Tintern Abbey was founded in 1131 by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow. It was the first Cistercian foundation in Wales, and only the second in Britain.
The present-day remains of Tintern are a mixture of building works covering a 400-year period between 1131 and 1536. Very little of the first buildings still survives today; a few sections of walling are incorporated into later buildings and the two recessed cupboards for books on the east of the cloisters are from this period. The church of that time was smaller than the present building, and slightly to the north.
The Abbey was mostly rebuilt during the 13th century, starting with the cloisters and domestic ranges, and finally the great church between 1269 and 1301. The first mass in the rebuilt presbytery was recorded to have taken place in 1288, and the building was consecrated in 1301, although building work continued for several decades. Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk, the then lord of Chepstow, was a generous benefactor; his monumental undertaking was the rebuilding of the church. The earl's coat of arms was included in the glasswork of the Abbey's east window in recognition of his contribution.
It is this great Decorated Gothic abbey church that can be seen today, representing the architectural developments of its period; it has a cruciform plan with an aisled nave, two chapels in each transept, and a square-ended aisled chancel. The abbey is built of Old Red Sandstone, with colours varying from purple to buff and grey. Its total length from east to west is 228 feet, while the transept is 150 feet in length.
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. The closest battle to Tintern Abbey was at Craig-y-dorth near Monmouth, between Trellech and Mitchel Troy.
In the reign of Henry VIII, the Dissolution of the Monasteries ended monastic life in England, Wales and Ireland. On 3 September 1536, Abbot Wych surrendered Tintern Abbey and all its estates to the King's visitors and ended a way of life that had lasted 400 years.
In 1901, Tintern Abbey was bought by the Crown and the site was acknowledged as a monument of national importance. In 1984, Cadw took over responsibility for the site.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick.