Research and Collections
The Gage Archive contains thousands of documents, books, postcards, maps and photographs on the Forest of Dean.
It is open for research on family history, local history and a variety of topics on the Forest of Dean on WEDNESDAY AFTERNOONS. Our team of volunteer historians will be pleased to help anyone with their research. Please note that the Gage archive is not a library that you can browse through but an archive where we bring out items for you. Please email or phone ahead at least 2 weeks for an appointment. Space is limited and we try to spread appointments so that we have time for all enquirers.
By appointment only. Normal admission charges apply - a visit to the Gage archive is included in admission price.
Dean Heritage Centre is the designated regional repository for archaeological archives in the Forest of Dean. The Dean Heritage Centre also collects amateur archaeological finds and treasure finds.
The archive includes books on mining in the Forest of Dean plus photographs, documents, oral histories and plans of colliery sites and buildings, and colliers working in mines. We do not hold extensive employee lists for all mines, but we do hold the Northern United employee record and a copy of the Princess Royal employee record for 1935-37. Please ask for more details on mining.
Enquiries can be answered by email & telephone & by visiting us. In this case donations are greatly appreciated. We are a not-for-profit independent museum and donations help us run the Dean Heritage Centre and look after our collection. We suggest the following as a guide:
No information found ……………………………………………………....….…… free
Research undertaken less than half an hour………………………………………................................… free
Research undertaken for 1-2 hours ..…………………………………………........................…….…. £5-£10
Research undertaken for over 2 hours……………………………………...................……………. £20
The Dean Heritage Centre charges for any paper or digital reproductions to cover costs of staff time, resources, and materials. These are listed in our Reproduction Policy. Please ask for further information.
For any enquiries about the collection, donations, archaeology, object identification, local history, and family history please contact Collections Officer Nicola Wynn at 01594 822170 or email Nicola@deanheritagecentre.com
The Dean Heritage is committed to education for all and life-long learning. Our collection and local environment provide a rich and engaging resource that can be used to explore and discover the unique history and heritage of the Forest of Dean.
Dennis Potter Archive
Dean Heritage Centre houses an archive of Dennis Potter’s work thanks to Voices in the Forest, a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Local Action Group. The archive includes draft articles for television reviews, multiple draft manuscripts – typed and handwritten, published and unpublished work and production notes.
Dennis Potter (1935 – 1994) was an important television dramatist, screenwriter and journalist who grew up in the Forest of Dean. He is best known for his BBC TV serials Pennies from Heaven (1978), The Singing Detective (1986), and the television plays Blue Remembered Hills (1979) and Brimstone and Treacle (1976). Potter is widely regarded as one of the most influential and innovative dramatists to have worked in British television. The Forest of Dean was a huge influence on Potter and appeared in many of his productions.
From the archive, we can see that Potter made numerous drafts of his work and continuously reworked them. Many works began life under a different title, and can be seen to be different to the final completed work, e.g. an early draft of The Changing Forest is titled Blessed was the Eye. There are a number of documents that are previously unknown.
At Dean Heritage Centre, visitors can see the Dennis Potter Exhibition room which includes a recreation of a 1950’s living room with authentic furniture and objects, documents from the Potter archive on display, a film showing a tour of Berry Hill where Potter grew up and panels with text and photographs providing insights to Potter and his work and the influence of the Forest of Dean.
The Dean Heritage Centre hopes that the permanent Potter exhibition will provide present and future generations with an interest in Potter’s work. Dean Heritage Centre wants to ensure that the impact the Forest of Dean had on Potter, and the impact that Potter has had on television continues to be recognised.
Click here to download list of documents from the 1960s
Click here to download a list of documents from the 1970s
Click here to download a list of documents from the 1980s
You are welcome to view the Dennis Potter archive but you need to make an appointment in advance. For enquiries about the Dennis Potter archive please contact the Collections Officer Nicola Wynn email Nicola@deanheritagecentre.com
DHC Oral History Project
Forester’s Forest The Dean Heritage Centre Oral History project is part of the NLHF funded Foresters’ Forest Landscape Partnership Programme formed from an association of local organisations and community groups within the Forest of Dean. The aim is to raise awareness and participation in the built, natural and cultural heritage of the Forest. This 5 year project ran until March 2022.
The Forest Oral Histories project is to digitise and catalogue our unique collection of around 170 audio cassette tapes from the 1980s to 2000s. Digitising them will not only preserve the audio recordings but also enable access to a wide range of people. The recordings are interviews of Foresters talking about various aspects of their lives in the Forest of Dean. They are fascinating to listen to and reveal what life was like in the Forest fifty to a hundred years ago. People talk about their experiences in mining, forestry, various industries, childhood, schools, growing up, shopping, towns and villages, Forest dialect, and much more.
The collection was begun by Elsie Olivey, a founder of Dean Heritage Museum, who could see Forest life rapidly changing and decided to preserve people’s memories by recording them. In an interview on Radio Severn Sound in 1984 Elsie describes why she is doing the interviews:
‘We go out and talk to old people in the Forest. We are trying to get the old ones first because that’s the generation that is fast disappearing. We talk to….men …on mining…and women …domestic service… ….things on tape you get never read in the history books because you are getting the thoughts of the people themselves’.
Collections Officer Nicola Wynn ‘Much has been written about the history of the Forest of Dean, but the recorded interviews further enrich this history by recording the unique personal experiences and memories of people. They really bring history to life and allow us to connect with people’s lives. The recordings reveal the heart and soul of daily life and are by turns fascinating, poignant and moving.’
