Follow the Angidy Trail and discover Tintern’s hidden industry – the furnace, forge and wireworks, the workers’ cottages, limekilns, tidal dock and church where generations of metal workers were baptised, married and buried.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
(D/A) From the main entrance to the car park turn right.
The Lower Wireworks : The wall running the length of this car park is all that remains of one of the most important industrial sites in the Wye Valley. It’s likely that when The Company of Mineral and Battery Works established wireworks at Tintern in 1566 they chose this site. Records show that a large building, 50ft long and 30ft wide with four water wheels and four hammers, two annealing furnaces and two forges were soon constructed.
Needing European expertise, skilled workers were brought from Germany to Tintern. Known in the village as "stranger", they took five years to train up local men and perfect the art of "wire drawing". Before long local men were drawing great lengths of wire from one inch cubes of iron. Marmaduke Rawdon who visited in 1665 wrote about the wire works "where they draw wire from little iron barrs into several sieses, a curiostie worth the seeing".
What was wire used for ? Wire from the Angidy was of the highest quality and was much sought after. Large quantities were sent to workers in Bristol who made knitting needles, fishing hooks, bird cages, buckles, priming wire for guns, pins and numerous other useful items! Wire was used in fashionable Elizabethan clothing, providing the structure for farthingales (which held skirts out) and stomachers (which pulled stomachs in). Across Britain, thousands of people were employed making wire into carding combs for the woollen industry (wool was Britain’s main export at this time).
The wire industry continued until the 19th century and local tradition has it that Angidy wire was used in the first transatlantic telegraph cable, but by this time the wire industry was in decline: steam was replacing waterpower and the rushing water of the Angidy no longer held an advantage.
In 1878 a new company leased the site to manufacture tinplate but by 1895 the local newspaper was reporting that, "Tintern Tin Works, which have been going irregularly for some time past, closed up last Sunday with no hope of an immediate restart." With the closure of the works 350 years of metal working in the Angidy came to an end. In the 20th century the site became a saw mill for stone and later timber. Take some time to look at the artwork on the wall which explains how wire was made.
(1) Take the first road on the left and walk uphill passing an elegant house on the right, which was probably an ironworks manager’s home. John Gwynne was manager of the works in 1629 and this is called Gwyn House today. After the house are some steps on the right and then straight ahead a footpath which carries on in front of you (leaving the road which bears left up hill). Take this path which runs between the houses and keep straight on.
Above the road on the left was a large holding pond, which supplied water to the waterwheels on the Lower Wireworks site. The leat that carried water here is now lost beneath the roadside pavement. Also lost are two other buildings which stood in this area, the Block House and the Hammer House. At the Hammer House the iron was struck by giant hammers, making it denser. This was also called the Jigging Mill.
(2) Walk in front of the new houses (which replaced The Globe) along the gravel path and keep straight on with the stream now on your right. As the stream bears away from the path to the right pass Primrose Cottage on the right, which is built right over the Angidy river.
You are now walking along the route of a long leat which took water to the Block House, Hammer House and the Lower Wireworks site. On the right, you pass the old Bible Christians Chapel, established to serve the expanding non-conformist community of Chapel Hill. The next building, the imposing Valley House, appears on a survey of 1764 and was home to one of the ironmasters between 1820 - 40. A little further along stood The Globe, a pub and cider house used by the wireworkers to quench their thirst after work.
(3) Keep straight on passing in front of Crown Cottages and then walking between the houses until you emerge at the road in front of Chapel Cottage. Turn left onto the road and then immediately right along a footpath behind the cottages. Keep on this path, ignoring the first track off to the right, but when the track next forks bear right down to the river bank.
This area was the site of the Middle Wire Works, which extended up the valley to where Crown Cottages (built 1904) now stand. Primrose Cottage was once called ‘Barrels’, probably referring to one of the wiremaking processes carried out here. Iron oxide scale which formed on the outside of the wire rods (after being soaked in water) was removed by scouring - placing the wire in rotating barrels which contained crushed slag from the furnace.
(4) Walk on past the dam, keeping the pond on your right and cross over a footbridge. This area is littered with waste from the furnace. The path emerges on the lane below Abbey Tintern Furnace. Turn left and walk into the furnace site on the right.
A constant supply of water was vital for the iron and wireworks, so a series of dams and storage ponds were built. This pond supplied power for the Tilting Mill below the dam. Artificial channels called leats were constructed to carry the water from the storage ponds to the waterwheels. Many of these leats remain today as footpaths.
(5) Leave the furnace site at the top right hand corner, near the charcoal house. Continue until you reach a dam and take the steps up to the bridge to view the forge pond.
(6) Retrace your route back along the leat to the Furnace. At the car park turn left onto the road and straight away turn right just beyond Furnace Cottages (5) along the footpath. At the end of the dam take the path to the right, shortly crossing over a track and follow the path uphill through the woods. At the road, turn left and immediately right, crossing straight over and onto another path, which soon descends onto a wide gravel track. Turn right onto the track and keep straight on until reaching a picnic table on the left, from where a gap in the trees allows a glimpse of the river. Take the left hand fork from the main track, which eventually becomes a narrow footpath which turns sharp left down steps under a bridge. From here you can take a short cut to return on the path straight ahead which descends to join the road just below the Lower Wireworks car park.
