A to Z of the Dean Wye: R is for…


Ruardean is a village in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England, to the west of Cinderford. It is situated on a hillside with views west towards the mountains of South Wales.

‘Who killed the bears?’ Well known forest story

On 26 April 1889, four Frenchmen and their two bears were making their way to Ruardean, having performed in Cinderford. They were attacked by an angry mob, enraged by claims that the bears had killed a child and injured a woman. The bears were killed and the Frenchmen badly beaten.

It soon became clear that the bears had not attacked anyone. Police proceedings followed and a week later 13 colliers and laborers appeared before magistrates at Littledean, charged with ill-treating and killing the bears and assaulting the Frenchmen. All but two were found guilty on one or more charges, with another convicted a week later. A total of £85 was paid in fines – a huge sum in those days.

The term ‘Who killed the bears?’ existed for many years as an insult, directed particularly towards the people of Ruardean – despite the fact that all those convicted were from Cinderford.

Don’t mention the bear(s) in Ruardean!


Roman Fort – Lydney Park & link with JRR Tolkien

Roman Ruins Excavation on the Lydney Park Estate in the 1805 also exposed evidence of settlements dating back to 100BC, a Norman castle and extensive ruins of a Roman Camp including a Roman Temple. The “Lydney Dog” is an impressive piece of Romano-British sculpture created in cast bronze and has since become the symbol of the Estate. According to Sylvia Jones, curator and tourism manager at Viscount Bledisloe’s estate in Lydney, Tolkien was surely influenced by the ancient Roman archeological site that he worked on at Lydney Park, in 1929. So did JRR Tolkien’s tale of hobbits and hobgobblins begin in Gloucestershire’s Lydney Park?

As part of an archaeological dig, run by the eminent Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Tolkien worked and advised on the site of an old Roman temple, known as Dwarf’s Hill. It seems probable that Tolkien was inspired in some way by the folklore attached to the hill…..it seems so much like Hobbiton, that we think he found some of his inspiration here. The fort was built upon an earlier Iron Age settlement, the hill was riddled with tunnels and open cast iron mines known as Scowles, and Tolkien is said to have been very taken with the whole area. Rumour has it that within 20 years of the Romans leaving, the local people forgot it had been a Roman settlement and thought the crumbling ruins were the homes of little people, dwarves and hobgoblins and they were afraid of the hill.



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