The Tintern Village Website

An Artistic History of Tintern

For hundreds of years, the beauty, grandeur, spirituality and spectacle of the Wye Valley has been a source of inspiration to authors, poets and painters.
The Napoleonic Wars prevented the young scions of the aristocracy from travelling to Europe for their "Grand Tour" - so alternatives were sought closer to home. The Revd. William Gilpin published a guide book in 1872, for the Wye Tour, and from that moment on, Tintern was on the tourist map. But even before then, it is believed that the author, Henry Fielding (1707-1754) wrote his famous novel, "Tom Jones" whilst staying at Tintern Manor House, now known as The Hospice. Thomas Cray (1716-1771) also visited and wrote about the area.
Many of the Romantic Poets mention the Valley in their work - Coleridge (1772-1834) described the Wyndcliff as "the whole world imaged in its vast circumference". The beauty and naturalness of the Valley appealed to the Pantheistic beliefs of the Romantics, and William Wordsworth (1770-1850) immortalized Tintern in his "Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey" after visiting the area with his sister Dorothy on the 13th July 1798. Robert Southey (1774-1843), another of the Romantics also visited.
The artist, William Turner (1775-1851) was another visitor and he painted spectacular views of Tintern Abbey.
And we must not forget the artists and engravers who illustrated those early nineteenth century books about Tintern, and who have preserved for us those early (but still recognisable) views of the village.

But not all the writers were visitors. Some lived locally, like Edward Davies of Chepstow, who described the Tintern Wire Works :
"Black Forges smoke and noisy hammers beat,
Where sooty Cyclops, puffing, drink and sweat;
Confront the curling flames, nor back retire,
But live, like salamanders, in the fire."

A more recent twentieth century local author, Ivor Waters, also from Chepstow, wrote many books about the area he lived in, (beautifully illustrated by his wife Mercedes) and his books are a valuable source to the local historian.
The former church of the Tintern Abbey gatehouse, St.Annes, became, in the nineteenth century, the home of John Loraine Baldwin. Not only was he a founder member of the I Zingari Cricket Club, he was also an authority on whist, and wrote a book called "Laws of Short Whist". He died in 1896, and his funeral was, by Tintern standards, a spectacular affair, with the nobility attending and wreaths sent by Royalty.

After the Great War, Donald Henry Floyd came to live in Tintern at "The Woodlands". He painted many local views and his work, today, is very collectable.

Judith Russill