Piercefield

Piercefield (also known as Piersfield / Persfield) and the Wyndcliff / Windcliff

Piercefield in about 1920

 

 

 

 

 

‘Piercefield House, from the gardens’  1817

John Skinner ms., Vol. XIV.  Journal of sixteen excursions to various places in Somerset, etc,

© British Library Board, Add MS 33646, f. 159, image 22

 

 

 

 

 

This page includes nearly 130 references to Piercefield, 1756-1878, several of them extensive (for example, the third edition of Anon, A Guide to the Town and Neighbourhood of Chepstow contains descriptions of Piercefield and Windcliff and a history of some of the inhabitants comprising over 6,000 words). 52 of these references are from mostly brief manuscript sources.

Compiling these extracts has partly been an exercise in finding out just how much information about a particular site was available to tourists from the mid-18th century and how much of that was reproduced from earlier publications, (whether it was accurate or not). It is also worth exploring the variations in way language was used to describe the site, some poetic, others very prosaic, and how the language changed with time.

Piercefield was exceptional as a Welsh attraction, partly because it was popular from an early date (being on the fashionable Wye tour including Tintern which was described in many of the guidebooks listed below) and partly because it was close to Bristol and Bath. The other really popular site of this type in Wales was Hafod in Cardiganshire (Ceredigion).

This page also includes references to pictures of the site and house, of which surprisingly few are known.

All available editions of guide books have been noted, but there are gaps: as is usual with guidebooks, the exact dates of the various editions are not always included in the publications and not all editions are generally available, so in some cases, the first and other editions have not been found (or dated).

It is likely that there are other descriptions and illustrations of the site which have not yet been found by me.

Several of the published descriptions were repeated extensively in later guide books. Among these were:
Whately, Thomas, Observations on Modern Gardening, (1770)
Gilpin, William, (1724-1804), Observations on the River Wye …, (1782)
Coxe, William, An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire, (1801)
Willett, Mark, An Excursion from the Source of the Wye, (1810) and other works by him containing similar texts.
Evans, John, Remains of William Reed, Late of Thornbury; Including Rambles in Ireland, with other Compositions in prose, His Correspondence, and Poetical Productions, (London, 1815)
Fosbroke, Thomas Dudley, The Wye Tour, or Gilpin on the Wye, (1818)

As a result of multiple editions of guide books and acknowledged and unacknowledged quotations from earlier publications there is a great deal of repetition in the following extracts, but I have not made a detailed comparison of the various editions to identify which details were added or excluded in each new edition or quotation.

Introduction
The grounds at Piercefield, to the north of Chepstow, on the banks of the Wye, became a famous and popular attraction from the mid-18th century. It seems that people travelled from Bristol and elsewhere just to visit the grounds, while the many tourists who took the boat down the Wye from Ross or Monmouth via Goodrich and Tintern to Chepstow, also made an effort to experience its charms.

It may have been one of the first estates in Wales to open the grounds on specific days of the week. These days changed from owner to owner and were sometimes advertised in contemporary guides and would also presumably have been known to inn keepers. Tourists were frustrated if they could not visit the site on days when it was not officially open but some found devious ways of getting in.

A new house was designed by Sir John Soane. Work began on it in 1792 and it was reported to be nearly finished in 1796, under different ownership. There is no evidence that the house was normally open to the public: The Hon. James Bucknall Grimston, (3rd Viscount) and his companion Thomas de Grey, (2nd Baron Walsingham) were one of the few to record being invited into the house and were entertained by  Mr Morris but generally, tourists had very little to say about the it and what little they said was mostly dismissive (William Coxe, in his An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire, (1801) was an exception.) It is possible that many of the tourists simply didn’t have the language to describe architecture or to recognise the work of particular architects.

Although many tourists wrote at length about their visit to Piercefield, much of what they commented on were the views from the grounds, rather than of the garden itself. It appears the grounds had been landscaped especially to enhance the distant views (at which seats had been placed) rather than views within the estate itself. However, the features within the garden including the The Lover’s Leap; The Giant’s Cave, the grotto, the Platform and Alcove were often mentioned by visitors and described in detail in guide books. This contrasts well with the situation of near-by Tintern Abbey which was almost entirely enclosed within the valley.

Ownership of the estate

1740 (about) Purchased by Valentine Morris (the elder, c 1678–1743)

1752 (about) Occupied by his son, Valentine (1727-1789). He landscaped the grounds but became bankrupt in 1772. It is said that the walks became neglected by the 1780s but some tourists reported visiting them.

1782 The Rev Daniel Augustus Beaufort, (1739-1821) rented Piercefield at 40 guineas per annum for a few months from August.

1785 Purchased by George Smith who allowed the grounds to be visited on Thursdays. He commissioned Sir John Soane to design a new house which was built between 1785 and 1793.

1793 Smith’s bank failed and he was forced to sell. The estate was advertised for sale by James Christie on 10th December when the house, 82 x 61 ft  was unfinished.

1794 Purchased by Colonel Mark Wood (1750-1829) who allowed the grounds to be visited on Tuesdays and Fridays.

1802 Purchased by Nathaniel Wells (1779-1852), a Creole. He also allowed the grounds to be visited on Tuesdays and Fridays.

1819 Wells tried to sell the house but was unsuccessful.

1825 The grounds were still open only on Tuesdays and Fridays

1837 Wells put the estate up for sale, without success.

1850 Leased to John Russell (1788-1873)

1855 Purchased by John Russell. There is one reference to his wife showing visitors around the house.

1861 purchased by Henry Clay

List of known references to Piercefield with titles of published accounts (full transcriptions below).

year author type publication date
? Abbe de L’ile poem ?
(according to Douglas, George, 1806)
1756 Pococke, Richard brief description 1889
1758 Barford, M., Rev brief description ms.
1767 Mair, John, brief description ms.
1768 Young, Arthur long description 1768
A Six Weeks Tour through the Southern Counties of England and Wales
1769 Wesley, Charles, brief description 1971
1769 Grimston, James Bucknall brief description 1906
1770 Whateley, Thomas, description 1770
Observations on Modern Gardening
1770 Gilpin, William description 1782
Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc. relative chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the Summer of the Year 1770
1773 Lightfoot, John, Dr description 1905
1774 Wyndham, H.P brief description 1775
A Gentleman’s Tour through Monmouthshire and Wales, made in the months of June and July, 1774 (1775)
1775 ?Medows, Charles, brief description 1990
1776 Fisher, Jabez Maud, brief description 1992
1776 Mytton, Thomas brief description ms.
1776 Jones, William brief description 1970
1777 Wyndham, H.P brief description 1781
A gentleman’s tour through Monmouthshire and Wales, in the months of June and July, 1774 and in the months of June, July and August, 1777
1778 Sulivan, Richard brief description 1780
Observations Made during a Tour through Parts of England, Scotland, and Wales, in 1778. In a Series of Letters
1780 Pridden, John transcription from Arthur Young ms.
1781 G., C., brief description ms.
1781 Byng, John brief description 1934
1784 Cumberland, George history 1976
1785 Drake, William mention ms.
1786 Pine, William, Guide book 1786
Chepstow; or, A new guide to gentlemen and ladies whose curiosity leads them to visit Chepstow: Piercefield-walks, Tintern-abbey, and the beautiful romantic banks of the Wye, from Tintern to Chepstow, by water.
1786 Byrne and Hearne ? 1786
Antiquities of Great Britain
1787 Anon mention ms.
1787 Byng, John, mention 1934
1788 Dodsley, long description 1788
Description of Persefield, from a Practical Tretise on planting and Ornamental Gardening,
1789 Shaw, Stebbing 1789
1790s Baker, J., Guide book 1790s
A Picturesque Guide through Wales and the Marches; interspersed with the most interesting subjects of antiquity in that principality.
1790 Nicholson, Frances, long description ms.
1791 Boringdon, Lord, mention ms.
1793 Heath, Charles, Guide book 1793
Descriptive accounts of Persfield and Chepstow, including Caerwent, and the passages; … selected from … Young, Wyndham, Whateley, Shaw, Grose, Thomas Gray &c.
1794 Hucks, Joseph, brief description 1979
1794 Williams, Edward (Iolo Morganwg) poem mentioning Piercefield 1974
1794 Anon brief description ms.
1795 Eardley-Wilmot, Sarah brief description ms.
1795 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor brief description 1847
1796 Williams, William, brief description ms.
1796 William, David brief description 1796
A History of Monmouthshire
1796 Anon brief description ms.
1797 Warner, Richard, brief description 1798
1798 Anon brief description ms.
1799 Robertson brief description ms.
1800 Trevenen, John mention ms.
1801 Grenville, Lord mention ms.
1801 Coxe, William long description 1801
An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire
1801 Evans, Thomas mention 1801
Cambrian Itinerary : or, Welsh tourist: containing an historical and topographical description of the antiquities and beauties of Wales
1801 de Suffren, Amelia coloured aquatint ms.
1802 Haslam, Sarah, mention ms.
1802 Gray, Jonathan, mention ms.
1802 Manby, George William, brief description 1802
An historic and picturesque guide from Clifton, through the counties of Monmouth, Glamorgan, and Brecknock
1802 Rees, David Llewellyn long description 1802
The Modern Universal British Traveller
1802 Rees, David Llewellyn long description 1802
A topographical and statistical description of the county of Monmouth
1803 Feltham, John brief description 1803
A Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places
1803 Barber, J.T., long description 1803
Tour Throughout South Wales and Monmouthshire
1803 Farington, Joseph brief description ms.
1803 Evans, John, brief description 1804
The juvenile tourist: or excursions into the West of England; into the Midland counties, with part of South Wales
1805 Anon long description 1805
Historical and Descriptive accounts of the ancient and present state of the town and Castle of  Chepstow including the pleasurable regions of Persfield
1805 Sotheby, William or Rose brief description ms.
1805 Butcher, Edmund quotes Wheatley 1805
An Excursion from Sidmouth to Chester
1805 White, James, brief description ms.
1805 Yorke, H. K brief description ms.
1805 Manners, John Henry, brief description 1805
Journal of a tour through north and south Wales, the Isle of Man,
1806 Douglas, George L. A brief description ms.
1806 Wright, Lucy brief description ms.
1806 Spence, Elizabeth Isabella brief description 1809
Summer Excursions through parts of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire, and South Wales
1807 Cuyler, A.M., ? brief description ms.
1807 Bloomfield, Robert long description ms.
1809 Gray, Jonathan, brief description ms.
1810 Bruce, William Joseph mention ms.
1812 Bletchley, Ann brief description ms.
1812 Hammond, William Osmund brief description ms.
1812 Anon brief description ms.
1814 Anon brief description ms.
1814 Evans, John brief description 1814
The picture of Bristol; or a guide to objects of curiosity and interest, in Bristol, Clifton, the Hotwells, and their vicinity
1815 Brunton, Mary brief description 1819
Emmeline With Some Other Pieces
1815 Reed, William brief description 1815
Evans, John, Remains of William Reed, Late of Thornbury
1816 Spiker, Samuel Heinrich brief description 1820
Travels through England, Wales, & Scotland, in the year 1816. : Translated from the German
1817 Rev John Skinner sketched views at Piercefield
1818 Elwes, Susan mention ms.
1818 Fosbroke, Thomas Dudley description, quoting Gilpin and Reed 1818
The Wye Tour, or Gilpin on the Wye
1819 Sandys, William and Sampson mention ms.
1821 Newell, Robert Hasell mention 1818
Letters on the Scenery of Wales; including a series of Subjects for the Pencil
1822 Fielding, T.H., image (print) 1822
A picturesque description of the River Wye, from the source to its junction with the Severn.
1822 Fosbroke, Thomas Dudley long description, quoting, Gilpin,  Reed, Coxe et al. 1822
The Wye Tour, or Gilpin on the Wye
1824 Martineau, Margaret brief description ms.
1824 Porter, Martha brief description ms.
1824 Evans, John, brief description, quoting his Picture of Bristol (1814) 1824
Companion for the Steam-Packet in Excursions to Chepstow, Newport, Swansea, Iffracombe, Tenby, and their Vicinities
1825 Anon long description 1825
A Guide to the Town and Neighbourhood of Chepstow; the beauties of Piercefield
1825 Collins, Edward Poem 1825
Tintern Abbey; or, the Beauties of Piercefield, a Poem in four books
1826 le Grice, Charles Valentine mention ms.
1827 Beecroft, Judith mention ms.
1827 Anon mention 1827
The Gloucester Journal, 21st July, 1827
1828 Clark, Charles B brief description ms.
1828 Waddell, Amelia mention ms.
1828 Puckler-Muskau (Prince) long description 1832
Tour in England, Ireland, and France, in the years 1828 & 1829
1828 Evans, John description quoting Reed 1828
Beauties of Clifton; or, the Clifton and Hotwell Guide
1829 Wintle, Thomas Drayton long description 1829
A Tour on the Wye: Or an Account of a Three Days’ Journey from Gloucester to Ross, Monmouth & Chepstow
1829 Anon brief description ms.
1830 Anon long description 1830
A Guide to the Town and Neighbourhood of Chepstow
1830 Smith, Henry images (watercolour) ms.
1830s Madeley, G.E., images 1830s
Four Views of Piercefield (guidebook)
1831 Willett, Mark description 1831
The strangers’ guide to the banks of the Wye : including Chepstow, Piercefield, Windcliff, Tintern Abbey, Raglan Castle, and other parts of the Welsh borders
1832 Willett, Mark description 1832
The strangers’ guide to the banks of the Wye : including Chepstow, Piercefield, Windcliff, Tintern Abbey, Raglan Castle, and other parts of the Welsh borders
1832 Rev John Skinner sketched views at Piercefield
1833 Letts, Thomas mention ms.
1833 Walsh, John Benn mention ms.
1835 Anon description 1835
The Penny Magazine
1836 Williams, Esther mention ms.
1836 Anon mention 1837
Hints to Pedestrians, or How to Enjoy a Three-Weeks Ramble through North and South Wales
1837 Biddulph, Robert, mention ms.
1839 Twamley, Louisa A. long description 1839
The annual of British Landscape Scenery; An autumn ramble on the Wye
1839 Anon mention 1839
Thirteen views with a brief account of the picturesque scenery on the banks of the Wye between Ross and Chepstow
1840 Ritchie, Leitch long description 1841
The Wye and its Associations, A Picturesque Ramble
1840 Nicholson, Francis long description 1840
The Cambrian traveller’s guide, and pocket companion
1842 Anon mention ms.
1840s Caswall, Robert Clarke mention ms.
1843 Willett, Mark long description 1843
The Stranger’s Illustrated Guide to Chepstow
1843 Anon long description 1843
A guide to the stranger visiting the town of Chepstow and its Neighbourhood
1844 Beattie, William long description 1844
The Castles and Abbeys of England, from the National Records, …  Second Series
1845 Willett, Mark description 1845
The strangers’ guide to the banks of the Wye : including Chepstow, Piercefield, Windcliff, Tintern Abbey, Raglan Castle, and other parts of the Welsh borders
1847 Hall, Emily brief description ms.
1848 Lewis, Samuel brief description 1848
Topographical Dictionary of England
1849 Anon long description, quoting Gilpin 1848
The land we live in, a pictorial and literary sketch-book of the British empire
1853 Taylor, Robert long description 1853
Taylor’s illustrated guide to the banks of the Wye : including Chepstow, Monmouth, Ross, Piercefield, Wyndcliff, Tintern Abbey, Raglan and Goodrich Castles
1854 Taylor, Robert long description 1854
Taylor’s illustrated guide to the banks of the Wye : including Chepstow, Monmouth, Ross, Piercefield, Wyndcliff, Tintern Abbey, Raglan and Goodrich Castles
1854 Roscoe, Thomas long description 1854
Wanderings and Excursions in South Wales with the Scenery of the River Wye
1856 Mary Ann Hibbert brief description ms.
1858 Taylor, Robert long description 1858
Taylor’s illustrated guide to the banks of the Wye : including Chepstow, Monmouth, Ross, Piercefield, Wyndcliff, Tintern Abbey, Raglan and Goodrich Castles
1861 Hall, S.C., Mr and Mrs long 1861
The Book of South Wales, the Wye, and the Coast
1863 Taylor, Robert long description 1863
Taylor’s illustrated guide to the banks of the Wye : including Chepstow, Monmouth, Ross, Piercefield, Wyndcliff, Tintern Abbey, Raglan and Goodrich Castles
1867 Sargent, Henry Winthrop brief description 1871
Skeleton Tours through England, Ireland, and Scotland [and Wales]
1870 Taylor, Robert long description 1870
Taylor’s illustrated guide to the banks of the Wye : including Chepstow, Monmouth, Ross, Piercefield, Wyndcliff, Tintern Abbey, Raglan and Goodrich Castles
1878 Anon ? 1878
Hillman’s illustrated historical handbook for tourists to Chepstow

DESCRIPTIONS OF PIERCEFIELD BY TOURISTS TO WALES, 1700-1900

 

Unidentified

Since Mr Smith has occupied the place, the pleasure grounds have been kept up with the same elegant taste, and the public indulged with the gratification of seeing them, as when they belonged to Mr Morris. … Many pleasing additions have been made, which not only shews the views to greater advantage, but some of the serpentines , which rendered the walk too long, have been thrown into straight lines, for the accommodation of visitors.

Incorrectly attributed to Stebbing Shaw

1756

From Chepstow I went a mile to Persfield, Mr Morris’s, situated over the west side of the Wye; it cheifly consists of a long walk over the brow of the hill near the river, in which many parts end in rocky cliffs covered with wood, and some of them are perpendicular, the furthest above a mile beyond the house is an eminence which commands not only a view of the Wye, but of the Severn, Bristol Channel … The next is at an iron rail over a perpendicular rock from which one sees below the wood, river etc. The gardener told us Mr Morris was standing on the projecting rock, and that soon after it fell down, on which he had this rail put up.  The cliff must be 2 and 300 feet high. We were then conducted to a seat which is the most beautiful I ever beheld; the river winds so as to make a peninsula on the other side, which is a piece of ground gently rising to a point, on which there are two or three houses, and all this ground is diversifyed with an agreable mixture of corn fields, meadow, wood. This seat commands a view of all I have mentioned to the south, and moreover of Bristol Channel, in three or four different parts divided by the land. The walk then winds and there are several seats of view; in one part where there are large stones they are making a small druid temple like Roltrich [Rollight stones?near Long Compton, Oxfordshire]. On one eminence towards the house are several grass walks and a shrubbery of a variety of plants, and beyond that the house, lawn and plantations disposed in a very fine taste.  This is one of the most beautiful places I ever saw.

Pococke, Richard, letter [no date or place] [9.1756]; British Library Add ms. 23000, f. 144; Cartright, James, Joel, (ed), The Travels Through England of Dr Richard Pococke, Camden, vol. 2, (1889), pp. 214-215

1758

formed within these seven years and the most worth seeing of any place perhaps in the Kingdom.’ [goes on to say that ‘they are impossible to describe’]

Barford, M., Rev ‘Description of Chepstow, Abbey Tintern, Piercefield, Monmouth and Ragland from a manuscript written November, 1758 by Rev M Barford, Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge’, Cardiff Central Library, MS 2.727, pp. 13-18

 1767

a beautiful spot, but it wants a good house’

Mair, John, Typescript copy (c. 1900) of journal of Tours ………… including North Wales 1767, National Library of Wales, Nassau Senior Collection E 813, p. 46. Appears to have been written in retrospect.

1768

If your purpose is seeing Persfield [Piercefield], you go from Chepstow up the Monmouth road, (unless you go by water, which is a pleasant scheme enough) and pass directly to the house: we were shewn to an adjoining part of the garden, which consisted of slopes and waving lawns, having shrubby trees scattered about them with great taste, and striking down a short walk to the left, came at once to a little sequestred spot, shaded by a fine beach tree, which commands a landscape, too beautiful for such a daubing pencil as mine to attempt to paint; Mr. Dodsley, with his dells and his dingells, and such expressive terms, might make amends for the want of a Claud Loraine; however, such an idea as my plain language will give you, follows: ——A This little spot, over which the beech tree spreads, is levelled in the vast rock, which forms the shore of the river Why[sic], through Mr. Morris’s ground; this rock, which is totally covered with a shrubby-underwood, is almost perpendicular from the water to the rail which encloses the point of view. One of the sweetest valleys ever beheld lies immediately beneath, but at such a depth, that every object is diminished, and appears in miniature. This valley consists of a complete farm, of about forty inclosures, grass, and corn-fields, intersected by hedges, with many trees; it is a peninsula almost surrounded by the river, which winds directly beneath, in a manner wonderfully romantic; and what makes the whole picture perfect, is its being entirely surrounded by vast rocks and precipices, covered thick with wood, down to the very water’s edge. The whole is an amphitheatre, which seems dropt from the clouds, complete in all its beauty.

From thence we turned to the left, thro’ a winding walk cut out of the rock; but with wood enough against the river to prevent the horrors, which would otherwise attend the treading on such a precipice: after passing through a hay-field, the contrast to the preceding views, we entered the woods again, and came to a bench inclosed with Chinese rails in the rock, which commands the fame valley and river all fringed with wood; some great rocks in front, and just above them the river Severn appears, with a boundless prospect beyond it.

A little further we met with another bench inclosed with iron rails, on a point of the rock which is here pendent over the river, and may be truly called a situation full of the terrible sublime: you look immediately down upon a vast hollow of wood, all surrounded by the woody precipices which have so fine an effect from all the points of view at Persfield; in the midst appears a small, but neat building, the bathing-house, which, though none of the best, appears from this enormous heighth, but as a spot of white, in the midst of the vast range of green: towards the right is seen the winding of the river.

