History of Tintern, Monmouthshire

The Village of Tintern

The Lower Wye Valley (from South of Hereford to Chepstow) has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).   It is also historically important as one of the birthplaces of the modern tourism industry having been visited by JMW Turner, William Wordsworth et al over 200 years ago.

The Village of Tintern itself is the stunning home to the spectacular ruins of a world famous Cistercian abbey, and to an ancient industrial heritage.   Nestled quietly on the west bank of the River Wye in Monmouthshire, it is a wonderful place in which to live and to visit with England situated across the river on the east bank of the Wye.

The modern Tintern has been formed through the coalescence of two historic villages – Tintern Parva, forming the northern end of the village and Chapel Hill which forms the southern end. The village is designated as a Conservation area.

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey was founded beside the river in 1131 during the reign of King Henry I.   It was the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and its monks came from a daughter house of Citeaux in France. The present-day remains at Tintern are a mixture of works covering several centuries. Between 1270 and 1301 the abbey was rebuilt, and when it was completed around four hundred monks lived in the complex. The abbey’s land was divided into agricultural units, and local people provided farm labour and served the abbey and its many visitors. For 400 years, it dominated the economy of its surrounding area until 1536 when it became part of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.

Tintern Abbey
Holiday Cottage Tintern - Brass, Iron and Wire Works

Tintern BrassworksIndustrial activity began in 1568 when the newly established Company of Mineral and Battery Works built wireworks. It is possible that brass was made, but the works mainly made iron wire. This was used for a wide variety of industries with essential goods: cards for the woollen industry, nails, pins, knitting needles and fish hooks.   The site was convenient, because the Wye offered transportation, the Angiddy stream water power, trees in nearby woods charcoal fuel and a ready supply of minerals in the locality. A blast furnace and forges were built in the valley in the 17th century and operated with the wireworks until the end of the 18th century.

For 300 years, the numerous works and forges along the Angiddy Valley dominated the village and surrounding communities. A branch railway line connecting the works with the Wye Valley Railway by way of a bridge was completed in 1875. By then, however, the works for which it was built had gone out of business. All the works had closed by 1880, but several associated ponds, leats and culverts still remain visible today. After being used in the early 20th century as a horse-drawn tramway, the bridge now carries a footpath.

The Tourist Industry

By the late 18th century, tourism had started in the Wye Valley, with many visitors travelling on the river to see the abbey and other ‘picturesque’ sites in the area. William Wordsmith stayed in the village in 1798 and wrote Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey. The completion of the new turnpike road (now the A466) in the valley in 1822, and the arrival of the Wye Valley Railway in the 1870s, greatly increased the number of visitors, and tourism became the main stay of Tintern’s economy and remains so today.