteria and Surface Museum of Mining Tools and Equipment. The proprietor, Mr Morgan, a "Free Miner" himself, still mines coal in Phoenix Mine, on the opposite side of the road.

Hopewell is a real mine, so practical shoes and warm clothing should be worn. Conditions may present difficulties for some disabled visitors who should telephone in advance. Hopewell is close to many footpaths and cycle ways. Ramblers and Cyclists are welcome.

The Free Mining Tradition

This is unique to the Forest of Dean and was established in the reign of King Edward I (1272-1307) as a reward for the part played by the Forest miners in the siege of Berwick-on-Tweed. Between 1668 and 1777 a Court of Mine Law met at intervals in the Speech House to deal with disputes among miners. It was presided over by the Constable of St Briavels, with the Gavellor and Clerk of the Court attending and verdicts were given by a jury of 12 Free Miners. To become a Freeminer a man had to be born within the Hundred of St Briavel, more or less the area of the Forest, and to have worked for a year and a day in a local mine within the Hundred. Even today a Freeminer has to apply to the Deputy Gavellor, to work a claim or a 'gale' in the Forest. There are now only a handful of free miners left.

Text by Tony Oldham (2001). With kind permission.

Mining for ochre started in the Forest of Dean over 4,500 years ago, during Roman times iron and coal was extensively mined. Local miners managed to remain free from Roman control. The unique privileges granted to the Freeminers were a reward for their part in recapturing Berwick-upon-Tweed in the 13th and 14th century. those born within ancient Hundred of St Briavels have the right to open their own gale (small mine) to work coal, iron ore, ochre and stone. In 1838 the Dean Forest Act enshrined their rights in an act of parliament:

All male persons born or hereafter to be born and abiding within the said Hundred of St Briavels, of the age of twenty one years and upwards, who shall have worked a year and a day in a coal or iron mine within the said Hundred of St Briavels, shall be deemed and taken to be Free Miners.

Tours are made in an original mine tunnel from around 1820 which has no electric light. Visitors are equipped with helmets and actual miner lamps. Walking shoes and a jacket are recommended. The guides are miners and thus able to tell about their life firsthand. Inside the 75 cm thick coals seam which was worked can be seen. Also mining machinery and the typical wooden support. The exit of the tunnel is in the forest and visitors return through the actual Forest of Dean to the café.

The mine also has a museum which is also a café. Several display cases show artefacts from Freemining at Hopewell Colliery and other local sites. This includes documents and pictures, but also tools, lamps, minerals, and miners artworks. In the surroundings an old headframe, a pit head wheel, and an abandoned mine train which is pulled by a steel rope can be seen.

The mine was opened in 1822 by James and Robert Morrell. The mine was named Hope-Well Pit. Later a steam engine and a headframe were installed to pull a train. The coal was transported by the horse-drawn Severn and Wye tramroad, between 1841 and 1846 35,132 tons of coal were extracted. In 1863 the mine was connected with rails to the Coleford Branch of the Severn and Wye Railway. The yearly production was 4330 tons at the end of the 19th century. The removal of so much coal caused subsidence and in 1889 the Severn and Wye Railway Company complained, that mine works here were causing damage to their rail line. Mining declined in the late 1920s.