From this spot, which seems to be pushed forward from the rock by the bold hands of the genii of the place, you proceed to the temple, a small neat building on the highest part of these grounds; and imagination cannot form an idea of any thing more beautiful than what appears full to your ravished sight from this amazing point of view. You look down upon all the woody precipices, as if in another region, terminated by a wall of rocks; just above them appears the river Severn in so peculiar a manner, that you would swear it washed them, and that nothing parted you from it but those rocks, which are in reality four or five miles distant. This deceptio visus is the most exquisite I ever beheld, for viewing, first the river beneath you, then the vast rocks rising in a shore of precipices, and immediately above them the noble river Severn, as if a part of the little world immediately before you and lastly, all the boundless prospect over Gloucestershire and Somersetshire, are, together, such a bewitching view, that nothing can exceed it, and contains more romantic variety, with such an apparent junction of separate parts, that imagination can scarcely conceive any thing equal to the amazing reality. The view of the right, over the park, and the winding valley at the bottom of it, would, from any other spot but this, be thought remarkably fine.

The winding road down to the cold bath, is cool, sequestered, and agreeable. The building itself is excessively neat, and well contrived, and the spring, which supplies it, plentiful and transparent. You wind from it up the rock; but here, I must be allowed. just to hint a want, if any thing can be wanted in such a spot as Persfield. This walk from the cold bath, is dark and rather gloomy, but breaks and objects are rather scarce in it; the trickling stream you have just left, puts one in mind of a cascade, which would be here vastly beautiful, but does not appear throughout all the walks of Persfield. On the left, towards the valley, there is a prodigious hollow filled with a thick wood, which almost hangs beneath you from the walk, an opening down through this wood might easily be made, with just light enough let in, to shew to advantage the gush of a cascade: to look backwards, aslant upon such an object, would be infinitely picturesque amidst the brownness of this hanging grove, I know not whether water could be brought there; but if it could, never was there a situation for viewing it to such advantage.

Passing on, there are two breaks from this walk, which opens to the valley in a very agreeable manner, and then leads through an extremely romantic cave, hollowed lowed out of the rock, and opening to a fine point of view. At the mouth of this cave some swivel guns are planted; the firing of which occasion a repeated echo from rock to rock in a most surprizing manner. Nor must you pass through this walk without observing a remarkable phenomenon of a. large oak, of a great age, growing out of a cleft of the rock, without the least appearance of any earth. Pursuing the walk, as it rises up the rocks, and pastes by the point of view first mentioned, you arrive at a bench, which commands a view delicious beyond all imagination: on the left you look down upon the valley, with the river winding many hundred fathom perpendicular beneath, the whole surrounded by the vast amphitheatre of wooded rocks; and to the right full upon the town of Chepstow; beyond it the vast Severn’s windings, and a prodigious prospect bounding the whole. Whenever you come to Persfield, rest yourself some time at this bench, for believe me, it is a capital one.

From thence an agreeable walk, shaded on one side with a great number of very fine spruce firs, leads you to an irregular junction of winding walks, with many large trees growing from the sequestered lawn, in a manner pleasing to any one of taste, and figures in a very striking manner, by contrast to what presently succeeds; which is a view, at the very idea of describing which, my pen drops from my hand: No, my good friend, the eyes of your imagination are not keen enough to take in this point, which the united talents of a Claud, [sic] a Poussin, a Vernet, and a Smith, would scarcely be able to sketch. Full to the left, appears beneath you, the valley, in all its beautiful elegance, surrounded by the romantic rocky woods; which might be called (to use another’s expression) a coarse selvage of canvass around a fine piece of lawn. In the front, rises from the hollow of the river, a prodigious wall of formidable rocks, and immediately above them, in breaks, winds the Severn, as if parted from you only by them: on the right is seen the town and castle, amidst a border of wood, with the Severn above them, and over the whole, as far as the eye can command, an immense prospect of distant country. I leave your imagination to give the colours to this mere outline, which is all I can attempt.

The sloping walk of ever-greens, which leads from hence, is remarkably beautiful in prospect, for the town and the country above it appear perpetually varying as you move; each moment presenting a fresh picture, till the whole is lost by descending. You next meet with the grotto, a point of view exquisitely beautiful; it is a small cave in the rock, stuck with stones of various kinds; copper, and iron cinders, &c. You look from the seat in it immediately down a steep slope on to a hollow of wood, bounded in front by the craggy rocks, which seem to part you from the Severn in breaks; with the distant country, spotted with white buildings above all; forming a landscape as truly picturesque as any in the world. The winding walk, which leads from the grotto, varies from any of the former; for the town of Chepstow, and the various neighbouring objects, break on you through the hedge, as you pass along, in a manner very beautiful: passing over a little bridge which is thrown across a road in a hollow way through the wood, you come to a break upon a scoop of wood alone, which being different from the reft, pleases as well by its novelty, as its romantic variety. Further on, from the fame walk, are two other breaks which let in rural pictures, sweetly beautiful; the latter opens to you a hollow of wood, bounded by the wall of rocks, one way, and letting in a view of the town another, in an exquisite taste. The next opening in the hedge (I should tell you, by the by, that these breaks and openings are all natural, none stifly artificial) gives you at one small view, all the picturesque beauties of a natural camera obscura; you have a bench which is thickly shaded with trees, in a dark sequestred spot, and from it you look aside through the opening, on to a landscape which seems formed by the happiest hand of design, which is really nothing but catching a view of accidental objects. The town and castle of Chepstow appear from one part of the bench, rising from the romantic steeps of wood, in a manner too beautiful to express; a small remove discovers the steeple so dropt in the precise point of taste, that one can scarcely believe it a real steeple, and not an eye-trap. Soon after a large break opens a various view of the distant country; and not far from it another, which is much worthy of remark; you look down upon a fine bend of the river, winding to the castle, which appears here romantically situated; the opposite bank is a swelling hill, part overrun with gorse and rubbish, and part cultivated inclosures: this difference in the fame object, is here attended with emotions not consonant; the wild part of the hill suits the rest of the view, and agrees with it in the sensations it raises, but the cultivated part being incomplete, and unlike the beautiful farm, at the bottom of the before-mentioned amphitheatre, which is entire, has a bad effect. Was the whole well cultivated and lively, being rather distinct from the rest of the landscape, it would have a much better effect.

The last point, and which perhaps is equal to most of the preceding, is the alcove. From this you look down perpendicularly on the river, with a finely cultivated slope on the other side. To the right is a prodigious steep shoar of wood, winding to the castle, which, with a part of the town, appears in full view. On the left is seen a fine bend of the river for some distance, the opposite shore of wild wood, with the rock appearing at places in rising cliffs, and further on to the termination of the view that way, the vast wall of rocks so often mentioned, which are here seen in length, and have a stupendous effect. On the whole, this scene is striking and romantic.

About a mile beyond these walks is a very romantic cliff, called the Wind Cliff, from which the extent of prospect is prodigious; but it is most remarkable for the surprizing echo, on firing a pistol or gun from it. The explosion is repeated five times very distinctly from rock to rock, often seven; and if the calmness of the weather happens to be remarkably favourable, nine times. This echo is wonderfully curious. Beyond the cliff at some distance is the abbey, a venerable ruin, situated in a romantic hollow, belonging to the Duke of Beaufort, well worth your seeing; and this is the conclusion of the Persfield entertainment.

Upon the whole, it exceeds any thing of the kind I ever saw. In point of striking picturesque views, in the romantic stile, Persfield is exquisite. The cultivated inclosures, forming the bottom of the valley, with the river winding round them, and the vast amphitheatre of rocks and pendent woods which wall it in, to such a stupendous height, is the capital beauty of the place, and Mr. Morris has fixed his benches, &c. in those points of view which command it in the happiest manner, with the utmost taste: Nor can any thing be more truly picturesque, than the appearance which the Severn takes in many places, of being supported and bounded by the wait of rocks, though four miles distant; this effect is beyond all imagination beautifully picturesque. In respect to the extensive prospects,—the agreeable manner in which the town, castle, and steeple are caught— with the rocks, woods, and river taken in themselves, other places are equal; but when they unite to form the landscapes I have just mentioned, I believe they never were equalled.

Throughout the whole of these walks, it is evident, that Mr. Morris meant them merely as an assistance to view the beauties of nature, as a means of seeing what nature had already done to his hands, and without any idea of decoration or ornament. merit. Every thing is in a just taste; but as I have been particular in speaking of all the beauties of Persfield, I must be allowed to hint a few circumstances wanting to render it complete. But do not imagine I mean in the least to disapprove the taste of the most ingenious owner; by no means ; I am not certain that it would be possible to add what I am going to mention but I minute them merely that your idea of Persfield may be exact; and that you may not mistake any general exceptions I have made use of, to imply beauties which are not here. The river Why, which runs at the bottom of the walks, is an infinite advantage; but it is by many degrees inferior in beauty to a fresh water one, which keeps a level, and does not display a breadth of muddy bank at low water; and the colour is excessively bad ; it has not that transparent darkness, that silver-shaded surface, which is, of itself, one of the greatest beauties in nature, and would among these romantic objects give a lustre inexpressibly elegant. Cascades are likewise greatly wanting; in such steeps of wood and embrowning hollows which throw a pleasing solemnity on the mind; nothing has so glorious an effect, as breaking unexpectedly upon a cascade, gushing from the rocks, and over-hung with wood: there are many spots in the Persfield hollows, which point out in the strongest manner the beauty of such objects.—Lastly, There is a want of contrasts; for the general emotions which arise on viewing the rocks, hanging woods, and deep precipices of Persfield, are all those of the sublime; and when that is the case, the beautiful never appears in such bewitching colours, as those it receives from contrast: to turn suddenly from one of these romantic walks, and break full upon a beautiful landscape, without any intermixture of rocks, distant prospect, or any object that was great or terrible, but on the contrary, lively and agreeable, would be a vast improvement here; and I venture the remark the rather, because those views at Persfield, which are beautiful, are all intermixed with the sublime; the farm beneath you, is superlatively so; but the precipice you look down from, the hanging woods, and the rocks, are totally different. The small break, however, through the hedge, which catches the town and steeple, is in this taste; but even here, some large rocks appear. Small elegant buildings, in a light and airy taste, rising from green and gently swelling slopes, with something moving near them, and situated so as the fun may shine full upon them, viewed suddenly from a dark romantic walk, have a charming effect: but it must strike every one who walks over Persfield, that the finest seats, &c. are seen rather too much before you step into them ; they do not break upon you unexpectedly enough: in many of them you see the rails, which inclose them on the brink of the precipice, at a small distance before you enter. What an effect would the view from the grotto, for instance, have, if you entered it from behind, through a dark zig-zag narrow walk!

Excuse these hints, which I throw out with great reluctance, for Persfield, notwithstanding these trifles, is a place full of wonders, and will yield you amazing entertainment; this I am sure of, for I know your taste. Before I finish this tedious description, I cannot avoid mentioning the spirit with which Mr Morris has his place shown; he has always people ready to attend whoever comes, to conduct them every where, and not one of them is suffered to take a farthing; yet they shew every thing with great readiness and civility: what a contrast to the insolence met with from the Duke of Marlborough’s porters, after seeing the footman for seeing the house!

Young, Arthur, (F.R.S., Secretary to the Board of Agriculture) A Six Weeks Tour through the Southern Counties of England and Wales , (1st edition, London, 1768), pp. 114-130

 25.8.1769

‘I took a walk through Mr Morris’s woods. There is scarce anything like them in the kingdom. They stand on the top and down the side of a steep mountain, hanging in a semi-circular form over the river. Through these woods abundance of serpentine walks are cut, wherein many seats and alcoves are placed, most of which command a surprising prospect of rocks and fields on the other side of the river.’

Wesley, Charles, (1707-1788), Williams, A.H., John Wesley in Wales, 1739-1790 – Entries from his Journal and Diary relating to Wales, (Cardiff, 1971), pp. 82-83

Hunt, Martin, John Wesley in Cardiff, 1739-1790, Bulletin of Wesley Historical Society in Wales, No. 1 (2011), pp. 9-20

1769

Tuesday 22nd August
We rode to Pearcefiled [sic] belonging to Mr Morris. This place, which may boast of every beauty which the lavish hand of nature can distribute, long lay uncultivated, and by the ill taste of the late possessor, all its (now unrivalled) elegances were first unveiled and shown to the world by the happy genius of Mr Morris. The woods situated on the rock by the side of the river Wye and Severn, the town of Cheapstow [sic], and all the beauties of a most extensive prospect. If I were endeavour to describe the variety, the natural and artificial beauties, the grandeur and the extent of the prospects, etc. etc. I should either fall short in my expression or I should appear to be partial in my account, which, if it is excusable in any case, it must be allowed that Mr Morris’s civility would be a just apology for it in this. In justice to the place itself, in justice to the owner’s good taste, to which it owes its improvements, and to the entertainments (I may add improvements we received there) gratitude obliges me, my own opinion dictates to me, to acknowledge that, if art and nature combined can form a perfectly beautiful situation, they must appear to have endeavoured at it in this. Mr Morris’s very obliging civilities induced us to accept of an invitation he made of us of supping with him; the polite reception we met with engaged us to dine with him the next day, and his usual complaisance to strangers induced him to give us letters of recommendation to his friends. I must not forget to add that Mrs Morris joined with him in endeavouring to show us every kind of politeness. By her recollection it was we owed the pleasure we had in hearing the report of a gun as near as possible vie with the bursts of real thunder, the rocks returning the echo 23 times.
23rd August. In the evening we left our hospitable entertainer and travelled on to Monmouth.
James Bucknall Grimston, (3rd Viscount Grimston,1747-1808), Hertfordshire Record Office (St Albans), MS D/EVY15-19; full transcription in Report on the manuscripts of the Earl of Gorhambury, Historic Monuments Commission Report, (HMSO, 1906), p. 252
Accompanied by Thomas de Grey, (1748-1819) (2nd Baron Walsingham), whose manuscript account of their tour is in Norfolk Record Office, WLS LXX/2 481×6

 1770

Description of Piercefield in Whateley, Thomas, Observations on Modern Gardening, (1770), (3rd edition 1771)

 1770

Mr Morris’s improvements at Persfield, which we soon approached, are generally thought as much worth a traveller’s notice, as any thing on the banks of the Wye. We pushed on shore close under his rocks; and the tide being at ebb, we landed with some difficulty on an ouzy beach. One of our bargemen, who knew. the place, served as a guide; and under his conduct we climbed the steep by an easy, regular zig-zag; and gained the top.

The eminence, on which we stood, (one of those grand eminences, which overlooks the Wye,) is an intermixture of rock, and wood; and forms, in this place, a concave semicircle; sweeping round in a segment of two miles. The river winds under it; and the scenery, of course, is shewn in various directions. The river itself indeed, as we just observed, is charged with the impurities of the soil it washes; and when it ebbs, it’s verdant banks become slopes of mud: but if we except these disadvantages, the situation of Persfield is noble.

Little indeed was left for improvement, but to open walks, and views, through the woods, to the various objects around them. All this the ingenious proprietor hath done with great judgment; and hath shewn his rocks, his woods, and his precipices, under various forms; and to great advantage. Sometimes a broad face of rock is presented, stretching along a vast space, like the walls of a citadel. Sometimes it is broken by intervening trees. In other parts, the rocks rise above the woods; a little farther, they sink below them: sometimes, they are seen through them; and sometimes one series of rocks appears rising above another: and tho many of these objects are repeatedly seen, yet seen from different stations, and with new accompaniments, they appear new. The winding of the precipice is the magical secret, by which all these inchanting scenes are produced.

We cannot however call these views picturesque. They are either presented from too high a point; or they have little to mark them as characteristic; or they do not fall into such composition, as would appear to advantage on canvas. But they are extremely romantic; and give a loose to the most pleasing riot of imagination.

These views are chiefly shown from different stands in a close walk, carried along the brow of the precipice. It would be invidious perhaps to remark a degree of tediousness in this walk; and too much sameness in many of the views; notwithstanding the general variety, which enlivens them: but the intention probably is not yet complete; and many things are meant to be hid, which are now too profusely shewn. [note: ] As it is twelve years, since these remarks were made, several alterations have probably, since that time, taken place.

Gilpin, William, (1724-1804), Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, etc. relative chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; made in the Summer of the Year 1770 (London, 1782), p. 39; 2nd edition, (1789), pp. 55-58

 

1772 (pre)

The Principal Architect, employed in erecting the different Buildings and Seats in the Walks in Persfield, under Mr Morris’s direction was the late Charles Howells, mason, who kept the Public House, at Pont-y-Saison near Tintern in the County. … He informed me, Mr Morris devoted a large portion of his time in superintending these monuments of his taste.

Historical and Descriptive accounts of the ancient and present state of the Town and Castle of Chepstow including the pleasurable regions of Persfield [sic] and a variety of other particulars deserving the stranger’s notice round that neighbourhood. The whole never before published collected from original papers and unquestionable authorities. 7th edition, 1821, no page numbers

 27.6.1773

{Piercefield} … “I am more and more convinced that it is far the most beautiful place I ever saw”

Lightfoot, John, Dr (Toured with Joseph Banks, Dr Daniel Solander and Paul Sandby the artist) Dept. Botany, British Museum (Natural History), Joseph Banks’ papers, published in Riddelsdell, H.J., (Rev), Journal of Botany, vol. XLIII, 1905, pp. 290-370; Hughes, Peter, Paul Sandby’s Tour of Wales with Joseph Banks, The Burlington Magazine, 1975, pp. 452-455

 1774

On the top of one of these mantled mountains are the well-known gardens of Persfield which command a large part of this awful prospect.

Wyndham, H.P., A Gentleman’s Tour through Monmouthshire and Wales, made in the months of June and July, 1774 (1775), p. 7

 

1774 (after)

‘You have probably seen Mr. Morris’s at Percefield. If you go there again I would advise you to proceed about 2 miles further to Tintern Abbey, and agree for a Boat to come up the River and meet you there, that you may return to Chepstow down the River, the romantic scenery on each side the River will make you amends for the trouble. Let me advise you also to carry some gunpowder and leave it with Mr Morris’s gardener in order to fire some small cannon on the Rock as you pass by on your return by Water. The reverberating echo of which you will find has a wonderful effect.

[Exploding gunpowder to create echoes was practiced elsewhere.]

Anon (Charles Medows?), An annotated copy of Wyndham’s Gentleman’s Tour (1774) National Museum and Galleries of Wales, p. 6. (Kenyon, J., ‘Annotations to a published tour through Wales’, National Library of Wales Journal, vol. 26, no. 4, (1990), pp. 361-365)

1776

I returned from Wales through Monmouthshire, having never before seen Mr Morris’ park near Chepstow. … I confess I was rather disappointed: its beauties are exquisite; but I prefer two or three places in Wales; and you will always find, that, when your expectations are raised to a great degree, you form in your mind an idea of perfection, which reality can never approach.

Jones, William, Sir (Lord Teignmouth) (1746-1794), letter dated 15th September, 1776 in Garland, Cannon (ed) The letters of Sir William Jones (Oxford, 1970), vol. 1, p. 221

6.7.1776

{Squire Morris’ woods [Piercefield], description}

Fisher, Jabez Maud, Morgan, Kenneth, (editor), An American Quaker in the British Isles : the travel journals of Jabez Maud Fisher, 1775-1779, p. 205

 

1776

Piersfield in Morris celebrated place two hours of walking through the pleasure grounds there.

Mytton, Thomas, “Journal of a tour thro’ part of South Wales, 1776”, by Thomas Mytton and his sons, Henry and Thomas. Shropshire Record Office, 1037/27/41, p. 4

 

1777

On the top of one of these mantled mountains and immediately overlooking the parish of Llancot are the well-known gardens of Persfield among the awful prospects from which these of the Wye are the most sublime.

Wyndham, Henry Penruddocke. A gentleman’s tour through Monmouthshire and Wales, in the months of June and July, 1774 and in the months of June, July and August, 1777, (Second edition, Salisbury, 1781), p. 5.

 

1778

Two miles distant from Chepstow is Piercefield, the seat of Mr Morris. On the entrance to this gentleman’s ground, the eye is hurt by a long straight walk, which has neither clumps of trees nor avenues to confine or variegate the scene. The house too is but indifferent, and so whimsically placed, as not to admit of a determination with respect to its front until it is examined nearly. The lawn … is beautiful …

Sulivan, Richard, Sir, Observations Made during a Tour through Parts of England, Scotland, and Wales, in 1778. In a Series of Letters, (London, 1780), p. 97

 

1780, 25th July

From Chepstow we made an excursion to the well-known gardens of Mr Morris at Persfield which to the admirers of Nature in her sublimest and most romantic dress will afford an entertainment which can be exceeded by nothing except the satisfaction a lover of Antiquity will receive in observing the venerable ruins of the adjoining Abbey preserved from farther devastation by the generous hand of its noble proprietor. These gardens are about two miles from Chepstow but the beauties of the romantic and boundless prospect they afford would baffle description to elucidate; the ingenious author of the farmer’s letters [Young, Arthur, A Six Weeks Tour through the Southern Counties of England and Wales , (1st edition, London, 1768), pp. 114-130] has already described them in a manner the most pleasing and agreeable and notwithstanding he has presented every picture in colours the most lively that imagination can form or fancy suggest yet he has not (as a stranger to these beauties might suppose) exceeded the bounds of descriptive verity. To pretend to describe them, even did abilities allow, after his able pen has performed it in so masterly manner would be as superior a folly as presumption. I shall therefore use the words of his elegant elucidation. [Here he transcribed in full the first 2,000 words of Arthur Young’s description of Piercefield (see above), leaving out the final 925 words, beginning with ‘We were shewn to an adjoining part of the garden, and ending with This echo is wonderfully curious.]

