In the 1870s the Forest of Dean was a strange mixture of verdant beauty and industrial ugliness.
Cinderford, where Bill Williams lived, was the biggest town in the Forest.
Half a century earlier it had not existed; then the Industrial Revolution had taken off.
Deep coal pits were sunk; old iron mines were rejuvenated; iron works, soon to be spitting flames, smoke and noise, were constructed.
In a few decades Cinderford became a town of some eleven thousand souls.
With its unmade, rutted roads, its overcrowded houses,
its stagnant pools of raw sewage in the streets and its deaths from cholera and typhoid,
Cinderford in the 1860s and '70s was the most unhealthy town in the Dean,
and the only one to compare in squalor with the new towns of the north of England spawned by the Industrial Revolution.
A government inspector wrote in an official report in 1869 that he had never seen a town anywhere in a worse sanitary condition than Cinderford.
The above text is from:
"Diary of a working man: Bill Williams,
Forest of Dean, 1872- 1873"
Edited by Bess and Ralph Anstis
Published by Alan Sutton Publishing 1994