We are collaborating with project partners Voices from the Forest who have recently recorded interviews of people taking a biographical, life story approach to discover the occupational histories of men and women in the Forest of Dean in the last half of the twentieth century. These recordings have been added to the DHC Oral history archive. We have also collaborated with the Forest Dialect project which looks at the development and distinctiveness of the Forest dialect. This project is partially based on DHC oral history recordings.
The legacy of this project will be an oral history archive of nearly 200 recordings spanning the 20th century. An important social history archive for the Forest which will be a valuable resource to historians and people interested in Forest history. Look out on our website, Facebook page and newsletters for further updates and events.
Help wanted Dean Heritage Centre is trying to contact interviewers and interviewees to ask their permission to use the recordings. Sadly, many of the people interviewed will have died by now so we must then try to contact relatives. We would greatly appreciate help from the public in tracing the relatives of the people interviewed. Please have a look and if you are a relative or friend or you have any information for us please contact us. Contact us if you would like to volunteer to help on the Oral History project.
Voices from the Forest website:
Forest Dialect website:
Much work has been carried out by volunteers Pat Lacy, Roger Thorne, Alice Paddock, Sue Pawling, Christian Horton, Owen Adams and Lauren Wynn. We would like to thank them for all their time and efforts, without them this project would not have been able to happen.
The legacy of this project will be an oral history archive of nearly 200 recordings spanning the 20th century. An important social history archive for the Forest which will be a valuable resource to historians and people interested in Forest history.
The interviews cover a wide variety of topics:
Industry & Work - Coal mining (free mines & large collieries), saw mills, iron mining, brickworks, nail making, tin plate, transport, farming, forestry, fishing, haulage, teaching, armed services, Rank Xerox
Home & family life – cottages, furnishings, washing, bathing, toilets, gardening, clothing, lighting, cooking, keeping animals
Towns & villages – descriptions, shops, events, cinema
School – various school experiences, teachers, walking to school, games played
Domestic service – experiences of various women in what was the most common work by women
Religion – church, chapel, Sunday school, Temperence, outings & treats
War – both WW1 & WW2, life in armed services and on the home front, Americans in the Forest
Poverty & hard times – living through 1920s, 1930s and war years, living with little money
Strikes/Unions – General strike of 1926, lockout 1921, Speech House demonstrations
Sheep – many miners running sheep
Health – before the welfare state, doctors, the Dilke hospital, home remedies, illnesses & accidents
Dialect – many examples of strong Forest dialect
Leisure/culture – choirs, cinema, songs, sport, fairs, days out, walks, social gatherings, events
Camp Mill (now Dean Heritage Centre) – saw mill, people living in cottages, children playing
Migration – moving in or out of the Forest for work
Miscellaneous – old customs, humour, courtship
Accessing the recordings - Full recordings can be accessed by visiting DHC Excerpts – a few can be listened to on the DHC website and more can be accessed at DHC database - this searchable database holding all catalogued records is available at DHC Please contact the Collections Officer to make an appointment to visit DHC Batch 1 This is the Elsie Olivey collection, the original collection and the oldest recordings. The interviews were carried out in the early 1980s with people who grew up from the 1890s to the 1930s. A rich source of information and interest for early 20th century life in the Forest. Includes many detailed recollections of mining. Batch 2 12 recordings of interviews arranged by Elsie Olivey through The Forge Centre in Cinderford early 2000s plus various other recordings of interviews of Foresters from the 1990s up to 2000. Also includes the song The Jovial Forester, Forest choirs and radio programmes on free miners and fishing on the Severn. Batch 3 Various interviews recorded in the early 2000s. Interviews of Foresters from early to mid-1900s. Includes several interviews with local farmer Eric Freeman. Batch 4 interviews mainly from John Fowler, which were recorded in the early 2000s about Foresters and locals from the start of the 1900s to mid 1900s.
Batch 1 This is the Elsie Olivey collection, the original collection and the oldest recordings. The interviews were carried out in the early 1980s with people who grew up from the 1890s to the 1930s. A rich source of information and interest for early 20th century life in the Forest. Includes many detailed recollections of mining.
Batch 2 12 recordings of interviews arranged by Elsie Olivey through The Forge Centre in Cinderford early 2000s plus various other recordings of interviews of Foresters from the 1990s up to 2000. Also includes the song The Jovial Forester, Forest choirs and radio programmes on free miners and fishing on the Severn.
For all Oral history enquiries please contact Collections Officer Nicola Wynn by email Nicola@deanheritagecentre.com or tel 01594 822170.
Accessing the recordings
Full recordings – can be accessed by visiting The Dean Heritage Centre
DHC database - this searchable database holding all catalogued records is available at Dean Heritage Centre.
Please contact the Collections Officer Nicola Wynn by email Nicola@deanheritagecentre.com or tel 01594 822170 to make an appointment to visit DHC.
Happy is the Eye Film
As part of the Forest Oral Histories project, Dean Heritage Centre commissioned artist & documentary filmmaker Ryan Powell to create a film on the Forest of Dean drawn from our recordings.
The film uses recordings and photographs sourced from the Dean Heritage Centre's archive and the Voices from the Forest project, to build up an image of life in the Forest of Dean during the 20th century, with a focus on ways that people directly interacted with the natural landscape as part of their way of life. Almost every scene in the film is in fact made up of several shots that have been blended together to create a new image.
The film will be showing in Gallery 3 along with other oral history recordings.