Very poor sketch of ‘The grotto at Persfield near Chepstow, the floor is paved with small pebbles and the roof inlaid with pebbles, ore etc./ Inlaid with Pebbles, ore and fossils’

Pridden, John, A Tour through Gloucestershire and Wales, 1780, NLW MS 15172 D, pp. 69-78

 17.9.1781

The grounds included in the domain are of great magnitude; one cannot help discovering an infinitude of taste, joined to a profusion of expense; yet nature has been so bountiful as to have the most rigid critic pleased with the same. It is to be lamented that this fine place is suffered to run into neglect, which is but too evident since Mr Morris left it.’

G., C., A Tour in South Wales, NLW MS 14978 B, p. 5

 

1781

On our right soon appeared Mr Morris’s walks at Piercefield with the seats and alcoves peeping from amongst the woods, and cliffs.  I rose very early that I might in the cool morning air, walk to and around Piersfield Woods; … besides the early morn is the best time for prospects, and for very long walks in very hot weather. Mr  – Morris’s seat in Piersfield is 2 miles distant from Chepstow; the house stands in a park, now sub-divided and of considerable extent; it is lett to Mr B—e [presumably Daniel Augustus Beaufort (1739-1821] at forty pounds per ann, without either ground or garden. Having been long known to Mr B I was fearful that his reception of me might be either similar to, or very different from, that of my Welsh friend (both equally embarrassing); so only asked for the gardener (to whom the gardens are leased), and with him the circuit of the walks. The view from the house, and a neighbouring seat commands the bridge, castle and town of Chepstow, with a long extent of the river Severn; and the several prospects from the grotto, cave, battery, etc., are singularly grand and romantic; affording every charm of rock, wood and water.

The Grotto in Piersfield Walks, 17th June, 1781 [Poem]

The opposite rocks, with Lancaute house and chapel, highly enrich the delicious scenery. The Lovers Leap is well rail’d; so that none but the very desponding would take it; I have never heard that it was attempted: the first leap would cure the most heart-felt pangs. – The walks are ill kept, some of them are almost impassable, viz, the zig-zag walk to the water, and that to the cold bath. As hrses would not spoil the walks, men and old women who cannot traverse them, should be allowed to go in any carriage; and how highly would it repay the gardener to keep a garden chair with a small horse; as it is so profitably and agreeably practiced at Mr Hamiltons at Pains-Hill. At the end of the walks is a temple, where horses and carriages should be ordered to, to prevent the fatigue of the company on foot. The view from this temple towards Wales is very full of objects … The return from this walk is by the Elm Avenue; the trees whereof, tall and beautiful, are now marked and numbered; so that I tremble for their approaching fate. The gardener sells the fruit of the garden, and hot house, which would add much to an entertainment in the woods.

Byng, John, (Viscount Torrington), An Excursion Taken in the Year 1781, pp. 25, 28-30

Andrews, C Bruyn, (Editor). The Torrington diaries: Containing the tours through England and Wales of the Hon. John Byng between the years 1781 and 1794. vol. 1, (1934), 17th June 1781

 1782

Daniel Augustus Beaufort (1739-1821) and his wife, Mary rented Piercefield at 40 guineas per anum. Their diaries show that it had caves, grottos and a bath house, and at the highest point, a wooden temple. Mary Beaufort thought the old house was ‘ugly and ill-suited to the grandeur of the place’.

       Diaries and travel journals in Trinity College, Dublin

Ellison, C.C., The Hopeful Traveller: The Life and Times of Daniel Augustus Beaufort, LDD (1987) p. 32

 1783, 1794 or 1800  Mr Thomas [owner]

No servant is suffered to take any reward for his trouble of showing the gardens.’

Anon, British Library, 5961, f. 13

[The diary has been dated to 1790, but the dates and days show that this is not correct: the 17th June fell on a Tuesday in 1783, 1794 and 1800]

 

1784

{Two drawings of the Wye); History of Piercefield [Which had just been sold by Valentine Morris to George Smith]; Poem about Piercefield}

Cumberland, George, (1754-1848) of Bristol, A Tour in North and South Wales in the Year 1784, NLW Lloyd-Johnes MSS Deposit Dec. 1976

See: Lloyd-Johnes, H.J., A Tour in North and South Wales in the year 1784, National Library of Wales Journal, XIX, (1976), pp. 336-338

 

1785 Piercefield was purchased by George Smith who allowed the grounds to be visited on Thursdays.

11.8.1785

{mentioned}

Drake, William, [3 letters to his father, Tour of Wales], Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, D-DR/8/13/1-3, p. 5

 1785 A Poem, in Six Cantos

… Nightingales
[note:] I observe in this place, that the Cliffs along the Wye, Piercefield Walks, and the whole Neighbourhood of Chepstow, abound more with Nightingales than any part of this Island that I have visited … [end of note]
Windcliff’s echos
{reference to Roman gods}
The twelve apostles …
[note:] In the Cliffs under Piercefield Walks are twelve large rocks, like Bastions, projecting over the river, and which the Country People have dignified with the Names of the Twelve Apostles; and a thirteenth standing in the same Row, having a slender Stone, about five feet in Heigth, upon the summit of it, they denominate St Peter’s Thumb. [end of note]

Above these Saints, you must have heard the Name,
Stand Piercefield Walks, the fav’rite Theme of Fame;
By their late Master to Perfection brought,
At Much Expence of Treasure and of Thought;
Who soon, ah! fatal Deed! dispers’d his Pelf [sic],
And while he pleas’d the Public hurt himself.
What does he now receive for all his Care?
From soft female Eye – perchance, a Tear.
Such is the Meed with which the World repays
The Wreck of Fortune and the Waste of Days,
While Bards alone present their useless Lays.
Ah, coinless Race! Had they but Wealth to give,
He still at Piercefield, like a Prince, should live;

A Nymph begot of Valentine on May;
In Robes of Rural Hue he dressed the Maid,
[Valentine Morris. The poet continues to compare what he did to Piercefield with dressing a maid.]

Thus dressed in home-spun Robes of green and white,
On Windcliff’s Top he plac’d her full in Sight,
That Gods and Men might view her with Delight.
Nine distant counties she from thence descries,
All plac’d within the Prospect of her Eyes.
Had he not pierc’d each Brake, each Thicker Scann’d,
Levell’d the rising, fill’d the hollow Land,
And the whole Pleasure-ground with Judgement plann’d,
Wye’s rugged Cliffs no Travellers had seen,
Bedeck’d with Shrubs of variegated Green,
Where now they see distinctly, at one View,
Trees of all Shades, from Holly to the Yew.
[Note:] Windcliff. A very lofty Promontory, at the upper extremity of Piercefield Walks, commanding one of the most beautiful and extensive inland Prospects in this Island; viz. the Rivers Severn and Wye, the Towns and Castles of Chepstow, Thornbury, and Berkeley, the several counties of Brecon and Glamorgan in Wales; Monmouthshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somersetshire, and Deconshire, in England. [end of note]
But e’re I quit forever, these sweet Bowers,
Where gallant Morris spent his happiest Hours,
In each neglected Walk a Tear I’ll shed,
Where Weeds and Briars announce the Founder fled;
In plaintive Notes with Philomel I’ll mourn,
For Morris never, never will return;
Nor shall I more, now hast’ning to Decay,
With that grim Lion Severn, in my Way,
In these Elysian Shades sweet musings stray.
[note:] The writer had proceeded thus far in his poem, when he was informed, that a Mr Smith, a Gentleman of Fortune and Taste, had purchased Piercefield Estate; and hearing he was repairing and improving these Walks, he has in this place inserted the four following Lines. [end of note]
With Joy I hear these Walks again look gay,
And a new Lord, of Polish’d Taste, obey:
The fairy spot revives beneath his Care,
And is once more the fairest ‘mongst the Fair.

Pine, William, Chepstow; or, A new guide to gentlemen and ladies whose curiosity leads them to visit Chepstow: Piercefield-walks, Tintern-abbey, and the beautiful romantic banks of the Wye, from Tintern to Chepstow, by water. A poem, in six cantos. Published for the benefit of the Bristol infirmary. (1786), pp. 31-39

 1787 

It is now the property of Mr Smith who suffers it to be shown only once a week.’

Anon, Excursion into the West of England, NLW, Ms 11492B, p. 20

 

1787

… to Piercefield Park, so well known for its walks, and prospects ; which has lately been sold to Mr Smith, who has fixed Thursday the day of admission, but at Mr J’s [the sub-collector] desire permitted us to come today The house is of no account ; but the views from the house and the walks (which are now in much neglect) are noble and romantic. … These views are best seen from the bench near the house, the grotto and the cave. But since my last visit here [1781, see above] the axe has done much havock; and I now parted from it with the same thoughts as formerly, viz, that it is a very fine thing to see, but not a desirable place to inhabit; I know not Mr Smith’s income; but it is not a station of retirement, or for a man of small fortune; being forever on an exhibition, and in a glare; and so famed, that an owner, and his servants become showmen, with an eternal ‘Walk in Gentlemen’

Byng, John, (Viscount Torrington), A Tour in South Wales in 1787

Andrews, C Bruyn, (Editor). The Torrington diaries: Containing the tours through England and Wales of the Hon. John Byng between the years 1781 and 1794. vol. 1, (1934), pp. 273-4

1788

{long description}

Dodsley, Description of Persefield, from a Practical Tretise on planting and Ornamental Gardening, (1788), published as an appendix to the Agricultural Account of Monmouthshire, in Fox, John, General view of the Agriculture of the County of Monmouth, (Brentford, 1794), pp. 39-43

1789

Piercefield, famous for the much admired walks of the ingenious Mr. Morris, which we now visited. This place originally belonged to the Rous’s, and was bought by Mr Morris, and beautified most consonant to the natural endowments of rock and water. He enjoyed it till within these three years, most hospitably inviting all company to partake of its inimitable delights. The grounds are now not in such perfection, nor so extensive; the whole length of them is about five miles, but since the present purchaser, Mr Smith, has had the place, only half are grown wild and not at present displayed. He has however, begun to open them again, and is greatly altering the whole; whether his new models will be more valued than the originals, time and taste must determine; many of the beautiful serpentines, I fear, from what we now observed, will be thrown into straight lines. The whole was an advantageous purchase for £26,500, and this gentleman intends soon to erect a new and excellent mansion.
The first view we had after we entered this scenery of enchantment, was a pleasing sight of Chepstow-castle, cliffs, etc. also Land-caught cliffs, and the broad Seven beyond. The next opening we beheld a wonderful dip of 700 feet perpendicularly into the Wye, whose waters were not so agreeable and lucid as above, where the briny waves of ocean had not adulterated them. We next came to a sweet point, called the pleasant view, truly descriptive of its name. Next from a bench, Land-caught woods and rocks were most majestic and fine, the river winding nobly underneath, opposite the cave are bow railings with a seat, which if we compare the works of nature with those of art, may be called a front box of one of the completest theatres in the universe; the whole appears from hence a perfect circular theatre, marked out by the surrounding wood-fringed cliffs. Here wants no painted canvas to express its scenery, nature’s sweet landscape is quite enough, and instead of an artificial sky depicted over our heads, the blue vault of heaven hangs sublime and lively. Returning from this we ascended on a path above the cave which leads to a similar box to the one described, that is called the lover’s leap. Having taken a final view of the scenery from this tremendous precipice, we were conducted to the corner of the adjacent field, where stands the Temple, commanding a most glorious prospect in an opposite direction; the conflux of the Wye and Severn, the Bristol channel opening into the main sea, the smoke of the great city on the opposite shores, interspersed with snow-white houses, etc. while the reflexion of the setting sun gilded their windows, that shone like real fires; these together with other distant prospects of stupendous hills on the Welsh coast, the abrupt rocks, immense woods, and all the softer beauties of improvement, conspire to render Piercefield a scene that fills the breast with delight and admiration above all others.

Shaw, Stebbing, A tour to the West of England, in 1788, (London, 1789), pp. 213-216

Mavor published a heavily edited version of Shaw’s tour in 1814 but did not quote him on Piercefield, saying only that [Piercefield’s] ‘romantic situation and elegant improvements have been so much admired and so often described.’
Mavor, William Fordyce, (ed.) British tourists; or: Traveller’s pocket companion, through England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, vol. 3 (1814),  p. 166

1790s

Late proprietor, Mr Smith … lines on the late Valentine Morris

Baker, J., A Picturesque Guide through Wales and the Marches; interspersed with the most interesting subjects of antiquity in that principality. (1st edition, 1791-1797); (2nd edition, Worcester : 1795), p. 32

 8.7.1790, Thursday

We set out after breakfast to see the beautiful grounds at Persfield [Peircefield] lately in the possession of Mr Morris but now belonging to Mr Smith. During the time Mr Morris lived there the place was open to company every day in the week, the present possessor does not allow it to be seen any day except Thursday which was the occasion of our staying at Chepstow a day longer than we intended. We went in the carriage to Piercefield, and rode through the park to the house which is but an indifferent one; from thence we were conducted by the gardener to the entrance of the walks which is at the top of the rock which is within a short distance of Chepstow; an alcove is situated at this point commanding a fine view of Chepstow with its castle and bridge. The Wye taking is serpentine course thro’ the majestic steeps and flowing through the plains below the town into the Bristol Channel which open finely to the right. The walks are carried along the top and side of the rock to the extent of three or four miles according to the gardeners account, to us they did not appear near so long; sometime they bring us into deep and woody dells from which every object but the sky and the surrounding trees is closely excluded, and leading again up a steep ascent to the top of the rock present us with a nicely varied prospect of the magnificent scenery of the river the town of Chepstow and the channel, with a very extensive view of the country beyond from some of the highest eminences; the views in this walk have all nearly the same aspect but the foreground is varied by every turn, perpendicular cliffs woody steeps and smooth green elevations succeeding each other and producing a perpetual variety. In one part the front of an opposite rock reminded me of the high tor at Matlock which it seemed very nearly to resemble, tho’ not quite so high and less barren. From the extremety of the walks we proceeded near half a mile to the top of Windcliff the highest point in the neighbourhood, from whence we took in a much more ample range of country than any other station presented. The noble scenery of the Wye was immediately below us and the channel stretching out to a vast extent to the left up into Gloucestershire and to the right down towards Cardiff; the Wye making is entrance into the channel on our side and the mouth of the Avon just discernible on the other with the ships in Kings road and the little island of St Denny not far distant from it; the time of day was unfavourable for observing object on Gloucestershire and Somersetshire shore or we should have seen the situation of Many places very distinctly.

Nicholson, Frances, NLW MS15190C, (typescript, p. 19), 8th July 1790

20.8.1791

The owner of Piercefield has taken it into his head to affect showing his place only one day in the week, Friday but the Duke of Beaufort will give us a letter to him … to contrive that we see it tomorrow. …

27.8.1791, ‘… we have seen Piercefield

Boringdon, Lord, Letters to the Hon Frederick Robinson [Journey to Bristol, Ross on Wye] Plymouth and West Devon Record Office 1259/1/187

[1793]

Guide book, which included: ‘By the kind permission of Mr Wells, these walks are open for public inspection every Tiesday and Friday from Morning till night …

Heath, Charles, Descriptive accounts of Persfield and Chepstow, including Caerwent, and the passages; … selected from … Young, Wyndham, Whateley / Whately [Observations on Modern Gardening, 1770], Shaw, Grose, Thomas Gray &c. … By Charles Heath, printer, Monmouth. [1793]

1793

Smith’s Bank failed and he was forced to sell ‘The Capital New-Built Mansion, … Gardens, Pleasure Ground, Lawn, Plantations, Beautiful Park.’

Sale catalogue, Soane Museum Library

1794

Purchased by Colonel Mark Wood who allowed the grounds to be visited on Tuesdays and Fridays.

1794

hastened to Persfield, celebrated for those extensive and magnificent gardens, which have cost so much labour and expence heretofor, though now suffered to run into decay.

Hucks, Joseph, (1772-1800), A Pedestrian Tour through north Wales in a series of letters [1794], (London, 1795); Reprint of Huck’s tour including Coleridge’s letters, edited by Alun R Jones and William Tydeman, UWP, 1979, p. 58

 

5.8.1794

Had a ‘view of the well-known gardens of Piercefield which P Wyndham says are full of wondere’d delight, likewise the house.‘ [does he?]

Anon, Journal of Tours in the Midland and Western Counties of England and Wales in 1794, and in Devonshire in 1803, British Library, add mss 30172, f. 4

1794

‘The Line of Beauty’
The Author was one evening, invited to be a party to see the new-laid-out pleasure-grounds of a Gentleman. … The Gardener who attended talked much of the LINE OF BEAUTY {and it was suggested that the bard write a song about it}.
Stanza 5
But would ye study Nature’s charms
On plains Silurian greet her;
She flies at PIERCEFIELD* to your arms,
On ITTON’Sǂ lawns you’ll meet her;
There, haunting woods and vallies green,
She’ll with a smile salute ye;
Her fingers mark each lovely scene
With perfect lines of beauty.
* PIERCEFIELD  The celebrated seat of GEORGE SMITH Esq.
ǂ ITTON COURT The seat of John Curre Esq. The surrounding landscapes though of a different character from Piercefield, are extremely beautiful.
Williams, Edward (Iolo Morganwg), Poems, Lyric and Pastoral, vol. 1., (1794), p. 160

13.8.1795

To Piercefield, now in possession of Col. Wood … the mansion is not finished, it is a building of stone ; the plan is not strikingly elegant, but the glimpse I had of it will not warrant any opinion. Nature has done so much as to leave little for Art to improve… I had raised my expectations to a high degree, it very far exceeded them: & on the whole I think it the most complete in situation & ornamental pleasure Ground I have ever seen.

Eardley-Wilmot, Sarah, (nee Haslam), Journal of a twelve weeks tour. National Museum of Wales, Library, Cardiff, MS179554, pp. 119-120

 

1795

[Samuel Taylor Coleridge at Bristol] Wishing to gratify my two young friends and their ladies elect with a pleasant excursion, I invited them to accompany me in a visit to the Wye, including Piercefield and Tintern Abbey; objects new to us all. … The morning was fine. The party of five all met in high spirits, anticipating unmingled delight in surveying objects and scenery, scarcely to be surpassed in the three kingdoms. We proceeded to the Old Passage; crossed the Severn, and arrived at the Beaufort Arms, Chepstow, time enough to partake of a good dinner, … But prior to our repast, we visited the fine old Castle, so intimately connected with by-gone days; and as soon as possible we purposed to set off toward the Abbey, distant about six or seven miles; taking Piercefield in our way.

… Being an indifferent walker (from a former dislocation of my ankle, arising out of a gig accident) I had engaged a horse, while the four pedestrians set forward, two on each side of my Kosinante. After quitting the extensive walks of Piercefield, we proceeded toward that part of the road, where we were to turn off to the right, leading down to Tintern Abbey.

Cottle, Joseph, (Ed) Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey, 1847, p. 27

 1795 Trip down theWye

The windings of the river became incessant and its shores increased in majesty: on the Glocestershire side, the rich and cultivated farm of Llancaut covered a large peninsula, connected with the adjoining hills by a narrow neck of rock, while the Monmouthshire bank displayed all the grandeur and beauty of Persfield, in a succession of woods, rocks, high cliffs, and plantations, surpassing all description. In the midst of this enchanting scenery we glided rapidly over the surface of the river, varying our objects incessantly at every turn, till the whole terminated proudly in the high cliff, on which the embattled walls and towers of Chepstow castle projected before its town and bridge. Here our little voyage concluded, arid the superior accommodations which we found at the Beaufort arms at Chepstow, were not unwelcome after the cold we had experienced on the water.

Skrine, Henry (1755-1803), Two successive tours throughout the whole of Wales : with several of the adjacent English counties; so as to form a comprehensive view of the picturesque beauty, the peculiar manners, and the fine remains of antiquity, in that interesting part of the British island. By Henry Skrine, Esquire of Warley, Somerset shire, the author of three successive tours in the north of England and Scotland in 1795, (London, 1798), p. 16, 2nd ed. 1812.

1796

This spot, upon which nature has been particularly lavish of her favours … Col Wood allows the gardens to be seen on Tuesdays and Fridays only. However, as the family were absent we this morning … obtained permission to visit the place. A new house was begun a few years ago and is now nearly finished. Two handsome lodges are just erected.

Williams, William, (1774-1839) and Burgess, James, Rev (1774-1839), J. B. jnr and W. W. ‘A Pedestrian Tour thro Wales in 1796’, NLW MS 23253 C, pp. 8-11

 

1.7.1796 

Wet morning which prevented us going to Piercefield till after dinner – the walks are very beautiful and extensive prospects from them, but being foggy we saw to great disadvantage – the grounds are very extensive; well wooded ; and Col Wood is building a very large house of white stone, which is brought from Bath – was only begun 13 months ago and the Col expects to get into it in five weeks – gave £39,000 for the estate the house is to cost more than £20,000 and the walks £1,000 to put them in repair; then remains the Garden Green House and Hot House to do – so much for East India Money.

Anon, A Tour from York into Wales in the year 1796, NLW MS 4489, pp. 12-14

 

1796

Plate 36 View of the Grounds of Persfield. p. 338.

Williams, David, The History of Monmouthshire; Illustrated and ornamented by Views of its principal Landscapes, Ruins, and Residences, by John Gardnor, Vicar of Battersea. Engraved by Mr. Gardnor and Mr. Hill.

