Charles Lees

Charles Lees (1860-1936) was born in Cinderford the son of a blast furnace worker and iron miner. He started work at an early age at Old Leather Pit. He then worked at Duck Pit owned by Crump Meadow company.  After a short period at Lightmoor colliery, he moved to Crump Meadow colliery. Sometime after 1911, he was appointed to the responsible job of overman and worked at Crump Meadow until it was closed in 1929.

He married Minnie Penn in 1881 and had twelve children one of whom died as a baby.

Charles Lees was a trustee and committee member of the Forest of Dean Free Miners’ Association. In the years before he became an overman, he was an active member of the Forest miners’ trade union, the Forest of Dean Miners’ Association. He was a committee member of the Cinderford Co-operative Society and represented the mining community on welfare organisations such as the Forest of Dean General Accident and Health Insurance Society.

During World War One Charles Lee’s son George applied for exemption from military combat on the grounds of consciousness objection but this was rejected.

In March 1916, George Lees, Charles’s son, and the brothers Howard and William Nelmes were arrested for being absentee under the Military Service Act, having failed to report to barracks on receipt of their call-up papers. They all worked together as woodmen for the Crown Estate. They were brought before Littledean Petty Sessions chaired by George Rowlinson. Lees argued that he was a conscientious objector and asked to be exempted from conscription based on his Methodist religious beliefs. Rowlinson told him that he could have appealed before a military tribunal if he had made an application on receipt of his call-up papers but that it was too late now. They were all fined and handed over to the military.[1] Lees was drafted to the Gloucestershire Regiment and was seriously wounded at the front in October 1916.[2]

Charles Lees presented the following motion to a mass meeting of Forest of Dean Miners in August 1917 which was passed with a near-unanimous majority and triggered a series of events that led to the removal of George Rowlinson as the agent for the FDMA in 1918.

“That we, the Forest of Dean miners, call upon the various Trade Unions of this country to take the necessary steps with the view to ascertaining the views of the workers of all countries to negotiate an immediate and honourable peace.”

One of Charles Lees’ other sons, Oliver, was killed in Flanders in October 1918.


[1] Gloucester Journal 1 April 1916.

[2] Gloucester Journal 14 October 1916.

2 replies on “Charles Lees”

Thank you for this article. Minnie was one of my great grandmother’s sisters. I’m researching my family tree at the moment. Thank you for posting.

Thank you for this. Charles Lees is my great great grandfather and it is always interesting to learn more about him and his family. Thank you.

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