Famous People Linked to Our Area
Below is just a small selection of some of the well-known people who have links with the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley. There are of course many more especially going through history!
The playright Dennis Potter was born at Berry Hill, near Coleford in the Forest of Dean. From a family of cail miners he attended the local grammar school and spent three years at Oxford. Potter worked in broadcasting, as a journalist and stood for parliament but is best remembered for the plays he wrote in the 1980s including The Singing Detective and Pennies from Heaven. He died in 1994 aged 59.
The Dennis Potter archive, including unpublished works can be viewed at The Dean Heritage Centre.
In the years leading up to the First World War, literary history was being made around the village of Dymock on the north-west borders of Gloucestershire. A literary community was formed which came to represent a significant development in the modern poetic tradition.
By August 1914, the poet and playwright Lascelles Abercrombie, Wilfrid Gibson, and the Americal poet Robert Frost had all taken up residence in and around the village of Dymock. Inspired by the beauty of their surroundings and encouraged by a succession of visitors, including Rupert Brooke, John Drinkwater, Edward Thomas and Eleanor Farjeon.
It was a productive time for all but this brief idyll was short lived. Within three years both Brooke and Thomas were dead, Frost had returned to North America, and Abercrombie, Drinkwater and Gibson were involved in war work. Their writings, however, continue to form an important literary legacy to this day.
- Talks about the group are frequently held in Dymock, often in the spring when the wild daffodils are at their best.
- More about the Dymock Poets
J K Rowling
J K Rowling, best known for the Harry Potter novels lived in the Forest of Dean as a child. She attended Wydean School, near Chepstow, and it is thought some of the characters were based on teachers and that some of the locations have links with the Forest.
The founders of Horlicks Malted Milk, James and William Horlicks, were born in Ruardean in the Forest of Dean.
The story goes that Dick was a poor orphan country lad who, hearing that the streets of London were paved with gold, bravely made his way there to seek his fortune.
The real Dick Whittington was born at Pauntley Court in Pauntley, a small hamlet situated between Dymock and Newent. Further details.
J R R Tolkien
In 1929 Tolkien worked with the archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler to execavate a Roman temple at Lydney Park, the same time that he was working on The Hobbitt. The temple, known as Dwarf's Hill , built upon an earlier Iron Age settlement, the hill was riddled with tunnels and open cast iron mines known as Scowles similar to those that can still be seen at Puzzlewood. Tolkien is though to have taken his inspiration for Middle Earth from the Forest of Dean environment and folklore.
Herbert Howells, a musician and composer most famous for his church music. Howells was born in Lydney in 1892 and showed early music promise playing the organ in local churches. In 1905 he began lessons with the organist of Gloucester Cathedral alongside Ivor Novello and Ivor Gurney, more famous as a World War 1 poet. Following a stuidies at the Royal College of Music he had a long career as a composer, dying in 1983. More about Herbert Howells.
The singer and radio presenter Sir Jimmy Young was born in Cinderford in 1921 and died in 2016.
An author and poet born in Coleford 1799. Mary translated many of the stories of Hans Christian Anderson into English and write the famour poem The Spider and the Fly ("'Will you walk into my parlour?' said the Spider to the Fly").
F W Harvey
Frederick William Harvey, poet, 1888-1957. Born in Hartpury, grew up in Minsterworth and spent the last 30 years of his life in the village of Yorkley. Will Harvey was a friend and contemporary of Ivor Gurney and Herbert Howells.
Will Harvey was known as ‘The Laureate of Gloucestershire’ and ‘The Forest Poet’. Harvey’s best-known poem is Ducks, which was a popular inclusion in many anthologies, but he is also respected for other works such as In Flanders, put to music by Ivor Gurney, If We Return and lighter verse such as That Catch - cricket was one of Harvey’s passions.
After the war Harvey became a solicitor specialising in defending those who could not normally afford legal representation. Harvey became a broadcaster but was most at home in his local village, commonly found in local pubs and participating in skittles, choirs and village life.
For further information visit www.fwharveysociety.co.uk
Flora Klickmann (1867 to 1958) was an English journalist and writer; she was the editor of the Girls Own Paper but is best known for her Flower Patch series of books showing her love and concerns for nature. Flora also wrote children stories and non-fiction on many topics including gardening, cookery and needlework. She lived in Brockweir and is buried in the Moravian Church. Further details.
Winifred Foley (1914 to 2009) was an author, born in Brierley. She is best known for her autobiography A Child in the Forest (1974) about her life growing up in the Forest of Dean until she became a teenager. She wrote several other titles but her forest trilogy is the titles A Child in the Forest, Back to the Forest and No Pipe Dream for Father.
Before being published, her stories which later became A Child in the Forest were made into a BBC Radio Series for Woman’s Hour in 1973. The success of Foley’s writing allowed her family to move from Huntley and live nearer to Newent, it is said that she never lost her love for the Forest.
After her death in 2009, a bench at the top of May Hill in the Forest of Dean was dedicated to her and her late husband. Read more on the Reading the Forest site here.
Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872 to 1970) was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic and political activist. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had "never been any of these in any profound sense". He was born at Ravenscroft (now called Cleddon Hall), near Trellech, Monmouthshire into one of the most prominent aristocratic families.
He is widely held to be one of the 20th century's premier logicians. With A. N. Whitehead he wrote Principia Mathematica, an attempt to create a logical basis for mathematics. His work has had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science, and philosophy.
Russell was a prominent anti-war activist; he championed anti-imperialism and went to prison for his pacifism during World War I. Later, he campaigned against Adolf Hitler, then criticised Stalinist totalitarianism, attacked the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War, and was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament. In 1950 Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100 – c. 1155) was a Welsh cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British history and the popularity of tales of King Arthur. He is best known for his chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae ("History of the Kings of Britain"), which was widely popular in its day and was credited, uncritically, well into the 16th century, being translated into various other languages from its original Latin, but which is now considered historically unreliable. Historia Regum Britanniae is now acknowledged as a literary work of national myth containing little reliable history. The earliest of Geoffrey's writings to appear was probably the Prophetiae Merlini (Prophecies of Merlin) structuring and reshaping of the Merlin and Arthur myths in later literature, a popularity that lasts to this day.