Printed by H. Baldwin: and sold in London by Edwards, in Pall Mall; Egerton, at Charing Cross; Williams, in the Strand; White, in Fleet Street: and at Monmouth, by Tudor and by Heath. (1796),  Quarto.

1797

Piercefield, with all its magic scenery lies under the eye to the right. Not being fortunate enough to gain admission into the grounds of Piercefield, for this is not a day of their public exhibition, we walked on towards Chepstow

Warner, Richard, Rev (1763-1857), A Walk through Wales in Aug, 1797, (letter 18, p. 235

1798

The seat of Mark Wood Esq., so famed, so celebrated for the chosen site it occupies and for the delightful contributions of nature and art so powerfully exerted to make it please we were somewhat defeated in our hopes by being informed that the admission of strangers to the grounds was only permitted on Tuesdays and Fridays and then under the guardianship of a servant, this narrow minded policy of the colonel impressed us with an unfavourable trait of the man, we … were fully disposed to quit the place after condescending to view the front of the very elegant, newly erected stone mansion, which is highly adorned by exquisite sculptured statues on its cornice, and has an air of grandeur not to be surpassed in its exterior. Many strangers had arrived here in carriages who reluctantly suffered the same disappointment, not having calculated on the restrictions and notices to be observed in visiting Piercefield. {more on the problems, and rights, of restricting access to such a popular place.}

Anon, Sketch of a pedestrian Tour thro’ parts of North and South Wales etc. Begun September 3rd, 1798 by GN, DJJ, RP., NLW 4419B, ff. 26-27

 

17.7.1799

Passed by the delightful grounds of Piercefield belonging to Colonel Wood which by many travellers are supposed to be equal to, if they do not exceed anything in the three kingdoms and through which runs the sinuous and every pleasing Wye – the house is also superb.

Robertson, NLW MS 11790A, p. 41

 

11.9.1800

We went to Piercefield and tho it not being a “shew day” we could not see the house we prevailed on the old portress to accompany us around the grounds.

Trevenen, John Rev [Probably] (Rector of Creed, Cornwall, 1817-1829) (1781-1829), Journal of a Walk Through Wales in the Autumn of 1800, NLW facs 501, pp. 55-56

1801

{had some objections to the setting}

Grenville, Lord, British Library ms 69158, following p. 26 (Aug 12th [sic, 13th], 1801)

1801
During my successive tours I paid visits to Piercefield which, since the improvements of Valentine Morris, has become the ornament of the county. Piercefield was long the property of the family of Walters: a curious stone chimney-piece, still preserved in the servants’ hall, with the date of 1553, is ornamented with a shield of arms, of which the first quartering, a squirrel sejant, is the bearing of the family. In 1727, John Walters sold the place to Thomas Rous, Esq. of Wooton Underedge, Gloucestershire; from whose son it was purchased, in 1736, by Colonel Valentine Morris, who served for some time in a military line in the island of St. Vincent’s. He came to Piercefield in 1739, made additions to the old mansion, which was little better than a farm-house, and resided there till his death.
His son, Valentine Morris, was born in 1727, and, at an early period, inherited considerable property, principally situated in the island of Antigua. About 1752, he espoused Miss Mary Mordaunt, niece of Lord Peterborough, a lady of great beauty and accomplishments, but without fortune, and fixed his residence at Piercefield.
Before this period, Piercefield was unknown and unfrequented ; the charms of the situation were not duly appreciated, and the grounds solely employed for the purposes of agriculture, or covered with inaccessible forests. Morris was enraptured with the romantic beauties of the scenery, carried walks through the forests, opened the finest points of view, and, with exquisite taste, adapted his improvements to the genius of the place, leaving
“The negligence of nature, wide and wild ”
He lived in a style of princely rather than private magnificence, and treated those whom curiosity drew to the scenes of Piercefield, with a liberal but ostentatious profusion: servants out of livery constantly attended, without being permitted to receive any gratuity; collations were indiscriminately offered to the numerous visitors; and even his hot-house, cellar, and larder, were open to the innkeeper of Chepstow, for the accommodation of travellers.
After a residence of several years, his circumstances became involved, and he was compelled to offer Piercefield for sale. This embarrassment is generally imputed to the expenses of a contested election, in 1771, for the county of Monmouth, with John Morgan, Esq. of Tredegar; but the real causes were derived from a variety of circumstances; an expensive style of living, numerous benefactions, imprudent management of his West India estates, a succession of unfavourable seasons in the island of Antigua, inattention to his accounts, but, above all, an unfortunate propensity to gaming. Being disappointed in finding a purchaser for Piercefield, he contracted his expenses into a narrower scale; but it was too late, and his embarrassments increasing, he was compelled to retire to his West India possessions.
Before his final departure from England, he indulged himself with bidding adieu to Piercefield. In company with a friend, he surveyed his own creation, for the last time, with apparent composure and manly resignation.
{Subsequent history of Valentine Morris and other characters.}
In 1784, Piercefield was bought by Gorge Smith, Esq. of Burnhall, in the county of Durham, and in 1794, by the present proprietor Colonel Wood, formerly chief engineer of Bengal, and member of parliament for Newark. Colonel Wood has increased the property by different purchases in the vicinity, particularly part of the peninsula of Lancaut; the whole consisting of not less than three thousand acres, of which a considerable portion is woodland. The timber alone on the estate of Piercefield was estimated at £8,000. He has likewise considerably improved the place, and restored many of the walks, which were choked with underwood, to their former beauty under Valentine Morris.
A new lodge of freestone, with an iron gate and palisados, leads from the high road into the park; and the approach to the house is conducted with great taste under the direction of Mr. Meickle. In passing through the grounds the eye is charmed with the diversity of scenery; hill and dale, woodlands and lawns, venerable groves of oak, elm, beech, and chesnut, stupendous rocks crowned with ivy and underwood, form a striking assemblage, and prepare the traveller for the beauties of Piercefield.
The house is a magnificent building of freestone, seated nearly in the center of the park, and surrounded by lawns and open groves of wide spreading oak beech and elm. It stands on an elevation of ground that slopes gently to the banks of the Wy, and commands a distant and delightful view over the broad Severn and the red cliffs of Aust, backed by the fertile hills of Glocestershire; opposite appear the white rocks of Lancaut, which here lose their rugged form and harmonise with the surrounding scenery; beneath the castle and town of Chepstow present themselves to singular advantage, and the Wy [sic] sweeps in grand curves among 1ocks and woods, until it falls into the Severn.
The house in which Valentine Morris resided was partly pulled down by Mr. Smith, and a new edifice begun, of which the skeleton was nearly finished when the place was purchased by the present proprietor. Colonel Wood removed the old part of the building, and considerably extended and improved the plan; he added a doric portico, and handsome wings in the same style of architecture, which are ornamented with statues, and enriched with basso relievos, from the designs of the first artists.
The interior distribution of the principal apartments is excellent, equally calculated for private comfort or public splendor. The saloon or entrance is an oblong octagon, with a mosaic pavement of Painswick stone and black marble; it is decorated with beautiful verd antique scalioli pilasters, and leads to the grand staircase, through a porch with verd antique columns, supporting a fanlight of painted glass executed with considerable taste. This porch is closed by folding doors of looking glass, in which the reflection of the diversified prospect from the front of the house forms a pleasing deception.
On each side of the saloon are the withdrawing and dining rooms, finished and furnished in an elegant and costly style, and adorned with corinthian pilasters of Egyptian marble, and sculptures, and alto relievos by the best masters. These apartments are connected with the breakfast and billiard rooms, and lead through a conservatory on each side to the library and music room, which form the ground floor of the wings. The perspective of this suite, even in its present unfinished state, attracts particular notice; and when the conservatories are filled with rare and beautiful plants, will be inexpressibly striking.
The grand staircase is of Painswick stone, and rises by three flights of steps to a gallery, which forms the principal communication with the bed-chambers. The sides of this gallery are hung with four exquisite pieces of gobeline tapestry, sixteen feet by fourteen, which belonged to Louis the sixteenth. They exhibit the natural history of Africa, and represent every production of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, grouped with admirable taste and science, and uniting correctness of design with richness and beauty of colouring.
The present proprietor has spared no expence to render the mansion of Piercefield suitable to the grandeur and beauty of the surrounding scenery: all the apartments unite harmony of proportion with costliness of decoration, and Piercefield scarcely yields to any house in this kingdom in taste and splendor.
Although, in consequence of a kind and hospitable reception by colonel Wood, I had an opportunity to examine at my leisure the grounds of Piercefield, I feel it extremely difficult to give an adequate description of this enchanting spot, where nature wantons in such variety, and combines so great a portion of the beautiful, the picturesque, and the sublime.
The grounds occupy an extensive space, stretching between the road and the Wy, from Wynd Cliff to the castle of Chepstow; and the walk leading from one extremity to the other, is scarcely less than three miles in length.
In the composition of the scenery, the meandering Wy, the steep cliffs, and the fertile peninsula of Lancaut, form the striking characteristics.
The Wy, which is every where seen from a great elevation, passes between Wynd Cliff and the Banagor rocks, winds round the peninsula of Lancaut, under a semicircular chain of stupendous cliffs, is lost in its sinuous course, again appears in a straighter line at the foot of the Lancaut rocks, and flows under the majestic ruins of Chepstow castle, towards the Severn. [note:] To view these delightful scenes in full perfection, the traveller ought to visit the place at high tide when the river is full; he should pass through the village of St. Arvan’s, to the upper part of the grounds, and descend from the Lover’s Leap to the, alcove, by which he will enjoy the whole scenery in proper succession, and to the greatest advantage. [end of note]
The rocks are broken into an infinite variety of fantastic shapes, and scattered at different heights and in different positions; they start abruptly from the river, swell into gentle acclivities, or hang on the summits of the hills; here they form a perpendicular rampart, there jet into enormous projections, and impend over the water. But their dizzy heights and abrupt precipices are softened by the woods, which form a no less conspicuous feature in the romantic scenery; they are not meagre plantations placed by art, but a tract of forests scattered by the hand of nature. In one place they expand into open groves of large oak, elm, and beech ; in another form a shade of timber trees, copses, and underwood, hiding all external objects, and wholly impervious to the rays of the sun; they start from the crevices of the rocks, feather their edges, crown their summits, clothe their sides, and fill the intermediate hollows with a luxuriant mass of foliage, bringing to recollection Milton’s description of the border
Of Eden, where delicious paradise,
Now nearer, crowns with her inclosure green,
As with a rural mound, the champain head …
A sylvan scene, and as the ranks ascend
Shade above shade, a woody theatre
Of stateliest view
(Paradise Lost)
The peninsula of Lancaut, on the opposite bank, in the midst of these impending rocks, and hanging woods, is a farm in the highest state of cultivation. The ground swells gradually from the edge of the water towards the isthmus, on which stands the farm-house, backed by rugged rocks; open groves and single trees are scattered over the meadows and corn fields, and the margin of the river is skirted with a mantle of verdure, and fringed with a range of fine elms.
On entering the grounds at the extremity of the village of St. Arvan’s, and at the bottom of Wynd Cliff, the walk leads through plantations, commanding on the right a distant view of the Severn and the surrounding country ; it penetrates into a thick forest, and conducts to the Lover’s Leap, where the Wynd Cliff is seen towering above the river in all its height and beauty, and below yawns a deep and wooded abyss. It waves almost imperceptibly in a grand outline on the brow of the majestic amphitheatre of cliffs impending over the Wy, opposite to the peninsula of Lancaut, then crosses the park, runs through groves and thickets, and again joins the bank of the Wy, at that reach of the river which stretches from Lancaut to the castle of Chepstow.
From the Lover’s Leap the walk is carried through a thick mantle of forests, with occasional openings, which seem not the result of art or design, but the effect of chance or nature, and seats placed where the spectator may repose and view at leisure the scenery above, beneath, and around.
[Note:]
These views, the beauties of which I shall not attempt to describe, are
1 The Lover’s Leap.
2 A Seat near two beeches on the edge of the precipice.
3 The Giant’s Cave, which occupies the center of the amphitheatre, and overlooks Lancaut peninsula.
4 The Half-way Seat under a large beech tree.
5 The double view.
6 Above Pierce-wood.
7 The Grotto.
8 The Platform.
9 The Alcove.
A part of the grounds not usually visited, is however worthy the notice of the picturesque traveller. From the Giant’s Cave, a road winds beautifully along the brow of the cliff to a grove of lofty oak, beech and sycamore, wholly cleared from underwood, in the center of the extensive forest which spreads beneath the lover’s Leap, In this charming and sequestered spot is a cold bath, supplied by a copious and transparent rill, which springs at the foot of the Wynd Cliff, and ripples down the side of the declivity. The road then descends to Marlridge meadow, on the bank of the Wy, where the river appears like a lake, and the fertile peninsula of Lancaut rises in a gentle acclivity from the margin of the stream to the isthmus.
A beautiful walk two miles in length skirts this meadow, at the foot of the stupendous range of Piercefield Cliffs, and then mounts to the house by steps cut in a steep rock. As the house stands several hundred feet above the river, the ascent is long and difficult; but the toil is amply repaid by the beauty and sublimity of the scenes. [end of note]
This
“bowry walk
Of covert close, where scarce a speck of day
Falls on the lengthen’d gloom ”
(Thomson)
is consonant to the genius of Piercefield ; the screen of wood prevents the uniformity of a bird’s eye view, and the imperceptible bend of the amphitheatre conveys the spectator from one part of this fairy region to another without discovering the gradations. Hence the Wy is sometimes concealed or half obscured by overhanging foliage, at others, wholly expanding to view, is seen sweeping beneath in a broad and circuitous channel; hence at one place the Severn spreads in the midst of a boundless expanse of country, and on the oppo. site side to the Wy; at another, both rivers appear on the same side, and the Severn seems supported on the level summit of the cliffs which form the banks of the Wy. Hence the same objects present themselves in different aspects and with varied accompaniments; hence the magic transition from the impervious gloom of the forests to open groves; from meadows and lawns, to rocks and precipices, and from the mild beauties of English landscape to the wildness of Alpine scenery.
The summit of Wynd Cliff, which towers above the northern extremity of the grounds, commands in one point of view the whole extent of this interesting scenery. As I stood on the brow of this precipice, I looked down upon the fertile peninsula of Lancaut, surrounded with rocks and forests, contemplated the hanging woods, rich lawns, and romantic cliffs of Piercefield, the castle and town of Chepstow, and traced the Wy, sweeping in the true outline of beauty, from the Banagor crags to its junction with the Severn, which spreads into an estuary and is lost in the distant ocean.
A boundless extent of country is seen in every direction from this commanding eminence, comprehending not less than nine counties: in the midst of this expanse, I principally directed my attention to the subject of my Tour, which now drew to a conclusion; I traced with pleasing satisfaction, not unmixed with regret, the luxuriant vallies, and romantic hills of this interesting county, which I had traversed in various directions; but I dwelt with peculiar admiration on the majestic rampart which forms its boundary to the west, and extends in one grand and broken outline, from the banks of the Severn to the Black mountains,
“where the broken landscape, by degrees
Ascending, roughens into rigid hills;
O’er which the CAMBRIAN MOUNTAINS, like far clouds
That skirt the blue horizon, dusky rise”
Thomson’s Spring
Coxe, William, An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire, (1801), pp. 392-402
Includes:
Plate 104, Piercefield, the Seat of Mark Wood, Esq. seen from the opposite Heights. Geo. Holmes del. T. Medland sc. p. 397
Plate 105, Plan of the Grounds of Piercefield, and the Peninsula of Lancaut. Surveyed by Maull. p. 399
see Andrews, M., The Search for the Picturesque, (1989), p. 103
Anon, A Picture of Monmouthshire: Or, an Abridgement of Mr. Coxe’s Historical Tour by a Lady [William Coxe’s sister], (London, 1802), pp. 162-168

1801

Wales and its borders, both north and south, abound at intervals with fine things, Piercefield has grounds of great magnificence and wonderfully picturesque beauty. Downton castle has a deliciously woody vale, most tastefully managed; Llangollen is brilliant; the banks of the Conwy savagely grand; Barmouth romantically rural; the great Pistill Rhaiadr is horribly wild; Rhaiadr Wennol, gay and gloriously irregular; But Hafod and its neighbourhood, I find the effects of all in one circle. …

Evans, Thomas, (1739-1803, of Radnorshire), Cambrian Itinerary : or, Welsh tourist: containing an historical and topographical description of the antiquities and beauties of Wales … (London, 1801), vol. 2, p. 193

 

1802

Purchased by Nathaniel Wells (1779 – 1852), a Creole. He also allowed the grounds to be visited on Tuesdays and Fridays.

 

1802

Aquatint, coloured, Piercefield Walks

de Suffren, Amelia, Voyage Pittoresque, (1803), NLW BV2201 (PB6072) 4

 

1802

Visited Persfield just purchased by Mr. Wells a Creole.

Haslam, Sarah, (Eardley-Wilmot, Sarah,) Wigan Archive Services EHC177/M969, p. 22

 

1802

‘… at length the ornamented grounds of Piercefield burst on our eyes … and Chepstow castle overhanging the stream.’ … ‘Piercefield only visible on Tuesday and Friday therefore it would be out of our power to see it.’

Gray, Jonathan, ‘Tour of the Western Counties of England and of South Wales in 1802’, North Yorkshire Record Office, ZGY/T4, pp. 38-39

 

1802

I could not think of leaving this country without visiting Piercefield, or having it said I passed down the Wye and neglected that famed feature of the stream; after having rode to Wynd Cliff, at the extremity of the pleasure-grounds, I sent back my horse; the day was uncommonly calm, and all nature was gilded by the radiance of the sun, glittering on a variety of unbounded objects, and arrayed in her gaudiest dress: looking up, the meandering river was separating declivities clothed with hanging woods from the top to the bottom, and abrupt masses of towering rock bedecked with ornamenting vegetation; beneath, the Wye was circumscribing a large tract of beautiful meadows and tastefully laid-out encloures, resembling in form a horseshoe: the view down the stream was embellished by thick wood, though broken in parts; and through these openings bold upright excrescences of rock were seen, (called, from their number, the Twelve Apostles and St. Peter’s Thumb;) this is a remarkable scene, and the abruptness of their appearance is peculiarly pleasing; indeed, there is no end to the fancies of nature, and where she is not really useful, she is diverting. From one view we perceive the Wye as five distinct bodies of water; one is bathing the rock on which Chepstow castle is seated; and the rest are obstructed from the sight, as one whole, by intervening lofty cliffs or bold heights clothed with a profusion of luxuriant wood; passing Chepstow, it is seen in serpentine windings until it reaches the rapid Severn, and unites to separate the adorned hills of Gloucestershire and Somersetshire. A great part of Wiltshire serves to form a distant view, observable and pleasing. Here is such an assemblage of beauty and variety, that there is no fixing the attention to one particular spot for any length of time, but attractions elsewhere, and of equal claim to notice, will most assuredly force themselves on you.

After having attempted a drawing of this enchanting view, I soon found, how deficient it was in picturesque effect, from my too great elevation above the objects; and, disgusted with my performance, shut my book, overwhelmed by a cloud of delightful melancholy, which was pleasingly dispelled by the unexpected appearance of some gentlemen to whom I was known; who had come hither with the like intention of perambulating the walks. At their request I joined the party, attended by a person with a bugle horn; this was an unlooked-for addition, nor did I ever hear the effect of sound so long in its decrease, and from other situations reverberating in such numerous replies from rock to rock, fading and softening to the lowest whisper. The walks are cut on the brinks of the cliff, forming the most delightful labyrinths, with alcoves and numerous resting places, each unfolding an infinity of rich scope, and imbibing the perfulning fragrance from rich vales below, while waving woods, broad white-faced rocks, and mountain-tops, with streams and villages, are all one scene of magnificence and delight. All this owes its origin, as an improved place, to Valentine Morris, who inherited it as a paternal estate; and 1752 may be dated as the era when the peculiar beauties of the place became attractive, from his taste and industry: although the place was inhabited for 200 years previous, yet its elegance and advantages were not perceived, or, if known, not attended to. Pity must cast a covering over the blemishes of its worthy introducer, and the affection of all ranks value the name of the man, and the humanity of his heart. This place is now the property of W. Wells, Esq. who is making considerable additions to the mansion; and, no doubt, will render these scenes as interesting as any of the numerous princely abodes for which this kingdom is famous.

Manby, George William, (1765-1854) of Hotwells, Bristol, An historic and picturesque guide from Clifton, through the counties of Monmouth, Glamorgan, and Brecknock, with representations of ruins, interesting antiquities, &c. &c. (Bristol : 1802), pp. 267-271

 

1802 

The access to this luxuriant spot is through a garden, consisting of slopes, and waving lawns, with shrubby trees, scattered tastefully about. Striking down to the left is a sequestered part, shaded by a fine beech tree, which commands a most beautiful landscape. That part over which the beech tree spreads, is levelled in the vast rock which forms the shore of the river Wye through Mr. Morris’s grounds. This rock, which is totally covered with a shrubby underwood, is almost perpendicular from the water to the rail which incloses the point of view. One of the sweetest vallies ever beheld lies immediately beneath, but at such a depth that every object is diminished, and appears in miniature.

This valley consists of a complete farm, of about 40 inclosures, grass and corn fields, intersected by hedges, with many trees; it is a peninsula, almost surrounded by the river, which winds directly beneath, in a manner enchantingly romantic, and what constitutes the beauty of the whole is its being environed by vast rocks and precipices, thickly covered with wood, down to the edge of the water. The whole is a magnificent amphitheatre, which seems dropt from the clouds complete in all its beauty.

