Tintern Abbey
Monmouthshire NP16 6SE
The ruins of Tintern Abbey on the banks of the River Wye are just as beautiful as when they were being lauded by the 18th century Romantics.
For much of its length the River Wye is the border between Wales and England, separating the counties of Monmouthshire (Wales) from Gloucestershire (England). The abbey stands on the Welsh banks of the river and was the first Cistercian Abbey to be founded in Wales.
The Cistercians
Of all the monastic communities, the Cistercians or White Monks (because of the colour of their clothing) were considered the best. The Cistercians who lived at Tintern followed the Rule of St. Benedict. The Carta Caritatis (Charter of Love) laid out their basic principles of obedience, poverty, chastity, silence, prayer, and work.
With this austere way of life, the Cistercians were one of the most successful Orders in the 12th and 13th centuries. The lands of the Abbey were divided into agricultural units or granges, on which local people worked and provided services such as smithies to the Abbey. Many endowments of land on both sides of the Wye were made to the Abbey.
The Ruins
The present-day remains of Tintern are a mixture of building works covering a 400-year period between 1136 and 1536; however, very little of the earlier buildings remains. The major ruin is the large abbey church built between 1269 and 1301.
It was built in the up-to-the-minute fashion of the day and is a fine example of the Decorated Gothic style. Built of Old Red Sandstone with colours varying from purple to buff and grey, it has a cruciform plan. Its total length from east to west is 228 feet (69.5 metres), while the transept is 150 feet (45.7 metres) in length.
The nave and chancel have aisles, and the chancel is square ended. Each transept has two chapels. The first Mass in the rebuilt presbytery was recorded to have taken place in 1288, and the building was consecrated in 1301. This monumental building took many decades to complete and its major benefactor was Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk, the then lord of Chepstow.
History of the Abbey
This grand abbey was visited in 1326 by King Edward II who stayed two nights. Unfortunately, only 23 years later the Black Death swept the country and it became impossible to attract new recruits for the lay brotherhood. Changes to the way the granges were tenanted out rather than worked by lay brothers show that Tintern was short of labour.
As well, in the early 15th century Tintern was short of money, due in part to the effects of the Welsh uprising under Owain Glyndŵr against the English kings, when Abbey properties were destroyed by the Welsh rebels. The closest battle to the abbey was at Craig y Dorth near Monmouth, between Trellech and Mitchel Troy.
The final indignity for the Abbey came with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century when King Henry VIII ended monastic life in England, Wales and Ireland.
On 3 September 1536 Abbot Wyche surrendered Tintern Abbey and all its estates to the King's visitors and ended a way of life that had lasted 400 years. Valuables from the Abbey were sent to the royal Treasury and Abbot Wyche was pensioned off. The building was granted to the then lord of Chepstow, Henry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester who sold the lead from the roof and the decay of the buildings began.
It is hard to believe now but the area adjacent to the abbey became industrialised from the mid-16th century with the setting up of a wireworks. Other factories and furnaces were established further up in the Angidy valley. Charcoal was made in the woods to feed these operations and, in addition, the hillside above the Abbey was quarried for the making of lime. The lime kiln operated constantly for some two centuries. As a result, the site was subject to a degree of pollution and the ruins themselves were inhabited by the local workers.
By the mid 18th century it became fashionable to visit "wilder" parts of the country. The Wye Valley in particular was well known for its romantic and picturesque qualities and the ivy clad Abbey became frequented by tourists. At first the roads were so bad that most tourists arrived by boat negotiating the swift flowing River Wye.
The roads were shocking and It was not until 1829 that the new Wye Valley turnpike was completed, cutting through the abbey precinct. In 1876 the Wye Valley Railway opened and provided a station for Tintern. Although the line itself crossed the river before reaching the village, a branch was built from it to the wire works, obstructing the view of the Abbey on the road approach from the north.
The Saving of Tintern Abbey
In the 19th century ruined abbeys became the focus for scholars, and architectural and archaeological investigations were undertaken. In 1901 the Abbey was bought by the crown from the Duke of Beaufort for £15,000. It was recognised as a monument of national importance and repair and maintenance works began to be carried out by the Office of Works.
In 1984 Cadw (Wales) took over responsibility for the site, which was Grade I listed from 29 September 2000.
Opening Times
Open most of the year.
Daily 09:30 – 17:00 hours.
Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Children 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
For up to date information go to  Web:  Tintern Abbey/ Opening Times 
Admission Costs
Accompanied children under 5 are admitted free.
Concessions are available. For up to date information go to  Web:  Tintern Abbey/ Admission Cost
Disabled Access
Yes. The area is generally made up of flat lawn areas with some gravelled paths and mobility access to most of the site is achievable.
Disabled visitor and companion admitted free of charge. Assistance dogs are welcome.
A toilet is available for users with a disability and limited mobility.
There is a larger shared car park near the abbey entrance with approx. 55 spaces including 5 dedicated disabled spaces. Charges apply.
No Smoking;
Visitor Centre with Toilets & Baby change facilities; Exhibition; Gift Shop; Guide Book; Disabled Access; Portable Induction Hearing Loop.
Benches available; Dogs on leads welcome; Charging Car Park; Cycle Stands.
Contact & Further Information
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Getting There
- By Car
The post code for SatNavs is NP16 6SE
- From London take motorway M4. At Junction 21 exit on to motorway M48. At Junction 2 exit on to the A466.
- From Cardiff take motorway M4. At Junction 23 exit on to motorway M48. At Junction 2 exit on to the A466.
- By Rail
The nearest station is Chepstow , 4 miles/7 km away on the Cardiff-Chepstow-Gloucester line. For further information, please contact National Rail Enquiries on 08457 48 49 50 or Traveline Cymru on 0871 200 2233
- By Bus
The local Chepstow to Monmouth Route 69 bus stops 325 yards/300 mtr from the entrance to the Abbey.
- By Bicycle
Bike NCN Regional Route 32 passes within 276yards/250mtr of the Abbey. 
Google Maps - Tintern Abbey