To continue on the Angidy Trail turn right immediately below the cottage and follow the footpath to Chapel Hill. At the end of this path turn left to pass the ruins of St.Mary’s Church on your right.
Pond at Pont-y-Saeson : This hamlet known as Pont-y-saeson or Tintern Cross marks the highest of the industrial sites along the Angidy, some two miles above the tidal dock at Abbey Mill. In this little hamlet two rows of cottages remain; they were once homes for the workers at the wireworks.
Pont-y-Saeson Forge : ''Records show that in 1672-3 a new forge site was working here on the area behind the pond. Cast
(or pig iron) from Abbey Tintern Furnace was probably brought here to be repeatedly heated and hammered into osmund iron needed at the wireworks.''
New Tongs Mill (Upper Wireworks) : The Upper Wireworks or New Tongs Mill, built around 1803 by ironmaster Robert Thompson, was located on the hillside to your left. Some stone retaining walls and the remains of an annealing furnace are now all that is left. (Note this site is privately owned.)
(7) Continue downhill past the church and keep right down the steps with railings. At the road turn right. If you would like to visit the limekilns then bear right immediately where the road forks and follow the Wye Valley Walk behind the Abbey Hotel and over a grid. Turn left here along the Wye Valley Walk. After a short distance, you will see the conserved limekilns on the right.
Many wireworkers and furnace men are buried in this graveyard, which also contains some impressive tombstones of the ironmasters including Richard White, owner of Tintern Works, who died October 1752 aged 67, and Robert Thompson who built the Upper Wireworks and owned the Abbey Tintern Works from 1798 - 1819.
(8) Retrace your route back past the Abbey Hotel. The route now turns downhill to the main road. Cross and walk down towards the Abbey. Walk on until you reach the river bank. Turn left and follow the path along the riverside. Continue along the riverbank passing Wye Barn on the left.
Many villages along the Wye had limekilns, exploiting local limestone which had many industrial and agricultural uses. They would often be rebuilt in the same location.
This river bank was once one of the busiest places in Tintern. The Wye was a shipping highway bringing raw materials in and taking finished industrial goods out. The quayside stretched along the river bank, past the Quay Master’s House, towards the tidal dock at Abbey Mill. Sea-going ships and the flat-bottomed riverboats, called trows, were an integral part of village life.
(9) Follow the lane between the houses until reaching the main road in front of the Royal George Hotel. From here you can walk to your right to visit Abbey Mill or walk back to Lower Wireworks car park.(D/A)
Wye Barn was once a bark store. Oak bark was one of the main cargoes carried by the trows down river to Chepstow, where the price of bark for the whole of Britain was set. It was then shipped to Ireland to be used in the leather tanning industry. Bark was harvested between April and June. The men who moved the bark were called bark carriers and wore on their head ‘a cross between a life buoy and a horse-collar’. Women stripped the moss and the outer skin off the bark, singing as they worked on the river bank.
Abbey Mill : There has been a mill on this site for hundreds of years so at different times this mill has milled corn, forged iron, made wire, and most recently sawn timber. Today the restored waterwheel at Abbey Mill is the only one to survive in a village which once boasted at least 20 waterwheels.
Mill Pond beside Royal George Hotel : The water supply for the waterwheels at Abbey Mill came from the mill pond beside the Royal George Hotel (now filled in). Abbey House on your left was the home of Henry Hughes, a wire manufacturer who employed 120 workmen in 1851 and 160 in 1861. Another wire manufacturer George Mussells was employing 45 men and boys in 1861.
D/A : mi 0 - alt. 135ft - Lower Wireworks Car park
1 : mi 0.06 - alt. 135ft - Pond, Block and Hammer House
2 : mi 0.21 - alt. 154ft - Route of old leat
3 : mi 0.34 - alt. 151ft - Middle Wire Works
4 : mi 0.71 - alt. 249ft - Pond
5 : mi 0.91 - alt. 236ft - Furnace Cottages
6 : mi 1.23 - alt. 295ft - Pond at Pont-y-Saeson, Pont-y-Saeson Forge
7 : mi 2.67 - alt. 164ft - St Mary’s Church
8 : mi 2.99 - alt. 210ft - Limekilns
9 : mi 3.59 - alt. 62ft - Bark Store
D/A : mi 3.84 - alt. 151ft - Lower Wireworks Car park
Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
A figure of eight walk centred on the delightful village of Brockweir. The walk is mainly level along the Wye Valley on old railway tracks, the riverbank and minor roads, part in Wales and part in Gloucestershire.
The route is a mixture of green lanes, forestry tracks and tarmac lanes. There are steep uphill climbs out of Tintern on either side of the Angidy Valley. The route is way-marked. Look out for these along the way. Numbers on the map relate to numbers in the text. You can start at any point and go in either direction (these directions follow a clockwise route). This route links up with the northern Wye Valley trail, Whitestone, Whitebrook and the Wye.
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