Turning to the left is a winding walk, cut out of the rock, but with wood enough against the river to prevent the danger which must otherwise attend treading on such a precipice.

After passing through a hay-field, and upon entering the woods, is a bench, inclosed with Chinese rails, in the rock, which commands the same valley and river, all fringed with wood. Some stupendous rocks are in front, and just above them the river Severn appears, with a boundless prospect beyond it.

A little further on, is another bench, inclosed with iron rails, on a point of the rock, which is here pendant over the river, a situation full of the terribly sublime. A vast hollow of wood is beneath all, surrounded by the woody precipices, which have a peculiar fine effect. In the midst appears a small but neat building, namely the bathing house, which from this enormous height appears but as a spot of white, in the midst of the vast range of green. Towards the right is seen the winding of the river.

From this spot, which seems to be pushed forward from the rock, by the bold hands of the genii of the place, we approach a temple, a small neat building, on the highest part of these grounds, and imagination cannot form an idea of any thing more beautiful, than what appears full to the enraptured eye from this amazing point of view.

You look down upon all the woody precipices, as if placed in another region, terminated by a wall of rocks ; just above them appears the river Severn in so peculiar a manner as if it washed them, and the spectator naturally supposes the rocks only separate him from that river, whereas, in fact, the Severn is four or five miles distant.

This deceptio visus is exquisitely beautiful, for viewing first the river beneath, then the vast rocks, rising in a shore of precipices, and immediately above them the noble river Severn, and finally ail the boundless view over Gloucestershire and Somersetshire, form together such an incomparable group of romantic prospects, with such an apparent junction of detached parts, that imagination can scarcely conceive any thing equal to it; the view, on the right, over the park, and the winding valley, at the bottom of it, would from any other spot than this be viewed as highly romantic.

The winding road down to the cold bath, is cool, sequestered, and agreeable. The building itself is very neat, and well constructed, and the spring which supplies it plentiful and transparent. You wind from it up the rock. This walk from the Cold Bath is rather dark and gloomy, breaks and objects are rather scarce in it. On the left, towards the valley, there is a prodigious hollow, filled with a thick wood.

Passing on, there are two breaks from this walk which open to a delightful prospect of the valley; these breaks lead through an extremely romantic cave, hollowed out of the rock, and opening to a fine point of view.

At the mouth of this cave some swivel guns are mounted, upon the firing of which a repeated echo is reverberated from rock to rock, with the most awful, impressive, and astonishing effect on the auditors.

In this walk also is a remarkable phenomenon of a large oak, venerable for its age, growing out of a cleft in the rock, without the least appearance of any earth.

Pursuing the walk, as it rises up the rocks, and passes by the point of view first mentioned, we arrive at a bench, which commands a most picturesque and luxuriant prospect. On the left you look down upon the valley, with the river winding many hundred fathoms perpendicular beneath the whole, surrounded by the vast amphitheatre of wooded rocks, and to the right, full upon the town of Chepstow; beyond it the vast Severn’s winding, and are immense prospect bounding the whole.

From hence an agreeable walk, shaded on one side with a great number of fine firs, leads to an irregular junction of winding walks, with many large trees, growing from the sequestered lawn, in a manner highly tasteful, and presenting a striking contrast to what immediately succeeds; for to the left appears the valley beneath, in all its beautiful elegance, surrounded by the romantic rocky woods. In the front rises, from the hollow of the river, a prodigious cluster of formidable rocks, and immediately above them, in breaks, winds the Severn. On the right is Chepstow town and castle, amidst a border of wood, with the Severn above them, and over the whole, as far as the eye can command, an immense prospect of distant country.

The sloping walks of evergreens, which lead from hence, are remarkably beautiful, and the prospect delectable; for the town, and the country beyond it, appear perpetually changing their appearance— each moment presenting a new picture, until by descending, the whole disappears. These walks lead to a grotto, which is a small cave in the rock, adorned with stones of various colours and kinds, copper and iron cinders, &c. From the seat in this grotto you look down a steep slope, to a hollow of wood, bounded in front by the craggy rocks, and a view of the distant country, interspersed with white buildings, the whole forming a landscape as beautiful as any in the world. The winding walk which leads from the grotto varies from any of the former, for the town of Chepstow and the various neighbouring objects burst upon the view in every direction as you pass along.

Passing over a little bridge, which is thrown across the road, in a hollow way, through the wood, are various openings, which present the most delightful pictures of rural scenery. Here you behold a hollow of wood, bounded by a wall of rocks; there you have, in one small view, all the picturesque beauties of a natural Camera Obscura; here you behold the town and castle of Chepstow, rising from the romantic steeps of wood, in a manner inexpressibly beautiful; there you look down upon a fine bend of the river winding to the castle, which appears most romantically situated.

The last point of view, equal to most of the preceding, is from the Alcove. From this there is a prospect down perpendicularly on the river, with a tine cultivated slope on the other side; to the right is a prodigious steep shore of wood, winding to the castle, which with part of the town appears in full view. On the left, is seen a fine bend of the river, for some distance; the opposite shore of wild wood, with the rock appearing at places in rising cliffs, has a grand effect.

About a mile from these walks, is a romantic cliff, called the Wind Cliff, from which there is an unbounded prospect. Upon firing a pistol or gun, the echo is sublimely grand; the explosion is repeated five times very distinctly, from rock to rock, and sometimes seven, and if the weather is calm and serene, nine times.

Beyond the cliff at some distance, is the abbey, a venerable ruin, situated in a romantic hollow, belonging to the Duke of Beaufort. In point of picturesque scenery of nature, in her wild attire, the beauties of Piercefield are inexpressibly charming. The cultivated inclosures forming the bottom of the valley, with the serpentine course of the river, the vast amphitheatre of rocks and pendant woods, which environ it to a stupendous height, form a conspicuous trait of beauty. The elegant proprietor placed benches in those points of views, most peculiarly striking, nor can any thing be more picturesque than the appearance which the Severn takes in many places, of being supported and bounded by the rocks, though actually four miles distance. In respect to the extensive prospects, the agreeable manner in which the town and castle arc occasionally introduced to view, with the rocks, woods, and river, form a landscape inimitably beautiful.

The river Wye, which runs at the bottom of the walks, is an infinite advantage, but it is in many respects inferior to a fresh-water river, which keeps a level, and does not display a breadth of muddy bank at low water. The Wye also has not that transparent sombre, that silver-shaded surface, which is of itself one of the greatest beauties of nature, and would render the delectable prospects of Piercefield still more delectable.—This enchanting retreat is now in the possession of Colonel Wood. The Rev. Mr. Coxe and Captain Barber have each recently visited this delightful spot. We shall give the very pleasing description of the latter tourist, in addition to the account we have already inserted.

[Here he quotes in full Barber’s description, except for the final section on Valentine Morris which he paraphrased as follows:]

The charms of Piercefield were created about 50 years since by Valentine Morris, Esq. This gentleman, by the exercise of the most munificent liberality, the most unbounded hospitality, by making his mansion the refuge of the poor and distressed, and by keeping an open and amply furnished treble, was greatly reduced in his finances: and, alas ! obliged to part with his paradise, and find an asylum from the ingratitude of mankind, from the cruel malignancy of his creditors, in the West Indies.

Before he left this country he gave a last a sad farewell to the enchanting groves of Piercefield ; the delectable scenery of which had been delineated by his creative genius. He saw the sublime landscape vanishing from his view, but he sustained the shock with that magnanimity so characteristic of Valentine Morris.

Far different were the emotions of the neighbouring poor: those children of misfortune, penury, and distress, who had been fed by his bounty, and clothed by his benevolence. They sorrowfully deplored the loss of their beloved benefactor; they clung around him, bathed his feet with their tears, implored Heaven to bestow its choicest blessings upon him, who had scattered plenty around them.

Mr Morris sympathised with their distress, but preserved great firmness of mind, until a circumstance occurred which penetrated his soul with grief, and overwhelmed his feelings. As his chaise was proceeding on the road to London, on crossing Chepstow Bridge, the bells were muffled, as is usual in cases of public calamity, and they rung a solemn mournful peal. This unexpected tribute of real and profound veneration deeply affected his mind, and he burst into tears.

In contemplating the events of human life we generally observe that the most generous and philanthropic persons are the most unfortunate: such was the melancholy fate of Mr Morris. The genius of evil was ever at his elbow, and from the affecting period of his departure from Piercefield, a regular and cruel series of calamities attended him.

Being appointed to the government of the Island of St. Vincent’s, his excellency expended the residue of his much impaired fortune in promoting the prosperity of that island, cultivating the colony, and improving its fortifications. The reward of his patriotic researches was cold neglect, and an unjust refusal to reimburse his expences. The fatal consequences may easily be conjectured. His creditors became clamorous for their debts, and he who had created and enjoyed the elysium of Piercefield was inmured within the gloomy walls of the King’s Bench. Here, to the disgrace of the ministry who had solicited his services, and benefited by them; to the disgrace of his creditors, and the country at large, he was suffered to remain a prisoner seven years. He had married the niece of the Earl of Peterborough, and of all the multitude who had basked in the sunshine of his prosperity, one friend only endeavoured to alleviate his distress or sympathise in his misery. … Mr. Morns, after being released from prison, did not survive many years; he died in 1789.

Such were the unmerited sufferings of Valentine Morris; a man of sublime taste and elevated genius, whose soul was ever tremblingly alive to distress, who soothed the sorrows of the poor, ameliorated the sufferings of the unfortunate, and possessed the fairest virtues of humanity.

Peace to thy shade, thou best of men !—And ye who range the hills and dales of Piercefield, who with enraptured eye contemplate its sublime and picturesque beauties, think of him who formed the scenes you now behold ; and, while the melancholy tale of his misfortunes excites the tear of sensibility, reflect on the mutability of all events in this chequered slate.

The Modern Universal British Traveller: Or, A New, Complete, and Accurate Tour Through England, Wales, Scotland, and the Neighbouring Islands … The Articles Respecting England, by Charles Burlington … Such as Relate to Wales, by David Llewellyn Rees … And Those Descriptive of Scotland, by Alexander Murray (known as Burlington’s British Traveller) [1802]; reproduced in Anon, (edited by G.A. Cooke), A topographical and statistical description of the county of Monmouth … by G. A. Cooke. 2nd Edition (London : [1802]), pp. 51-56

 

1803

{Very brief reference to the grounds}: one of the most illustrious that art and nature combined can produce. … A volume might be filled on the subject of this enchanting place which may be seen every Tuesday; but no words can convey and adequate impression of what every spectator feels, as he strays amid the romantic scenery.

A Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places [in England and Wales], with a description of the Lakes; a sketch of a tour in Wales, and Itineraries … Illustrated with maps and views. By the Editor of the Picture of London. [J.Feltham] (1803) (and many subsequent editions)

 

1803

On quitting Chepstow, and proceeding about a mile and half on the road to Monmouth, a capital lodge with iron gates and palisadoes announced the entrance of Piercefield. Eager to view this enchanting domain, the favourite resort and theme of tourists, nor less the pride of Monmouthshire, we applied at the gate for admission ; when a well-grown lad made his appearance, who stared at us through the rails, with more than the usual stupidity of boys brought up at a distance from towns. Again and again, with entreaties and threats, we stated our business; but nothing could excite the gaping vacuity of his countenance, or induce him to open the gate. Rightly concluding that he was an idiot, we were returning towards the town for instructions how to act, when a venerable pate with “silver crowned” appeared at the window of the lodge, and by dint of hallooing and patience, in waiting upwards of a quarter of an hour, we had the old man at the gate. He was the boy’s grand-father; and, if intellect were hereditary, the boy might presume on his lineage with more chance of correctness than many of higher birth. The old man, after obliging us to hear a tedious incomprehensible narrative to account for his hobbling attendance, at length concluded by telling us, that we could not upon any account see the grounds, as they were only shewn on Tuesdays and Fridays. This was on a Saturday ; but to wait until the following Tuesday would be a tax: indeed; and to proceed without seeing Piercefield a sad flaw in our tour; so we essayed with success a means which, it may be remarked, when applied in a due proportion to its object, is scarcely ever known to fail.

We rode up an embowered lane to the village of St. Aryan’s, and leaving our horses at the blacksmith’s, entered Piercefield grounds, at a back gate. Here, commencing a walk of three miles in length, we passed through agreeable plantations of oak, ash, and elm, to the edge of a perpendicular cliff, called the Lover’s Leap, overlooking an abyss-like hollow, whose fearful depth is softened by a tract of forest extending over the surrounding rocks.

High above competition, at the northern extremity of the scene, rises Wynd Cliff; a dark wood fringes its lofty summit, and shelves down its sides to the river Wye, which urges its sinuous course at the bottom of the cliff. In one place the river gently curving appears in all the breadth of its channel; in another, projecting rocks and intervening foliage conceal its course, or sparingly exhibit its darkened surface. Following the bend of the river, on its marginal height, a range of naked perpendicular cliffs, the Banagor rocks, appear above the woody hills that prevail through the scenery, of so regular a figure, that one can scarce help imagining it the fortification of a town, with curtains, bastions, and demibastions. But a very leading figure is the peninsula of Llanicut, the hills of Piercefield here receding into a semicircular bend, watered by the rivers, immediately beneath are opposed by a similar concavity in the Banagor rocks, the whole forming a grand amphitheatre of lofty woods and precipices.

From the opposite ground descends a fertile expanse or tongue of land, tilling up the area of the circle. This singular valley is laid out in in a compact ornamented farm ; the richly verdant meadows are intersected by flourishing hedge-rows, while numerous trees diversify the tract, and embower the farm-house; a row of elms shadows the margin of the river, which skirting the base of the hills, nearly surrounds the valley.

These subjects disclose themselves in different combinations through intervals in the shrubbery, which encloses the walk; and which, although selected from the nicest observations, are managed with so just an attention to the simplicity of nature as to appear the work of her plastic hand.

The Giant’s Cave, a little further, is a passage cut through a rock. Over one of the entrances is a mutilated colossal figure, which once sustained the fragment of a rock, in his uplifted arms, threatening to overwhelm who ever dared enter his retreat; but some time since the stone fell, carrying the giant’s arms along with it; yet he continues to grin horror, although deprived of his terrors.

From this place a path, traced under the woods, descends to the Bath, a commodious building, concealed from outward view by impendent foliage.

Deserting for a while the course of this river, we ascend a superior eminence, called The Double View, whence the different scenes that have presented themselves in detail appear in one comprehensive range. Here too a new field of prospect discloses itself much more extensive than the former, and beautifully picturesque. The mazy Wye, with all its interesting accompaniments, passes from beneath us through a richly variegated country, to its junction with the Severn, beyond whose silvery expanse the grand swelling shores of Somersetshire form the distance. A curious “deceptio visns” occurring here must not be past over: it arises from a coincidence in the angle of vision between the embattled rocks, already mentioned, and a part of the Severn, which appears to wash their summit, although in reality many miles distant. But the subject of the prospect from this spot is seen more picturesquely combined as we continue our walk on a gentle descent, and catch the varying scene through apertures in the foliage: yet there is something that one would wish to add or remove, until we reach the Grotto, when a picture is exhibited in the happiest state of composition.

In this charming view from the grotto a diversified plantation occupies the foreground, and descends through a grand hollow to the river, which passes in a long reach under the elevated ruin of Chepstow castle, the town, and bridge towards the Severn. Rocks and precipices, dark shelving forests, groves, and lawns, hang on its course; and, with a variety of sailing vessels, are reflected from the liquid mirror, with an effect that I cannot attempt to describe, and at which the magic pencil of a Claude would falter. The distant Severn and its remote shores form an excellent termination, and complete the picture.

On our visit the rich extent of variegated woods that mantle this charming domain received an additional diversity in the endless gradations of autumnal tints that chequered their surface, while in a few places the still uniform sombre hue of the pine and Larch was admirably relieved by the silvered verdure of the lightly-branching Ground Ash and Witch Hazel.

Highly gratified with this delightful scenery, we returned by another track through tangled shrubberies, open groves, and waving lawns, to the mansion. This edifice is constructed of free-stone, and has had two handsome wings lately added to it by Colonel Wood. Although not very extensive, it has, nevertheless, an elegant external appearance, and is fitted up internally with a taste and splendor little inferior to any of our first-rate houses in England.

[note:] Col Wood is about to dispose of this estate. [end of note]

The charms of Piercefield were created by Valentine Morris, Esq. about fifty years since; to say unfolded, may be more correct ; for the masterly hand of nature modelled every feature ; the taste of Mr. Morris discovered them in an unnoticed forest, and disclosed them to the world: he engrafted the blandishments of art upon the majestic wildness of the scene without distorting its original character.

Philanthropic, hospitable, and magnificent, his house was promiscuously open to the numerous visitors whom curiosity led to his improvements; but alas! by his splendid liberality, his unbounded benevolence, and unforeseen contingencies, his fortune became involved ; he was obliged to part with his estate, and take refuge in the West Indies. Before he left his country, he took a farewell view of Piercefield, and with manly resignation parted with that idol of his fancy. The industrious poor around, whose happiness he had promoted by his exertions and bounty, crowded towards him, and on their knees implored the interposition of Providence for the preservation of their benefactor ; tears and prayers were all they had to offer; nor could they be suspected of insincerity; for in lamenting their protector’s misfortunes they but mourned their own. In this trial he saw unmoved (at least in appearance) the widows’ and orphans’ anguish, though he was wont to melt at the bare mention of their sorrows. His firmness did not forsake him in quitting this affecting group, as his chaise drove off towards London; but having crossed Chepstow-bridge, the bells, muffled, as is usual on occasions of great public calamity, rang a mournful peal. Unprepared for this mark of affection and respect, he could no longer control his feelings, and burst into tears.

In leaving England he did not shake off his evil destiny. Being appointed governor of St. Vincent’s, he expended the residue of his fortune in advancing the cultivation of the colony, and raising works for its defence, when the island fell into the hands of the French. Government failing to reimburse his expences during his life, upon his return to England he was thrown into the King’s bench prison by his creditors. Here he experienced all the rigour of penury and imprisonment for seven years. Of the numerous sharers of his prosperity, only his amiable wife 9she was a niece of Lord Peterborough) and a single friend devoted themselves to participate his misery and alleviate his distress. Even the clothes and trinkets of his lady were sold to purchase bread; and, that nothing might be wanting to fill up his cup of bitterness, the faithful partner of his cares, unable to bear up against continued and accumulating misery, became, insane.

At length he recovered his liberty; and fortune, tired of this long persecution, seemed to abate somewhat of her rigour; when death put an end to his chequered career at the house, of his brother-in-law, Mr Wilmot, in Bloomsbury-square, in 1789.—The neighbourhood still sounds the praises of this worthy gentleman. Old men, in recounting his good actions and unmerited misfortunes, seem warmed with the enthusiasm of youth; and little children sigh while they lisp the sufferings of Good Mr. Morris.

Barber, J.T., (1774-1841), Tour Throughout South Wales and Monmouthshire, Comprehending A General Survey of the Picturesque Scenery, Remains of Antiquity, Historical Events, Peculiar Manners, and Commercial Situations of That Interesting Portion of the British Empire. (1st edition, London : 1803), chapter 16, pp. 255-264. Mostly reproduced in The Modern Universal British Traveller: Or, A New, Complete, and Accurate Tour Through England, Wales, Scotland, and the Neighbouring Islands … The Articles Respecting England, by Charles Burlington … Such as Relate to Wales, by David Llewellyn Rees … And Those Descriptive of Scotland, by Alexander Murray (known as Burlington’s British Traveller) [1802], pp. 57-61

 

1803 

{To Piercefield. Borrowed knives, forks and wine glasses for their provisions (which they had brought with them)} … The mud in the river spoils the landscape of Chepstow and Piercefield. Rained in morning, to Piercefield in the afternoon. Mr Wells, the owner, a Creole. He keeps a visitors’ book. Paid the Gardener at Piercefield, 2 shillings [and paid another one shilling and two pence for something there.]

Farington, Joseph, (1747-1821) ‘Diary of a Tour from London to Cheltenham, Monmouth and Chepstow, 9-28 September, 1803’, p. 40, illustrated by small original sketches. Hereford Record Office, (formerly in the Hereford City Library), MS octavo, no 24136, 16th and 20th September, 1803

Garlick, K., Mcintyre, A., and Cave, K., The Diary of Joseph Farington, 16 vols, New Haven and London, (1978-84)

 

1804 (pre) 

{brief description}

Evans, John, (1767-1827), The juvenile tourist: or excursions into the West of England; into the Midland counties, with part of South Wales, (1804); (4th edition 1818), p. 275 and following.

1805 [and earlier?]

{Owned by Valentine Morris, George Smith of Durham, who with John Curre established the Monmouthshire bank at Chepstow, but when it failed he sold the house to Sir Mark Wood MP, who sold it to Nathaniel Wells.

General Outline of Piercefield; walks open for public inspection every Tuesday and Friday from morning till night, previously only Thursdays; Particular description of Piercefield

Alcove; Seat 1; Seat 2; Seat 3; Grotto; The Double View; Beech tree; Druid’s Temple; Pleasant View; Giant’s Cave; Cold Bath; Seat under a rock; The Hill; Lover’s Leap; The Temple; Windcliff; Remarks on Piercefield (including problems with the river being muddy and exposing a lot of mud when the tide is low; the lack of cascades and lack of contrasts)

Piercefield House; Sir Mark Wood pulled down the old building and erected the present elegant mansion and also built the handsome lodges … (2 pages, mostly describing the Saloon and the decoration on the walls of the Breakfast and Dining parlours, and the Gobelin tapestries.} … Lines on Piercefield

Heath, Charles, Historical and Descriptive accounts of the ancient and present state of the town and Castle of Chepstow including the pleasurable regions of Persfield [sic] and a variety of other particulars deserving the stranger’s notice round that neighbourhood. The whole never before published collected from original papers and unquestionable authorities. (1st edition 1805); 5th edition [1808]; 6th edition, 1813; 7th edition, 1821)

1805?

the grounds belonging to Piercefield (Mr Morris) and the Wye. The rocks of each side of this river, which winds in the most romantic manner, are truly noble, rising in many places to near 600 feet perpendicular height; very frequently bearing the appearance of ancient walls & fortifications & beautifully crown’d & interspers’d with verdure.

