A Brief Local History
Hewelsfield is situated approx 8 kilometres south of Coleford and lies on an upland plateau bordering the Wye Valley. It looks East over the river Severn to the Cotswolds and the hamlet itself is designated a Conservation Area comprising of a small accumulation of dwellings loosely gathered around a most imposing church. The church dates back to Norman times and probably had Saxon past, in fact the peculiar round shape of the church yard and it’s location on the trade route between the Rivers Wye and Severn probably denote a pre-Roman pagan background.
Brockweir, a small village clustered around one of the important entry points into England is located on the banks of the River Wye. This is the last point downstream that vehicles can safely cross the river until Chepstow and historically was a major thoroughfare. The River Wye is tidal until Bigsweir but Brockweir was the furthest point upstream that ocean going vessels could reach and it was here that cargoes were transferred to shallow flat bottom barges to be hauled further upriver by teams of men. Consequently it grew up as a large bustling port which is hard to imagine today as it has now become a sleepy, quiet village.
The local pub and Moravian Church, which was built on a cock fighting pit, are reminders of a colourful past where there were some 16 drinking establishments to satisfy the demands of the shipping trade and where local boat builders built both river and sea going vessels, some of which travelled as far as Australia, India and the South China seas. The last large ship to be built at Brockweir was the barque Constantine. Built by Thomas Swift in 1847, she was a magnificent 121 ft (37m) in length with a cargo capacity of 609 tons. Before the cast iron road bridge was built in 1905/06 there was only one narrow road into the village and access was usually by water, with a ferry taking travellers to and from the Welsh bank.
Flora Klickman, authoress and editor of The Girls Own Paper wrote many stories about her cottage in Brockweir. Her most famous, “The Flower Patch Among the Hills” was published in 1916 and the last, “Weeding the Flower Patch”, in1948.
Interesting buildings include the 16th century Manor House (facing the bridge), the Moravian Church (gothic windows and Art Nouveau glass), the Malt House and the recently exposed corn mill.