Must have passed the turn off to Lydney Docks a dozen times, either on my way to Taurus or Chepstow, but never hung a left in Lydney that takes you down to the docks.
Lydney has been a port from Roman times, though its docks and locks were not built until the early 19th century. Coal has been exported from Lydney since the 12th century, and local oak has been used for shipbuilding. Lydney Pill, where the River Lyd enters the River Severn estuary, was the last upstream port where sea-going vessels could unload.
By the 17th century, as a result of silting, Lydney became unfit for use. Navigational difficulties continued and Bullo Pill, some 14.5km upstream, began to challenge Lydney as the Forest of Dean’s port.
In 1810, the Severn & Wye Tramroad Company, which operated 48km of tramway in the Forest of Dean, obtained a Parliamentary Act for constructing a basin, canal and outer harbour at Lydney to accommodate larger barges. Two bridges were built during the 1810-13 works — a curved stone bridge over the upper basin and a timber swing bridge at the west end of the lower basin. Both are now Grade II listed structures, though the swing bridge no longer moves.
In 1821, increasing trade enabled a tidal basin and an outer lock to be added, allowing in ships up to 406 tonnes. The 1810 stop gates were removed and a new outer lock, operated by hand winch, was installed. Three quays and a horse-drawn tramway were also built along the whole length of the dock system. The western end of the works connected to Pidcock's Canal, built in 1790, which extended 2.4km further north and was used by local forges for transporting iron.
In 1825, the north pier was extended to facilitate navigation into the basin. Lydney became the principal sea outlet for coal mined in the Forest of Dean. At their peak, the docks handled up to 406,400 tonnes of coal annually. Banks of coal sidings ran along the docks, serving nine coaling stages.
In 1894, ownership of the docks passed jointly to the Great Western Railway and the Midland Railway. In 1948, after nationalisation of the railways, they were owned by the British Transport Commission and eventually the British Transport Docks Board. With the cessation of mining in the Forest of Dean from the 1920s, the coal trade dwindled at Lydney and ceased in 1960. The docks continued to operate until 1976, receiving shipments of African hardwoods from Avonmouth, which were used at the nearby Pine End factory to manufacture military aircraft and plywood.
On 22nd August 1980, Severn Trent Water Authority purchased the docks to develop the area for mooring and as a public amenity. The structures, building and docks at the lower end were designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
In 1989, ownership was transferred to the National Rivers Authority, now incorporated into the Environment Agency. In 1998, the Lydney Docks Partnership was formed to create a sustainable future for the dock area.Refurbishing Lydney Docks began in May 2002. Large quantities of silt were removed and the outer lock gates, sealed since 1976, were opened. In 2003, a £1.9 million scheme for a Lydney Docks re-opened on 23rd July 2005.