… on the morning of the 19th [August, 1805] went to Piercefield. The house is very indifferent, but the situation delightful {situation, the grounds} Upon the whole, although this celebrated place, excited my imagination, yet the sensation I felt on walking over the grounds was far from pleasing … {Mr Morris climbed a tree to lop of some branches that his workmen refused to cut, at great danger to himself.}

watercolour no. 36. Piercefield from the opposite bank of the Wye [unfinished].

Sotheby, William?, A Journal of a tour through parts of Monmouthshire and Glamorgan, NLW 6497C, pp. 3; 94-97

 

1805

Quotes Mr Wheatley extensively.

Butcher, Edmund, Rev, An Excursion from Sidmouth to Chester (1805)

 

1805

We entered the grounds of Piercefield Mr Wells, a step which we had some cause to be sorry for not that the place wants attraction, it abounds in the most picturesque views, but we were not exactly prepared for a toilsome march of two hours … Piercefield cost the present proprietor 70,000 guineas – viewed from his grounds the Wye, diminished to a rivelet, creeps along at the bottom of the rocks while from the other side of the walks by a turn of the head, the majestic Severn is seen to roll along, seemingly proud of his acquisition, for near this place the two rivers meet. Worn out by fatigue we were glad to rest ourselves under the friendly shade a cavern hollowed out in the rock but we were scarcely seated ere we found ourselves in imminent danger of being pounded by a fragment of it from the arms of an enormous giant who had taken his post above – It seems as if the layer-out of these walks had calculated the exact moment when the weary pedestrian would seek a friendly bench for repose and had placed his Polyphemus on his return from following Acis into the sea, with the last stone in his hand, to frighten him. We visited the lover’s leap but without the smallest intention of giving the Corones any trouble on our account – there was no crime, however in bestowing a soft recollection on our Mistropis, and anticipating their friendly welcomes at our return.

White, James, Picturesque Excursion into South Wales, British Library Add MSS 44991, pp. 30-31

 

1805 (pre)

Our next excursion was to Pearsfield [Piercefield], & Windcliff an immense mountain, whence we were told & I believe, we saw 13 counties. … Piercefield, the seat of Mr Wells (of whom your sisters know something) is not worth the trouble of going to, on its own account; but, the points of view from it, are richly magnificent.   Can you conceive any objects more calculated to gratify the tastes, than the view on one side, of the river in all its meanderings, bordered by successive ranges of mountain & sylvan scenery, beyond which, at the same moment, the Severn rolls into the Bristol Channel, & the scene terminated by the distant cliffs in Glocestershire? or, on the other side, of a cultivated country, smiling with luxuriance & plenty, stretching one hundred miles before you & gradually fading away from the sight in the immensity of the ocean.

Yorke, H. K. 4 page letter to Henry Thomson Esq??, Bedfordshire Record Office, X21/753, f. 137

 

1805

{saw the gardens which are shewn on Tuesdays and Fridays}

Manners, John Henry, (Fifth Duke of Rutland,1778-1857), Journal of a tour through north and south Wales, the Isle of Man, [and a small part of Scotland] &c. &c. 1805, p. 44

 

1806

went to Piercefield before breakfast, immortalised in verse by the Abbe de Lile and formerly the seat of the father of the highly accomplished Elizabeth Smith {brief description of Piercefield}

Douglas, George L. A., ‘Observations made during a tour in Wales and different parts of England’ NLS Ms 10349, pp. 230-231; NLS Ms 10350 (a tidy copy of the same).

 

14.8.1806

The Gerrards took us to Piercefield where we received much civility from Mr and Mrs Wells who accompanied us about the grounds themselves. {The usual description follows. Later in the day they ascended Wind Cliff, where} ‘we took a pistol which Mr Gerrard fired; the vibration of sound amongst these rocks is wonderful, and that of a single pistol is like a charge of musketry, diminishing in sound for the space of a minute or two.

Wright, Lucy, A Tour Through Wales to the South Coast, 1806, Wigan Public Library, Edward Hall Collection, EHC73/M842

 

1806, 1807

The morning was unfavourable when we set out from Monmouth, but the attractions of Piercefield led us to decide on leaving it on Thursday, as Fridays and Tuesdays are the days it is open for the reception of strangers.

{Valentine Morris, Esq., his history and bankruptcy.}

Spence, Elizabeth Isabella, Summer Excursions through parts of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire, and South Wales [in 1806, 1807] (1809), letters 10, 11, 26

 

1807

{description}

[Cuyler, A.M., ?], Recollections of a visit to Llanbeder [Llanbedr] in the County of Brecon with remarks on an excursion down the River Wye from Rhos to Chepstow including Abergavenny, Monmouth, Piecefield, Raglan etc by A.M.Cuyler, 1807, NLW add MS 784a, p. 136

 

1807  

Here each of the party found abundance of exercise for the mind and for the pencil, but having passed ‘Wind cliff’ on our way down the river, we now visited it by land, through the grounds of — Wells, Esq. of Piercefield, pursuing a wooded walk for about two miles, immediately on the edge of the rocks that overhang the Wye, at nearly one end of this natural terrace, is the precipice called ‘Lovers Leap’, down which the eye descends with a fearful complacency, as a thick wood covers the bottom ground. they told us that its height was about sixty yards, I should guess it more. An iron railing protects the walk at top, and the descent is as steep as a wall. ‘Wind Cliff’, as seen by the map, is something further up the stream, and is magnificently grand. The fantastic turns of the Wye, with its amphitheatre of woods, seemed diminishd; but, if possible, increasd in beauty. The Severn’s mouth; the Holmes, in its channel; the shipping at King-road, and all the country from below Bristol upwards untill Gloucester was lost in mist, is compleatly under the eye. It is here calld the second view in england, and by Lord North was preferd to ‘Mount Edgecomb.’

The accompanying view of ‘Wind Cliff’ is taken from a part of Chepstow Castle, and it will give an additional idea of its magnitude if you observe that you do not see the river at its foot, but look over very high ground, round which the water comes from the right towards the centre of the drawing. If you look on the map from Chepstow Castle to Wind Cliff, the whole will be understood. This drawing is done by R. B. Cooper, Esq. a principal in our party, who uses his pencil with great freedom and expidition. I prize it on his, and every account.

Bloomfield, Robert, Journal of a Ten Days’ Tour from Uley in Gloucestershire, by way of Ross; down the River Wye to Chepstow; Abergavenny, Brecon, Hereford, Malvern. &c. &c. August 1807, British Library Additional Manuscript 28267, ff. 13-35

 

1809

‘Grounds tastefully disposed. The most striking points : 1 from the alcove being one mentioned to be anticipated (well given in Hearne and Byrne); 2, 3 etc.’

[Thomas Hearne (1744-1817) was an English landscape painter, engraver and illustrator. In 1777, in conjunction with engraver William Byrne (1743–1805), Hearne began work recording and illustrating the country’s historic monuments for The Antiquities of Great Britain.]

Gray, Jonathan, ‘Tour to Bath by Manchester, Liverpool, Chester through part of north Wales … North Yorkshire Record Office, ZGY T/5, p. 14

1809

‘we then proceeded to the different views in the Piercefield grounds. We entered the grounds without a guide as it is impossible to mistake.’ {Lovers leap} ‘The walks are about 3 miles in extent but are chiefly shady wooded walks along a terrace very well managed. The place far excelled my expectations and was even more interesting than the voyage down the Wye.’

Gray, Jonathan, North Yorkshire Record Office, Letter J19, Chepstow 5.9.1809

 

1810  (seat of Nathaniel Wells)

Public admitted only on Tuesdays and Fridays so wrote to ask admittance on a Thursday and this was granted that afternoon.

Bruce, William Joseph, A Peregrination through part of the Counties of Somerset, Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire with a portion of South Wales and a tour round north Wales as performed in the Autumn of the Year 1810, to which is subjoined a brief History of the Principality of Wales … and a tour [of part of England] during the summer of 1809, NLW, mss. 19405 C, pp. 42, 46

1812

…at first we both professed ourselves disappointed…but our walk extended three miles through the wood which skirts the river and ascended gradually to a great height above it – sometimes we were embowered in its thick foliage but frequently were relieved by very judicious openings each of which seemed to exceed the former till those distinguished by the names Lovers Leap and the Giants cave we imagined we could arrive at no greater perfection nor did we as to the view these presented but at the last which is called the Double View we had the unexpected pleasure of surveying both sides, one presenting the pleasure grounds of Mr Wells, a warm confined view and the other the wild banks of the river rising perpendicular, now covered with the richest woods in all the varied tints of its autumnal dress and now disdaining a covering and presenting a bold projecting rock, almost enclosed by the sudden winding of the river and forming a striking contrast to the wildness of its opposite banks the little parish or farm of Lancaut attracted the eye by its fertility while a distant part of the rock was crowned with the fine view of the country ornamented by the town and spire of Thornbury. Nor must I omit to mention the majestic Windcliff which is situate near extremity of Piercefield wood and to which we next proceeded. Our view there was nearly similar in its principle features only that from its greater height it was more extensive and had the great advantage of shewing the very circuitous windings of the Wye and its fall into the channel. I felt the emotion so natural on viewing these enchanting scenes the wish for many to enjoy it with me knowing how impossible to impress my enjoyment in any other way – an emotion which frequently recurred…

Bletchley, Ann, Letter describing a trip from Swansea to Pontardulais, Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Record Service, SY 49, 9th October, 1812

 

1812

a very ??????? seat belonging to Mr Wells a enuo? muattoe [West Indian Creole] who purchased it together with a fine property of Col Wood for £90,000. It walks extended for two miles along the summit of the woody rocks which overhang the Wye. Grottos and summer houses are placed at the most favourable points commanding the superbest views imaginable.

Hammond, William Osmund, Journal of a Tour in Wales and Ireland, NLW MS 24023A, f. 43, 17th July 1812

 

25.8.1812

To Piercefield [via] Wyndcliff which we thought very fine, we met near the door and with an intelligent man for a guide walked round the garden. The extent is 3 miles {and no alternative paths to make the walk shorter} … no horse or donkey admitted though the road is very bad and stony.

Anon, ‘Journal in Wales etc, 1812’, Cornwall Record Office, Truro, CA/B50/12

 

1814

PIERCEFIELD is about a mile and a half from Chepstow. This is now classic ground, for it is associated with the memory of Miss Smith, whose extraordinary attainments and superior powers of intellect were only equalled by her extraordinary acquirements in every moral excellence, and her superior advancement in every Christian grace. These associations give an additional charm even to the beauties of Piercefield, notwithstanding art has vied with nature in giving every possible effect to its bewitching scenery.

Evans, John (1774-1828), The picture of Bristol; or a guide to objects of curiosity and interest, in Bristol, Clifton, the Hotwells, and their vicinity including biographical notices of Eminent Natives (Bristol : W. Sheppard Exchange 1814), pp. 139-140

The picture of Bristol; or a guide to objects of curiosity and interest in Bristol, Clifton, the Hotwells, and their vicinity … (2nd ed. Bristol : W. Sheppard, Exchange 1818)

Evans, John, Rev. Beauties of Clifton; or, the Clifton and Hotwell Guide: with a descriptive arrangement of Excursions in their Vicinities and an Appendix of their Geology, Botany, &c. &c. Illustrated with a map. By the Rev. John Evans, Author of the Ponderer, and of the History and Picture of Bristol. (2nd edition, [1822]), pp. 41-42

1814 (after)

‘Just before you reach [Chepstow] in approaching the bridge a beautiful house to the right … in the centre of a spacious domain … obscured by … surrounding trees’ [Piercefield] f. 3r

{walked back to Chepstow by moonlight}

By the politeness of Mr Wells, the proprietor of Piercefield (of which I said a few words at the beginning), we were allowed to walk in the grounds which surpass any in the neighbourhood. In the place there is certainly much to admire; but nothing to strike very forcibly; the walks are tedious, too steep and sombre to be quite pleasing.

Anon, Narrative of a Tour through Wales by an anonymous English Gentleman, NLW ms 18943, ff. 1, 3r

 

1815

Piercefield is really fine. There are two views, which are exhibited under every possible aspect. The first is a noble reach of the Wye, winding round a meadow, which forms one of its banks, while the other rises into abrupt rocks and masses of wood. This bank is sometimes 150 feet high at the least, while the other shelves in smooth green to the water’s edge. The rocks are very noble; and though the river, even at high water, is too small for its magnificent accompaniments, yet, upon the whole, I have seen nothing of the kind so fine in England. The other view from the grounds, is towards the Severn, which is here two miles broad, and therefore a splendid object, though the banks are remarkable only for their richness.

Brunton, Mary, ‘Emmeline With Some Other Pieces’ (1819). [including extracts from a journal of tours in 1812 (England) and 1815 (England and Wales), 14th August 1815

1815

There is in the neighbourhood an eminence called Wind-Cliff, which I had frequently heard of, and was anxious to visit. I found my way thither through a plantation of firs that crowns this summit; at the end of which a landscape of such transcendant beauty and magnificence opened before me, as cast a sort of shade on every former scene within my observation. I felt as if I had been conducted to the spot by the hand of some invisible agent, to contemplate the regions of enchantment or the gardens of Elysium! It embraces a thousand picturesque objects; yet, as a whole, it is not picturesque, but possesses something of a superior kind, that cannot be easily described. The man of taste would ever gaze upon it with rapture and astonishment; but he would never think for a moment of sketching its likeness on canvass: he knows that the labour would be in vain. The scene is of too variegated, too immense, and too resplendent a character, to receive any just delineation from either the pencil of the painter or the inspiration of the poet.

But might not the proprietor of this imperial domain have built a Temple on Wind-Cliff, consecrating it to the Genius of the place? He might have done so ; but in forbearing the attempt, he has done better. The precipice itself is a temple, which the ‘worshippers of Nature’ will always approach with ‘unsandel’d foot,’ considering the embellishments of Art as a profanation of her sacred grandeur!

Wind-Cliff, I believe, makes a part of the Piercefield estate, and is about two miles from Chepstow, in the road to Tintern-Abbey.

Remains of William Reed, Late of Thornbury; Including Rambles in Ireland, with other Compositions in prose, His Correspondence, and Poetical Productions. To which is prefixed, a Memoir of His Life; by the Rev John Evans, Author of The Ponderer.  (London, 1815), p. 113

1817

Drawings by the Rev John Skinner of Camerton, Somerset, (1772-1839)
‘no. 22 Piercefield House, from the gardens’
‘no. 23 Passage through the rocks in Piercefield Gardens’
John Skinner ms., Vol. XIV.  Journal of sixteen excursions to various places in Somerset, etc., British Library, Add MS 33646, ff. 159-160

1818

We then went to Windcliff in the grounds of Piercefield to see a fine view of the Wye terminating in the Severn.

Elwes, Susan, Norfolk Record Office, HMN 5/34, 31st August, 1818    

1818

The deleted passages are in second edition of 1822

PIERSFIELD.

The road to this celebrated spot, is that of the Turnpike to Monmouth. Near the remains of St. Kynmark’s Priory, not far from Piersfield Lodge, are foundations of an old Chapel, which stood at the west end of a field called Upper Dean.

If the Tourist goes to these ruins along the Shire Newton road, and through the fields at the

back of a house called the Mount, he will enjoy a highly gratifying view of Chepstow and its environs,—The entrance to Piersfield is, by a superb Lodge, through usual, but fine park scenery. From hence a winding road leads on the left to the Seat, on the right to the extremity of the Walks, under Chepstow, whence the lounge begins.

Piersfield was long the property of the family of Walters; and in 1736 was sold to Col. Morris, of the lsland of St. Vincent, father of VALENTINE MORRIS. In 1784 it was alienated to George Smith, Esq. of Burnhall, county Durham, and in 1794 to Sir Mark Wood, who completed the magnificent mansion, partly built by Mr. Smith. In 1803 it was sold to Nathaniel Wells, Esq. the present proprietor. [note:] Nicholson, 1062 [end of note]

Reed describes the house eloquently. It is characterised he says more by an elegant simplicity, than by princely magnificence. It is built with a light free stone. The library and dancing room constitute its two wings. The stair-case is ornamented with four pictures of most exquisite Tapestry, the production of a French Nunnery, and the other apartments are decorated with furniture, paintings, and statuary of the most costly and excellent kind, The style of the building is uncommonly fine, possessing considerable elevation and it is surrounded with extensive grounds, here rising into gentle swells, and there as gently sloping into vallies. [note:] Remains, p. 112 [end of note]

Piersfield, so far as depends upon art, was the creation of Valentine Morris, whom the author of this sketch, from having visited when a boy, knows to have been a man of very elegant manners. He derived Piersfield from his father, but engaging in the rash attempt of removing the Morgans of Tredegar from the representation of the county, and being otherwise expensive, he was obliged to retire from Piersfield. At his last departure, be divided money among the poor assembled in the church-yard, shook each by the hand, and was followed to the Passage, by a procession of carriages—The bells rung a muffled peal. He wept; and why he invited such a severe trial of his feelings at all, would not be easy to account for, in a man, who did not like himself, overvalue popularity. As governor of St. Vincent’s he got into scrapes, (the published accounts of which the author knows to be inaccurate; and does not correct, because they only prove common evils, into which men who are involved, plunge themselves,) and became a prisoner in the king’s bench, where he continued many years. In short he was very amiable, hospitable and charitable, with the common errors of a man of fashion.

The property has since passed through a Mr Smith, Sir Mark Wood, Bart, who rebuilt the house and — Wells, Esq., the present proprietor

Gilpin wrote in Mr. Morris’s time; and he commenced his walk at the Windcliff end, and Archdeacon Coxe at St. Arvan’s just by it.

Mr. Gilpin says, “Mr. Morris‘s improvements at Piersfield, which we soon approached, _ are generally thought as much worth a traveller’s notice as any thing on the banks of the Wye. We pushed on shore close under his rocks; and the tide being a: ebb, we landed with some difficulty on an oozy beach. One of our bargemen, who knew the place, served as a guide; and under his conduct we climbed the steep, (apparently Windcliff) by an easy, regular zig-zag.”

“The eminence on which we stood (one of those grand eminences which overlook the Wye) is an intermixture of rock and wood, and forms in this place, a concave semicircle, sweeping round in a segment of two miles. The river winds under it; and the scenery, of} course, is shewn in various directions. The river itself, indeed, as we just observed, is charged with the impurities of the soil it washes; and when it ebbs its verdant banks become slopes of mud: but if we except these disadvantages, the situation of Piersfield is noble.”

“ Little indeed was left for improvement, but to open walks and views through the woods to the various objects around them; to those chiefly of the eminence on which we stood. All this the ingenious proprietor hath done with great judgment; and hath shewn his rocks, his woods, and his precipices, under various forms, and to great advantage. Sometimes a broad face of rock is presented, stretching along a vast space, like the walls of a citadel. Sometimes it is broken by intervening trees. In other parts the rocks rise above the woods; a little farther they sink below them: sometimes they are seen through them ; and sometimes one series of rocks appears rising above another: and though many of these objects are repeatedly seen, yet seen from different stations, and with new accompaniments, they appear new. The winding of the precipice is the magical secret by which all these enchanting scenes are produced.”

“We cannot, however call these views picturesque—They are either presented from too high a point, or they have little to mark them as characteristic : or they do not fall into such composition as would appear to advantage on canvas. But they are extremely romantic, and give a loose to the most pleasing riot of imagination.”

“These views are chiefly shewn from different stands in a close walk carried along the brow of the precipice—It would be invidious perhaps to remark a degree of tediousness in this walk, and too much sameness in many of its parts, notwithstanding the general variety which enlivens them; but the intention probably is not yet complete; and many things are meant to be bid, which are now too profusely shewn.” [Note:] As it is many years since these remarks were made several alterations have probably7 since that time taken place. [end of note]

“Having seen every thing on this side of the hill, we found we had seen only half the beauties of Piersfield, and pursued a walk which led us over the ridge of the eminence to the opposite side. Here the ground depositing its wild appearance, assumes a more civilized form. It consists of a great variety of lawns, intermixed with wood and rocks; and, though it often rises and falls, yet it descends without any violence into the country beyond it.”

“The views on this side are not the romantic sleeps of the Wye; but though of another species, they are equally grand. They are chiefly distances consisting of the vast waters of the Severn; here an arm of the sea, bounded by a remote country ; of the mouth of the Wye entering the Severn ; and of the town of Chepstow, and its castle and abbey. Of all these distant objects an admirable use is made; and they are shewn, (as the rocks of the Wye were on the other side,) sometimes in parts, and sometimes all together. In one station we had the scenery of both sides of the hill at once.”

“It is a pity the ingenious embellisher of these scenes could not have been satisfied with the grand beauties of nature which he commanded. The Shrubberies he has introduced in this part of his improvements, I fear will rather be esteemed paltry. As the embellishments of a house, or as the ornament of little scenes which have nothing better to recommend them, a few flowering shrubs artfully composed may have their elegance and beauty: but in scenes like this, they are only splendid patches, which injure the grandeur and simplicity of the whole.”

