Edward Hunt's Forest of Dean Miscellany

Fact, Fiction and Fantasy

Spanish Armada

The Oak is by right our national tree; without it Britain could never have survived as an independent country and would never have risen to a world power. Before Tuder times (The Tuders reigned over England and Wales from 1485 until 1603 - EH) the sea, almost like the climate, was a negative protection to the realm, and only with the discovery of lands beyond the ocean did the sea and ships invite ambition, wealth and power. The forest timber for all its apparent remoteness suddenly became a national asset. When felled it was rolled with comparative ease out of these hills to the Severn. Viney Hill provided a natural slide to Gatcombe on the Severn, from where it was floated on every spring tide to the shipwrights in Bristol. Both Drake and Raleigh visited Gatcombe and Purton either to buy timber for the Navy or to impress the locality with their presence, in the same way that our modern commanders in the field walk round our arms factories in time of war. Even Spain was alive to the presence of Dean as the heart of England's strength. Madrid instructed its ambassador to England to bring about the destruction of the forest by cunning contrivances, imagining that a bonfire would send our damp oak woods flaming like a torch from end to end.

The ambassadors of those days were often clergymen. Spain was represented by Guzman, Dean of Toledo, while John Man, Dean of Gloucester, represented England. Queen Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth I: 1558-1603 - EH), with a pun worthy of the age of Shakespeare, remarked that "Philip (Philip II of Spain: 1556-1598 - EH) sent Guzman hither, while we sent Man who was a goose thither." However, if Man was a goose, Philip's Armada never so much as sighted Dean, and a local man, Sir William Winter, played a part in this great victory, as Admiral of the White, off Gravelines. In token of his rank and in honour of this great victory he built the White Cross House at Lydney.

  The above text is from:
                "The Forest of Dean"
                by Brian Waters
                publisher: Dent 1951

Edward Hunt