Littledean Village, Gloucestershire

Littledean is one of the ancient villages of the Forest of Dean. Situated a mile east of the town of Cinderford, it contains many old buildings dating back to the 1600’s, and some even earlier. Littledean Hall, open to the public, is one of these ancient buildings, and it is reputed to be one of the most haunted houses in England, though this is stoutly denied by its current owner who is at pains to discourage the notion.

The village was once the site of Roman occupation, and the remains of the Roman temple can be seen in the grounds of the Hall. Even earlier, the hillside to the east of the village was the site of an ancient encampment and the hillside still bears traces of the banks and ditches of the fortifications. Littledean grew up at the centre of a network of ancient Forest tracks (notably the Roman road which led up from the ford and ferry at Newnham). By 1086 a motte & bailey castle, known in later times as the Old castle of Dene, had been built on a hill to the east, in a commanding position above the village and the valley leading up from the Severn plain. Littledean gradually became a centre of local industry, especially iron making and associated metal trades.

Littledean’s Church of St Ethlebert was built in the late 12th century with the tower added in the 14th century. Today this has a rather truncated appearance, because the tower originally had a spire which was destroyed in a severe gale in 1894 and never rebuilt. Other buildings of interest are the Red House an early building, possibly with a Norman Core, the Old Coaching Inn and Littledean Hall. Also known as Dean Hall, this is reputed to be the oldest known house in Gloucestershire . The present house is 16ht century in date, with an early17th century north wing and a mid 19th century top storey. Within the grounds of Littledean Hall is a Roman temple, sited at a springhead on the edge of the Forest escarpment. It was only discovered in the early 1980’s and subsequent archaeological excavation revealed a complex history. Perhaps the most interesting artefact from the site is a piece of sandstone which has a primitive face carved on one side. This was found on the site in 1991 and is of Celtic origin. As the Romans often adopted local religions and sacred sites, it is thought that Littledean temple was built as a water shrine dedicated to the. deity of the River Severn and its bore, for the site has excellent views of the great horseshoe bend in the river.

The most noticeable building in the village is Littledean Gaol, an imposing structure designed by the London architect William Blackburn using locally quarried red sandstone, it was one of four identical gaols built in the country by Sir George Onesiphorus Paul in 1791 and is easily the best preserved. The public can visit it by prior arrangement. In the 19th century, Littledean had the local magistrates court house for this part of the Forest, and the old prison , or to give it’s correct title, “Littledean House of Correction”, still remains, although it is now used as a commercial premises.

Prison Occupants in 1851

 

The Village Cross

A very rare old picture of the village Cross, which was once in the centre of Littledean.

There hardly seems the space for it nowadays when one looks at the site. It is right at the junction of the main road and the road up to Littledean Hall, in precisely the position where nowadays there is a mini-roundabout painted on the road.

All that remains now is the finial, which is in the gardens of the Littledean House Hotel.

A hamlet in the parish of Littledean, Gloucestershire

Green Bottom is a tiny, tucked-away hamlet in the forest mid way between Littledean and neighbouring Abenhall. The road between those two villages is small, winding and narrow, and Green Bottom is on an even smaller lane off that! The sort of place that no-one drives through in passing.

It takes its name from the small green bottomed valley in which it is situated. There are just a handful of cottages there, which benefit from a mobile library once a week. It has its own little Baptist Chapel, built in the 1860’s, and which is still used for weekly worship at 3.00pm each Sunday.

The Baptist Chapel. (Services held each Sunday at 3.00pm.)
Most of the hamlet of Green Bottom. Well, there are a few more houses, but not many!
Church Registers
Glos. RO
Transcripts MIs Notes
St. Ethelbert C 1684-1987
M 1686-1984
B 1684-1970
BT 1611-1859
IGI C 1617-1875
M 1754-1812
B 1783-1836
MI’s & Bigland extracts
-1791 Bigland
Norman & Medieval

Additional Resources

    • Littledean School admissions registers 1881-1939 – Gloucestershire Records Office
    • Littledean in the 1841 Census – HO107/364-14
  • Original handwritten census enumerator’s books available on CD from the Parish Chest