Fortasse cupressum

Scis simulare quid hoc?

—Sit quidvis simplex dnntaxat et unum.

“It is not the shrub which offends; it is the formal introduction of it. Wild underwood may be an appendage of the grandest scene; it is a beautiful appendage. Abed of violets or lilies may enamel the ground with propriety at the root of an oak; but if you introduce them artificially in aborder, you introduce a trifling formality, and disgrace the, noble object you wish to adorn.” Thus Gilpin. …

By a continuation of the grand masses of precipice and hanging wood, you arrive at Chepstow. The Wye (says Higden) at Chepstow, on the south, separates Wales from England.

Fosbroke, T.D., The Wye Tour, or Gilpin on the Wye, with historical and archaeological additions, especially illustrations of Pope’s Man of Ross; and copious accounts of Ross, Goodrich Castle, Monmouth, etc. (1818), pp. 104-108

1819

{Didn’t seen Piercefield because it is open only on Tuesdays and Fridays, Windcliffe, views}

‘It is a very poetical idea to admire “Beauty in tears” but we would rather see this, or any other beauty beaming with the sunshine of good humour.’ [note] ‘We forget from which novel we took this pretty sentence.’ … ‘Valentine Morris, the beautifier of Piercefield …’

Sandys, William, (1792-1874), Sandys, Sampson, (1797-1880) (brothers) ‘Walk through South Wales in October, 1819’ NLW Cwrt Mawr MS393 C, pp. 7-9

 

1820

Piercefield is a superb villa, with a very extensive park; it … is now the property of Sir Nathaniel Wells, who allows the public the gratification of viewing and roaming about his park every Tuesday and Friday. The house itself is not shown, but it is said to contain nothing remarkable, excepting some Gobelin tapestry, which formerly belonged to Louis XVI. …
We enter the park through a side gate (visitors not being allowed to drive up to the great entrance gate). … The park seems to be neglected …
The grotto was full of gay ladies and gentlemen …
The Druid’s temple is not a successful imitation …
The house consists of three stories, but the third seems to have been built after the original erection, and gives a very clumsy appearance to the whole. A semi-circular portico of four columns adorns the entrance. Two temples, one on each side form the side wings, in a line with the main building, and gave it rather a heavy appearance, so that the building only appears agreeable when standing at the park gate, at a considerable distance from it.
Spiker, Samuel Heinrich, Dr (1786-1858),Travels through England, Wales, & Scotland, in the year 1816. : Translated from the German (London : 1820), Vol. 2, pp. 82-85

1821

the view from Wind Cliff I was assured, exhibits at once all that Piercefield grounds give in detail, and therefore I did not go over them.

Newell, Robert Hasell, Rev, (1778-1852), Letters on the Scenery of Wales; including a series of Subjects for the Pencil, with their Stations determined on a General Principle; and Instructions to Pedestrian Tourists, (London: 1821), letter 10

 1822

print, distant view of the House

Fielding, T. H., (1781-1851) and C. V., A picturesque description of the River Wye, from the source to its junction with the Severn. Illustrated by numerous coloured views. (London: published by the author, 1822), (1841 edition), no 10

1822

[Text in bold is in the first edition, 1818, underlined text is the passage quoted by several subsequent authors.]

PIERSFIELD.

The road to this celebrated spot, is that of the Turnpike to Monmouth. Near the remains of St. Kynmark’s Priory, not far from Piersfield Lodge, are foundations of an old Chapel, which stood at the west end of a field called Upper Dean.

If the Tourist goes to these ruins along the Shire Newton road, and through the fields at the back of a house called the Mount, he will enjoy a highly gratifying view of Chepstow and its environs,—The entrance to Piersfield is, by a superb Lodge, through usual, but fine park scenery. From hence a winding road leads on the left to the Seat, on the right to the extremity of the Walks, under Chepstow, whence the lounge begins.

Piersfield was long the property of the family of Walters; and in 1736 was sold to Col. Morris, of the lsland of St. Vincent, father of VALENTINE MORRIS. In 1784 it was alienated to George Smith, Esq. of Burnhall, county Durham, and in 1794 to Sir Mark Wood, who completed the magnificent mansion, partly built by Mr. Smith. In 1803 it was sold to Nathaniel Wells, Esq. the present proprietor. [note:] Nicholson, 1062 [end of note]

Reed describes the house eloquently. It is characterised he says more by an elegant simplicity, than by princely magnificence. It is built with a light free stone. The library and dancing room constitute its two wings. The stair-case is ornamented with four pictures of most exquisite Tapestry, the production of a French Nunnery, and the other apartments are decorated with furniture, paintings, and statuary of the most costly and excellent kind, The style of the building is uncommonly fine, possessing considerable elevation and it is surrounded with extensive grounds, here rising into gentle swells, and there as gently sloping into vallies. [note:] Remains, p. 112 [end of note]

Piersfield, so far as depends upon art, was the creation of Valentine Morris, whom the author of this sketch, from having visited when a boy, knows to have been a man of very elegant manners. Engaging in the rash attempt of removing the Morgans of Tredegar from the representation of the county, and being otherwise expensive, he was obliged to retire from Piersfield. At his last departure, be divided money among the poor assembled in the church-yard, shook each by the hand, and was followed to the Passage, by a procession of carriages—The bells rung a muffled peal. He wept; and why he invited such a severe trial of his feelings at all, would not be easy to account for, in a man, who did not like himself, overvalue popularity. As governor of St. Vincent’s he got into scrapes, (the published accounts of which the author knows to be inaccurate; and does not correct, because they only prove common evils, into which men who are involved, plunge themselves,) and became a prisoner in the king’s bench, where he continued many years. In short he was very amiable, hospitable and charitable, with the common errors of a man of fashion.

Gilpin wrote in Mr. Morris’s time; and he commenced his walk at the Windcliff end, and Archdeacon Coxe at St. Arvan’sjust by it.

Mr. Gilpin says, “Mr. Morris‘s improvements at Piersfield, which we soon approached, _ are generally thought as much worth a traveller’s notice as any thing on the banks of the Wye. We pushed on shore close under his rocks; and the tide being a: ebb, we landed with some difficulty on an oozy beach. One of our bargemen, who knew the place, served as a guide; and under his conduct we climbed the steep, (apparently Windcliff) by an easy, regular zig-zag.”

“The eminence on which we stood (one of those grand eminences which overlook the Wye) is an intermixture of rock and wood, and forms in this place, a concave semicircle, sweeping round in a segment of two miles. The river winds under it; and the scenery, of} course, is shewn in various directions. The river itself, indeed, as we just observed, is charged with the impurities of the soil it washes; and when it ebbs its verdant banks become slopes of mud: but if we except these disadvantages, the situation of Piersfield is noble.”

“Little indeed was left for improvement, but to open walks and views through the woods to the various objects around them; to those chiefly of the eminence on which we stood. All this the ingenious proprietor hath done with great judgment; and hath shewn his rocks, his woods, and his precipices, under various forms, and to great advantage. Sometimes a broad face of rock is presented, stretching along a vast space, like the walls of a citadel. Sometimes it is broken by intervening trees. In other parts the rocks rise above the woods; a little farther they sink below them: sometimes they are seen through them ; and sometimes one series of rocks appears rising above another: and though many of these objects are repeatedly seen, yet seen from different stations, and with new accompaniments, they appear new. The winding of the precipice is the magical secret by which all these enchanting scenes are produced.”

“We cannot, however call these views picturesque—They are either presented from too high a point, or they have little to mark them as characteristic : or they do not fall into such composition as would appear to advantage on canvas. But they are extremely romantic, and give a loose to the most pleasing riot of imagination.”

“ These views are chiefly shewn from different stands in a close walk carried along the brow of the precipice—It would be invidious perhaps to remark a degree of tediousness in this walk, and too much sameness in many of its parts, notwithstanding the general variety which enlivens them; but the intention probably is not yet complete; and many things are meant to be bid, which are now too profusely shewn.” [Note:] As it is many years since these remarks were made several alterations have probably7 since that time taken place. [end of note]

“Having seen every thing on this side of the hill, we found we had seen only half the beauties of Piersfield, and pursued a walk which led us over the ridge of the eminence to the opposite side. Here the ground depositing its wild appearance, assumes a more civilized form. It consists of a great variety of lawns, intermixed with wood and rocks; and, though it often rises and falls, yet it descends without any violence into the country beyond it.”

“The views on this side are not the romantic sleeps of the Wye; but though of another species, they are equally grand. They are chiefly distances consisting of the vast waters of the Severn; here an arm of the sea, bounded by a remote country ; of the mouth of the Wye entering the Severn ; and of the town of Chepstow, and its castle and abbey. Of all these distant objects an admirable use is made; and they are shewn, (as the rocks of the Wye were on the other side,) sometimes in parts, and sometimes all together. In one station we had the scenery of both sides of the hill at once.”

“It is a pity the ingenious embellisher of these scenes could not have been satisfied with the grand beauties of nature which he commanded. The Shrubberies he has introduced in this part of his improvements, I fear will rather be esteemed paltry. As the embellishments of a house, or as the ornament of little scenes which have nothing better to recommend them, a few flowering shrubs artfully composed may have their elegance and beauty: but in scenes like this, they are only splendid patches, which injure the grandeur and simplicity of the whole.”

Fortasse cupressum

Scis simulare quid hoc?

—Sit quidvis simplex dnntaxat et unum.

“It is not the shrub which offends; it is the formal introduction of it. Wild underwood may be an appendage of the grandest scene; it is a beautiful appendage. Abed of violets or lilies may enamel the ground with propriety at the root of an oak; but if you introduce them artificially in aborder, you introduce a trifling formality, and disgrace the, noble object you wish to adorn.” Thus Gilpin.

Archdeacon Coxe remarks: “that the walk is carried through a thick mantle of forests, with occasional openings, which seem not the result of art or design, but the effect of chance or nature. This bowery walk is consonant to the genius of Piersfield; the screen of wood prevents the uniformity of a bird’s eye view, and the imperceptible ‘bend of the amphitheatre conveys the spectator from one part of this fairy region to another, without discovering the gradations. Hence the Wye is sometimes concealed or half-obscured by overhanging foliage; at others, wholly expanding in view, is seen’ sweeping beneath a broad and circuitous channel; hence at one place, the Severn spreads in the midst of a boundless expanse of country, and on the opposite side of the Wye; at another, both rivers appear on the same side, and the Severn seems supported on the level summit of the Cliffs, which form the banks of the Wye. Hence the same objects present themselves in different aspects, and with varied accompaniments; hence the magic transition from the impervious gloom of the forest to open groves ; from meadows and lawns to rocks and precipices, and from the mild beauties of English Landscape, to the wilds ness of Alpine Scenery.”

The Author commenced his walk as usual, at the Chepstow end, and was guided successively to the various points of view, thus denominated.

First the ALCOVE—Second the PLATFORM

The objects seen from hence would be alone amply sufficient for any other spot: but here they operated injuriously, in the eye of the Author, byva bad anticipation. The Town and Castle are too near, for objects so large and bold, seen from an opposite level; not from below, or in bird‘s eye; but he begs not to be misunderstood. He only means, that here inferiority of view is injudiciously brought into notice, not that any thing is or can be bad at Piersfield.

Third The GROTTO.

Here a picture is presented in the happiest state of composition. In this charming view, a diversified plantation occupies the fore-ground, and descends through a grand hollow to the river, which passes in a long reach under the elevated ruins of Chepstow Castle, the Town, and Bridge, towards the Severn. Rocks and Precipices, dark shelving forests, groves, and lawns, hang on its course, and with a variety of sailing vessels, are reflected from the liquid mirror, with an effect, at which, says Barber, the magic pencil of Claude would faulter. The distant Severn and its remote shores form an excellent termination and complete the picture.‘ Fourth Above PIERS-WOOD.

Between here and the Grotto, says Barber, there is something which one would wish added or removed.

Fifth The DOUBLE VIEW.

This is the most admired, and is so called because on one side you have a fine prospect across the park on the land side into Monmouthshire, and on the other, over the Wye, Severn, and Gloucestershire. It is owing to a superior eminence of ground. The different scenes which have presented themselves in detail, here appear in one comprehensive range. The field of prospect is much more extensive and beautifully picturesque. The mazy Wye, with all its interesting accompaniments, passes from beneath us, through a richly variegated country, to its junction with the Severn, beyond which silvery expanse, the grand swelling shores of Somersetshire form the distance. A curious deceptio visas occurs here. It proceeds from a coincidence in the angle of vision, between the opposite rocks, and a part of the Severn, which appears to wash their summit, althouglzit is many miles distant.

Sixth The HALF-WAY SEAT, under a large Beech Tree.

Seventh The GIANT’S CAVE,

ls a passage cut through a rock. Over one of the entrances is a mutilated colossal figure, which once sustained the fragment of a rock in his uplifted arms, threatning to overwhelm him who dared to enter his retreat; but some time since, the stone fell, carrying the giant’s arms along with it; and it would have been as well if it had taken off the rest of the figure. To place it there at all was mauvais gout, mere concetto, a tiny idea unworthy Piersfield, and exactly the converse of the excellent taste, which has preserved unclipped the aged laurel of wondrously grand effect. From the Giant’s Cave a path traced under the wood, descends to the Bath, a commodious building, concealed from outward view by impending foliage.

Eighth a Seat near two Beeches, on the edge of the Precipice.

Ninth The LOVER’S LEAP,

So named from the Leucadian promontory, whence despairing lovers, and among them Sappho, precipitated themselves. It is the edge of a perpendicular cliff, overlooking a tremendous abyss, clothed with underwood, which at the bottom looks as fine no spider‘s web, and is enveloped in mist. [note:] Early this year (1822) owing to the previous rainy season, about three acres of that part of the Martridge Wood, which lies between the Lover‘s Leap and the Cold Both, have slidden down towards the river, carrying with them some fir trees, the underwood, and some rocks. Gents, Magazine, March 1822. p. 267. [end of note]

A taste for scenery is of the first moment, as to the civilization, wealth, and glory of any country; and every respect is due to Morris the author, and the succeeding liberal proprietors of Piersfield, who gratify the public with a view of its exquisite natural glories ; but nothing human is without imperfection. It is no fault of any one, because the ground is extensive, that the walk is too long, and should have been a ride; and also that it should perhaps have commenced at the Grotto, and without dispute, have terminated at Windcliff, decorated in the manner hereafter mentioned. Perhaps also the views are too numerous, and thus forestall each other, to little purpose, merely for the sake of rocks opposite, which are stiff and marine, formal and bare; and for the range over Luncaut, in itself only a common-place farm. The Author in his peregrination was not strongly impressed at any seats, but those of the Grotto, and Double View, neither of which are anticipated. Piersfield is a grand sublime whole ; but included in one coup d’oeil, through the elevation of the spectator, and there is little or no variety of scene in succession on the opposite bank, which almost wholly consists of similar rocks, whose identity is not broken by woody, or other interventions; and after all, as to the chief view, no spot can possibly equal Windcliff. Let those Tourists therefore, who are bad trampers, content themselves, with the Grotto, and Double View, but a short walk from each other. To Windcliff, they can ride.

WINDCLIFF.

What a Cathedral is among Churches, Windcliff is among Prospects: and if, like Snowdon, it ought to be visited at sun-rise, or be seen through a sun-rise glass [note:] The Author uses and recommends a well-known small yellow pocket glass, called a Claude, which gives a sun-rise view at full-day, without the obscuration of. the morning mist. [end of note] should not the sentiments felt from the view, be similar to those of the following grand apostrophe: for what is admiration of scenery without homage to the Omnipotent, but the cold approbation of the Mechanic, who thinks professionally, and is void of sentiment?

Upon Windcliff the scene described may be enjoyed in high perfection. “The morning sun rose bright and clear from the distant ocean. A gorgeous crimson glowed on the eastern sky, deepening towards the horizon, and blending its gradually pale hue with the light azure of the midheaven. Spiry points of deep red studded the undulating clouds, scintillating like Meteors aptly picturing the first flashes of fiery light, which flamed at the command of the most High, from the gloomy bosom of Chaos. All nature blushed in that orient light. It imbibed the hue descending from the Heaven of Heavens. The water sparkled, as it received the first kiss of the rosy morn: it was the eye of a lover kindling beneath the glance of his beloved. The trees waved in the early breeze; it was the salutation of a friend greeting with kindly welcome the return of some dear one. Awakened to the conviction and the enjoyment of a new existence, the whole pulse of animated creation, throbbed rapturously. It was the preeminent sensation of invigorated intellect. It was the winning of another day from death. Reclining on the summit of an eminence, he felt how multitudinous was the society of that unpeopled solitude. He enjoyed the communion which he held with the universe. He loved to cope with nature; to hold intercourse with the ancient mother of an infinitely numerous offspring; to collect from her more truths, than tradition ever treasured, than record ever presented to the view of man. He marked the gradual progress of light ; and he recalled the education which had been bestowed on the human race, a preparation for their reception of the revelation of the divine will; Every thing breathed instruction ; the world teemed with evidences of the truth of God. If ever eternity and infinitnde were within the grasp of the comprehension of man, it was in such a scene. [note:] The Priest [an excellent Novel], I, p. 186 seq. [end of note]

Similar scenes are described with equal felicity by Lord Byron, but there is such a mixture of Devil and Angel in his sentiments, that a feeling of pain accompanies the perusal. The heart is conscious, that such cannot be the homage due to the Creator.

Windcliff is the last grand scene of the Piersfield sublime Drama, and should have been included in the grounds. If an opinion must be given concerning the hack question, “which is the grandest scene on the Wye” the answer must be, “the Prospect from Windcliff.” It is not only magnificent, but it is so novel, that it excites an involuntary start of astonishment, and so sublime that it elevates the mind into instantaneous rapture. Its parts consist in a most uncommon combination of wood, rock, water, sky, and plain; of height, and abyss, of rough and smooth, of recess and projection, of fine landscape anear, and exquisite perspective afar, all melting into each other, and grouping in such capricious lines, that although it may find a counterpart in the tropical climes, it is, as to England, probably unique. It is unlikely that the mouths of two rivers should be so adjacent or so arranged as to form a similar scene, though a thousand views of sea, vale, and rock, may be of corresponding character, with only slight differences of surface. But the ground here is singular; and the features not being English, the physiognomy is of course, such as cannot be expected elsewhere. It also improves both upon our natural and foreign landscape; upon the former, because our scenery is not so fine as the foreign, which Windcliff resembles: upon the latter, because according to the observation of Humboldt, it has not that, “something strange and sad, which accompanies aspects of animated nature, in which man is nothing.” The spectator stands upon the edge of a precipice, the depth of which is most awful, and the river winds at his feet. The right side-screen is Piersfield ridge, richly wooded ; the left, is a belt of rocks, over which appear the Severn, and the fine shores between Thornbury and Bristol, rising behind each other in admirable swells, which unite in most graceful curves. The first foreground is to the eye, a view from the clouds upon earth, and the rich contrast of green meadows to wild forest scenery; the farm of Lancaut, clasped in the arms of the winding river, backed by hanging wood and rock. Thus there is a bay of verdure, walled in by nature’s colossal fences, wood, hill, and rock. The further horn of the crescent, tapers oil into a craggy informal mole, over which the eye passes to the second Bay. This terminates in Chepstow Castle, the town, and rocks beyond, all mellowed down, by distance into that fine hazy indistinctness, which makes even deformities combine in harmony with the picture. In the middle distance, the widening sea spreads itself, and from it the shores of Somerset and Monmouth shires steal away into the horizon. Lastly, all this union of large and bold objects, from being comprized within a circumference of a very few miles, unites the Landscape and the Prospect, together with the Forest and the Park character of unimpeded expanse, for the enclosures are few in any part, and by distance are almost diminished into imperceptible streaks. Thus the reproach of mappishness, does not attach to this exalted exhibition of the divine taste.

“There is, says Reed, an eminence called WINDCLIFF, which I had frequently heard of, and was very anxious to visit. I found my way thither through a plantation of firs, that crowns the summit, at the end of which a landscape of such transcendant beauty and magnificence opened before me, as cast a sort of shade on every former scene within my observation. I felt as if I had been conducted to the spot by the hand of some invisible agent, to contemplate the regions of enchantment, or the garden of Elysium! It embraces a thousand picturesque objects; yet as a whole it is not picturesque, but possesses something of a superior kind, that cannot be easily described. The man of taste would even gaze upon it with rapture and astonishment; but he would never think for a moment of sketching its likeness on canvas; he knows that his labours would be in vain. The scene is of too variegated, too immense, and too resplendent a character, to receive any just delineation from either the pencil of the painter, or the inspiration of the poet.”

But might not the proprietor of this imperial

domain have built a Temple on Windcliff, consecrating it to the Genius of the place? He might have done so, but in forbearing the attempt he has done better. The precipice itself is a temple, which the “worshippers of nature” will always approach with “unsandaled foot” considering the embellishments of Art, as a profanation of her sacred grandeur.

Other writers, upon reaching Windcliff, clap their wings and crow away in similar exultation.

That Windcliff is degraded by being a mere nursery of paltry firs, which the power of the wind at such an elevation will spoil, and would gain nothing by a summer-house baby temple, is manifest. But a few high and massy Doric Columns with Architraves, however rude, would have the grand effect of the ruins of the Temple of Minerva upon the Sunian Promontory ; and as the pillars would not require fluting, and materials are adjacent, the expence might be moderate. A portion of the Visitor’s contributions for seeing the grounds, might soon repay the cost, with a permanent rent afterwards. The mimick ruin might be set off by partial immersion in mood, and roomy niches might be hollowed out in the rock, at points of view, and be properly railed round, to prevent danger. The finest of these might contain a tablet, inscribed in the simple taste of the Greek Epitaph.

