Ralph Anstis – Warren James and the Dean Forest RiotsThe Disturbances of 1831
242pp / 191x235mm / paperback
The full story of the riots in the Forest of Dean in 1831, and how they were suppressed, is told here for the first time.
The book also gives the background to the riots; it discusses the simple lives of the foresters before the arrival in Dean of the Industrial Revolution, and how they lived in the Forest, pasturing their animals there and using it as if it was their own. It also describes the ancient way the free miners used to mine their iron and coal and how they regulated their mining activities through their Mine Law Court.
It sets out the two main causes of the riots: the determination of the government to enclose large areas of the Forest for growing timber, thus restricting the foresters’ access; and the influx of ‘foreigners’ eager to exploit not only the Forest’s coal and iron resources but also the foresters themselves.
Dominating the story is the enigmatic character of Warren James, the self-educated free miner who led the foresters in their attempt to stave off their increasing poverty and unemployment, and to protect their traditional way life from the threats of advancing industrial change. The tragic account of his unfair trial, his transportation to a convict settlement in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), his reprieve for political reasons, and his death far from the Forest is set against the background of the sordid and heartless times in which he lived.