VALENTINE MORRIS,
Introduced these sublime Scenes
TO PUBLIC NOTICE-
TQ HIM BE HONOUR, TO GQD PRAISE.

Fosbroke, T.D., The Wye Tour, or Gilpin on the Wye, with historical and archaeological additions, especially illustrations of Pope’s Man of Ross; and copious accounts of Ross, Goorich Castle, Monmouth, etc. (New Edition, much enlarged, 1822), pp. 71-88

 1824

After dinner tried to set off with a friendly horse to Piercefield but the horse could not be persuaded to take us, so we harnessed (?) him and took another. Tuesday and Friday are the days for seeing the grounds. It is a long walk of more than three miles but as it a thing one has heard of from one’s cradle, one would not like to miss it and the views are really extremely fine, but it is very fatiguing up and down hill the whole way and not diversity enough to make one forget one’s fatigue. Our carriage met us at the gate and we rode about a mile to the Windcliff where we instantly forgot all fatigues in the magnificence of the view.

Martineau, Margaret, Hampshire Record Office 83M93/21, p. 52, July 27th 1824

 

1824

We afterwards drove in the car towards Piercefield – being Sunday visitors are not admitted – passed Mr Wells on horseback at least guessed it was the aforesaid personage & drove to Chepstow again {pages of quotations from her Willett’s guide}

We could not wait till to morrow to see Piercefield, & contenting ourselves with a distant view of it, left Chepstow

Porter, Martha, Worcestershire Record Office, BA 3940 Parcel 64 (ii) 705: 262, 21st-22nd August 1824

 

1824

The Ban y Gor Crags to the left & Windcliffe to the right next present themselves from the top of the latter nine counties may be seen on a fine day & here the river takes a most beautiful sweep nearly in the form of a circle – till we turned into Piercefield Bay. The Walks of Piercefield begin at Windcliff.

Porter, Anne, Journal of a tour down the Wye & through South Wales, Worcestershire Record Office, BA 3940 Parcel 65 (ii) 705: 262, 21st August, 1824

1824 [same as Picture of Bristol, 1814, but with the additional note]

PIERCEFIELD is about a mile and a half from Chepstow. This is now classic ground, for it is associated with the memory of Miss Smith, whose extraordinary attainments and superior powers of intellect were only equalled by her extraordinary acquirements in every moral excellence, and her superior advancement in every Christian grace. These associations give an additional charm even to the beauties of Piercefield, notwithstanding art has vied with nature in giving every possible effect to its bewitching scenery.

[note:] This charming as well as wonderful young woman, who was at once capable of whatever is deep and whatever is elegant, is recognised amongst scholars with the most candid acknowledgment of her powers. Frequently, when my youngest brother has sought for me all the information that the great Hebraists can afford me, he will make Elizabeth Smith’s translation of Job his last reference, and admit her opinion to turn the scale. On his advice I forbore learning Hebrew, as being a language so liable to mistake. Memoirs, &c. of Miss Hawkins, vol. 11. p. 162. [end of note:]

Companion for the Steam-Packet in Excursions to Chepstow, Newport, Swansea, Iffracombe, Tenby, and their Vicinities, by the Rev. John Evans, author of the History and Picture of Bristol (Bristol, 1824), p. 30

1825

Deleted passages are in the 1830 edition [below]; text in bold is in the 1825 edition but not in the later edition.

Excursion to Piercefield, Windcliff, and Tintern Abbey by the New Road to Monmouth. UPON landing from the Steam Packet, should the Visitors’ time be short, and they wish to return to Bristol the same evening, Conveyances to the above places may be immediately secured at the Packet Slip, several persons being-in; attendance with their vehicles for that purpose. Or, if they intend going to Tintern by water, apply at the Lord Nelson, where Boats can be obtained. While. the necessary preparations are made, the Castle, &c. can be inspected.
If the party intend to, remain a few days in the neighbourhood, and prefer a pedestrian tour, they will that case pass through the Town Gate, and turn short on the right into the Monmouth road, which is now rendered less steep than formerly, whereby it affords either a pleasant drive or walk. Alter proceeding about 100 yards, on turning out of the road to the left, behind Huntfield House, the Stranger will be highly gratified ins most delightful view of a part of Piercefield Park, the House, and an extensive Lawn; with the winding of the Wye, part of the Ruins of the Castle, and a good view of the Severn. To the right of the road (opposite to the above house) is a good situation for the exercise of the artist’s talents – the subject would be Piercefield Lawn, through the detached parts of the ruinous Castle, the thick woods overhanging the river, with the stupendous rocks on the opposite bank. The foreground is admirably suited to give a finish to such an enchanting scene as may here be depicted.

Returning to the road, we now pass on through Crossway Green Turnpike, and proceed until the company arrive at Piercefield Lodge. [It is necessary to mention here that the Walks of Piercefield are open for public inspection on Tuesdays and Fridays only, from morning till evening, by permission of the Proprietor.]

As neither carriages nor horses are suffered to pass the gates, the party (if travelling in a Carriage) should enquire of the gatekeeper if any one be in attendance to open the door at the other end of the grounds? If not, a person should be engaged for that purpose; otherwise the company must return through the same gates which would render the excursion less pleasant. By sending the carriage round to the Fishpond through St. Arvans, and previously securing egress from the Park, the walk would not exceed three miles: but if the party be compelled to retrace their stops, the distance would be extended to full eight miles ’ere they could join their carriage.

Having said thus much by way of precaution, we shall now proceed to give a full description  of the beautiful regions of Piercefield (the counterpart of the Leasowes). Upon entering this delightful place, a pleasant path leads to a second gate, where a person usually waits to conduct visitors over the walks. The ground here begins to take an easy fall into the vale, and soon leads into a neat path, its left side fringed with wood, apparently to screen the neighbouring objects from a premature obtrusion: in the course of a short distance, this brings us to the first, point of view, designated
THE ALCOVE.
Hence you look perpendicularly on the river Wye, with a cultivated slope on the other side.  To the right is a prodigious steep shore of wood winding to the Castle, advanced to the very edge of a perpendicular rock, and so immediately rivetted into it, that from the top of the battlements down to the river seems but one precipice; the same ivy which over-spreads the one twines and clusters among the fragments of the other. The Castle, indeed, is so near to the Alcove, that little circumstances may be discerned in it. On the left is seen a fine bend of the river for some distance: the opposite shore of wild wood, the rock appearing at intervals in rising cliffs: and further on, to the termination of the view that way, the vast walls of rock at Lancaut, which are here seen at length, have a stupendous effect. The littleness of human art is placed in a most humiliating point of view. The Castle, though a noble fortress, is, compared with these natural bulwarks, a mere house of cards. The spectator, delighted with the grandeur of the varied scenes of hill and dale, wood, rock, and water, combined with the glorious canopy on high, will be moved to exclaim with the poet, – “These are thy works, Parent of Good! Almighty!” This is equal to any view in Piercefield.
To this glare of beauty succeeds a walk secluded from every object—formed, as it were, to compose the mind after having indulged in such enjoyment; which brings us to
THE FIRST SEAT.
A large break opens a various view of the distant country; and not far from it another, which is worthy of remark. You look down upon a fine bend of the river winding to the Castle which here wears a very romantic appearance: the opposite bank is a swelling hill with cultivated inclosures, having a cheerful and lively effect. A short distance further, through the same scenery, conducts us, to
THE SECOND SEAT.
Which is thickly shaded with trees, in a dark sequestered spot, from which you look aside through the opening to a landscape that seems formed by the happiest hand of design; it is really nothing but catching a view of accidental objects: the town and castle of Chepstow appear from one part, rising from romantic steeps of wood, in the most beautiful style — a small remove discovers the church steeple, so dropt in the precise point of taste, that one can scarcely believe it real, and not an eye-trap.
A bold point of rock, fronted with iron railing, soon follows, which opens to a hollow of wood, hounded one way by natures wall. and letting in a view of the town the other way, in an exquisite taste: nor should the visitor overlook a range of beech and lime trees on the left of the walk, the stems of which shoot from the rock in a most astonishing manner. Again we enjoy the pleasing and recluse scenery, so desirable in the season when these Walks hold forth their greatest charms. Ascending the hill, we reach
THE THIRD SEAT
Placed under the protection of a fine beech tree, whence the view commands the castle and town of Chepstow—the streams of Severn and Wye, Blaize Castle and Dundry Tower in the distance—the horizon beautifully terminated by the hills of Gloucestershire and those of Somerset. Pursuing the ascent, we come in view of PIERCEFIELD HOUSE. Here the ground falls on the left side, in a fine style, into the vale, and rising again in the same taste, presents to great advantage this elegant and highly finished Mansion, which is constructed of freestone, and stands nearly in the middle of the park. It consists of a centre and two wings, the former having three stories, and the latter one. A light portico in the centre of the building leads into a saloon, the floor of which is laid with black and white marble, rendering it extremely agreeable in the summer season. This room is divided by mahogany sliding doors, inlaid with looking glass, from the reflection of which, when united, the whole of the company present can discern every object within view of the house, with vessels floating on the Severn to their respective ports.

The Breakfast and Dining Parlours principal rooms display great elegance in the articles of furniture and decorative ornaments; while the walls are enriched with fine designs in relievo painting. In the billiard-room are similar subjects, and even the chimney-pieces exhibit various efforts of the painters talents. The wings respectively lead through green-houses to the Library and Music-room. The floors of the rooms are laid with Dutch oak, and the colour of the boards preserved with a liquid, after the manner of that people.

Among the specimens of art that embellish this mansion are four excellent pieces of tapestry from the Gobelin Manufactory at Paris, which formerly belonged to Louis XVI: they exhibit the natural history of Africa, and represent various productions, vegetable and animal, grouped with admirable skill, and uniting correctness of design with richness and colouring.
But to return to the Walks :—The path re-assumes its refreshing coolness, formed by the intertwining branches of laurel mixed with other shrubs, whicl form a pleasing introduction to
THE GROTTO
A point of view exquisitely beautiful. It is a small cave in the rock, stuck with stones of various kinds, copper and iron cinders, &c. You look from the seat in it immediately down a steep slope on to the hollow of a wood, bounded in the front by the craggy rocks which seem to part you from the Severn in breaks; beyond which is seen a large part of Gloucestershire, the town of Thornbury, Oldbury church, and the horizon bounded by the hills around Old Sodbury: forming a one of the most lovely landscapes in nature. as beautiful as any in the world.
Leaving this retirement, a cheerful scene soon presents itself. Through some natural breaks and openings we obtain views of Lancaut farms and houses, distant hills, and the Forest of Dean: in passing on, the commencement of those picturesque rocks called the Twelve Apostles; a fine woody bank in which appears the Giants Cave; the whole terminated by a rich and well cultivated country. We next arrive at what is called
THE DOUBLE VIEW:
A scene that cannot be described here with proper effect—it must be seen—the eye of imagination is not keen enough to take in this point, which the united talents of a Claude and Poussin would scarcely be able to sketch. Full to the left, beneath, the valley lies in all its beauty, surrounded by the rocky woods, which might be called “a coarse selvage of canvas around a fine piece of lawn.” In the front, a prodigious wall of formidable rocks rises from the hollow of the river; and immediately above them, in breaks, winds the Severn, as if only parted from you by these barriers, in so peculiar a manner as if it washed them. The spectator naturally supposes the rocks only separate him from the Severn; whereas, in fact, that river is four or five miles distant: this deceptio visus is eminently beautiful. On the right stand the town of Chepstow and Castle, amidst a border of wood, with the Severn above; and over the whole, as far as the eye can command, an immense prospect of distant country, in which Dundry Tower is a striking object; the horizon bounded by a grand range of the Gloucester, Somerset, and Devon hills. Such varied beauty uniting in the same scene is probably unique in this kingdom. The imagination must be left to give the colours to this mere outline, which is all that can be attempted. Hours might on this spot be passed with pleasure.
Pursuing the umbrageous path, we arrive at a little sequestered spot, shaded by a
BEECH TREE
Affording a beautiful landscape: it is situated in the vast rock which forms the shore of the river Wye, through these grounds. The rock, which is totally covered with a shrubby underwood, is almost perpendicular from the water to the rail that incloses the point of view. One of the sweetest vallies in nature lies underneath, but at such a depth that every object appears in miniature. This valley comprises a complete farm of about 40 inclosures, grass and corn fields intersected by hedges, with many trees: it is a peninsula, almost surrounded by the river Wye, which winds directly beneath in a manner truly romantic; and what renders the picture more perfect is, its being entirely surrounded by a vast rocks and precipices, covered thickly with wood down to the waters edge. The whole is an amphitheatre, which seems to have dropt from the clouds, complete in all its beauty.

As we pass along, rural pictures present themselves, formed by Lancaut Farm, with the Windcliff, and distant scenery: further on we arrive at a spot called the Druids’ Temple, so named from its analogy to their places of worship.

From a seat beyond, the Windcliff again shows its front; and, at another seat near it, the scene claims more attention. The Wye makes a fine curve, and shews, on the right, the fine range of rocks called the Twelve Apostles, the left shore formed by the fields of Laneaut, with its stupendous cliffs; and the eye, being carried on to distant objects, meets the hilly terminations of Gloucestershire,—the whole richly picturesque.
Neither the mind nor the eye are now suffered long to repose. Progressively advancing, we arrive at an opening called
THE PLEASANT VIEW;
Which, equally with the preceding, arrests the attention, A most beautiful amphitheatre of woody and rocky hill encircles the foreground—underneath flows the Wye—Lancaut lies beyond—on the left rises the Windcliff—on the right the enormous rocks—and, carrying the eye through the fine break to the centre of the view, the Gloucestershire hills give an admirable finish to the scene.
Immediately after, another opening is made at a point of rock (the first of the Apostles) that looks directly down on the river, and the beautiful peninsula: nor should the Stranger pass on without observing .a remarkable phenomenon a large oak, venerable for its age, growing out of a cleft in the rock, without the least appearance of earth. Such a circumstance, however incredible, is not singular on the borders of these walks.
After another view of the Apostles Rocks and Lancaut, varied by the windings of the river, we reach
THE GIANTS CAVE;
A romantic cavern, extending twelve yards, hewn out of the solid rock. But its attractions are of secondary moment when compared with the View presented before its entrance. The bold point of rock upon which we stand rises perpendicular from the edge of the river, making another of its fine sweeps, and showing to great advantage, on the right, the whole range of rocks before spoken of; its left screen rising in grandeur, by presenting the corresponding Windcliff, the Lancaut Cliffs and Peninsula still maintaining the dignity of the scene; while the opening before noticed presents the happy termination of the Gloucestershire hills.
This Cave will give some idea of the taste of Mr. Valentine Morris: not a mark of a tool is visible—all is perfectly natural. The archway is made winding, so that on the approach it appears to be the mouth of a cave, and on a nearer view the idea is strengthened by the allowable deception of a black dark hole on the side next the cliff, which seen from the entrance, before the perforation is discovered, seems to :be the  darksome inlet to the body of the cave.
To awe the passing traveller, in a cavity at the top of the rock is placed an Herculean figure, which once sustained the fragment of a rock in its uplifted arms, threatening to overwhelm whoever dared to enter the  retreat; but the weather has sometime since caused the stone to fall, carrying the giants arms along with it: so that it now remains a mutilated statue.
Mr. Fosbrooke [sic] has pronounces this to be unworthy of Piercefield, and seems to think that no great injury would have been sustained if the elements had dislodged the giant entirely from his throne. The front and sides of the cave are clothed with ivy, which gives it a still more picturesque appearance; and on its summit is an ancient yew tree that grows out of the rock in the same surprising manner as the oak before mentioned. The safety of looking from this charming spot is secured by its being fronted with a wall. When Mr. Morris resided at Piercefield, some swivel guns were placed here, which, when discharged, produced a surprising echo from the rocks.
Passing through a cave, a winding walk on the right, cool, sequestered, and agreeable, leads to
THE COLD BATH.
This building (12 yards long by 7 wide) is neat and well contrived, and the spring that supplies it is plentiful and transparent. The walk from the Cold Bath is dark, and rather gloomy: breaks and objects are very scarce in it. It has been suggested, that a cascade introduced on the left towards the valley, where there is a prodigious hollow filled with a thick wood, would have a good effect, there being no such object throughout the Walks.
Returning by the same path to the extremity of the Cave, we again follow the course of the Walk, which brings us to an elevated Seat under a Rock, commanding a varied view of the opposite shore, bounded by the county of Gloucester; and soon after we reach
THE HILL,
Being the seventh View from the Walks. The foreground from the Wye presents a bold surface of Wood, which spreads from Lancaut Cliffs to the Grotto: while beyond it the Severn increases the beauty of the scene: in the distance is a rich part of the latter river’s district, for a sweep of 50 miles, interspersed with towns, churches, gentlemen’s seats, and other objects—forming, altogether, a rich and enlivening picture.
The path has thus far rose and fell with the irregularity of the shore of the Wye; but here it becomes more even, and leads to the
LOVERS LEAP,
So called from the Leucadian Promontory, whence despairing lovers (and among them Sappho) precipitated themselves. It is the edge of a perpendicular cliff, overlooking a tremendous abyss, clothed with underwood, which at the bottom looks as fine as a spider’s web, and is usually enveloped in mist. This spot is inclosed with iron railing, and you look instantaneously down one hundred and eighty feet!—a tremendous and sublime picture.
From this spot, which seems to be pushed forward from the rock by the hold hands of the Genius of Piercefield, you proceed to where formerly stood
THE TEMPLE,
Which is the highest part of these grounds. No imagination can be formed of the beauties disclosed from this amazing point of view. You look down upon all the woody precipices as if in another region, terminated by a wall of rocks. Just above them appears the Severn, as the beholder supposes, washing their sides – a deception of the sight which is truly exquisite; for, viewing first the river beneath, then the vast rocks rising in a shore of precipices, and immediately above them the noble river, as if part of the little world immediately before you, and, lastly, all the boundless prospect over Gloucestershire and Somersetshire,—they are, when taken together, such a scene of beauty as cannot be exceeded: and contain more romantic variety, with such an apparent junction of separate parts, than is to be met with in, the kingdom. The view to the right over the Park, and the winding valley at the bottom of it, would, from any spot but this, be thought remarkably fine.
High, above competition, at the N. extremity of the scene, rises the Windcliff: a dark wood fringes its lofty summit, and shelves down its sides to the river Wye, which urges its sinuous course at the bottom of the glen. In one place the river, gently curving, appears in all the health of its channel; in another, projecting rocks and intervening foliage conceal its course, or sparingly exhibit its darkened surface. Following the bend of the river on its marginal height, a range of perpendicular cliffs (the Banagor Rocks) appear, above the wooded hills which prevail through the scenery—of so regular a figure that one can hardly help supposing it the fortification of a town, with curtains, bastions, and demi-bastions. But a very leading picture is the peninsula of Lancaut: the hills of Piercefield here receding into a semi-circular bend, watered by the river immediately beneath, are opposed by a similar concavitv in the Banagor rocks, – the whole forming a noble amphitheatre of lofty woods, and precipices. From the opposite side descends a fertile expanses or tongue of land, filling up the area of the circle. This singular valley is laid out in a compact ornamented farm ; the richly verdant meadows are intersected by fine hedgerows, while numerous trees diversify the tract, and  embower the farm-house. A row of elms shadows the margin of the river, which, skirting the base of the hills, nearly surround the valley. These subjects disclose themselves in different combinations through intervals in the shrubbery, which incloses the walk;  and these, although selected from the nicest observations, are managed with such just attention to the simplicity of nature, as to appear the work of her plastic hand.

Having given a faint description of this noble and commanding situation of Piercefield, we shall conclude our remarks in the language of Mr. Coxe:- “This bowery walk is consonant to the Genius of Piercefield: the screen of wood prevents the uniformity of a birds eye view, and the imperceptible bend of the amphitheatre conveys the spectator from one part of this fairy region to another without discovering the gradations. Hence, the Wye is sometimes  concealed, or half obscured by overhanging foliage – at another time, wholly expanding to view, it is seen sweeping beneath a broad and circuitous channel: hence, at one place the Severn spreads in the midst of a boundless expanse of country, and at the opposite shore of the Wye—at another, both rivers appear on the same side, and the Severn seems supported on the level summit of the cliffs which form the banks of the Wye. Hence, the same objects present themselves in different aspects, and with varied accompaniments: hence, the magic transition from the impervious gloom of the forest to open groves – from meadows and lawns to rocks and precipices—and from the mild beauties of English landscape to the  wildness of Alpine scenery.”

Mr. Gilpin, also, adds his testimony to the taste displayed by Valentine Morris in opening walks and views through the woods to the various objects around them :- “All this the ingenious Proprietor hath done with great judgment; and hath shewn his rocks, his woods, his precipices, under various forms, and to great advantage. Sometimes a broad face of rock is presented, stretching along a vast space like the Walls of a citadel: sometimes it is broken by intervening trees: in other parts, the rocks rise above the woods— a little further they sink below them—sometimes they are seen through them—and sometimes one series of  rocks appears rising above another: and though many of these objects are repeatedly seen, yet seen from different stations, and with fresh accompaniments, they appear new. The Winding of the precipice is the magical secret by which all these enchanting scenes are produced.”

The Public are greatly indebted to the present Proprietor of these lovely domains, for his liberality ; in permitting freedom of access twice in every week. Visitors should, therefore, make their arrangements for the excursion on Tuesdays and Fridays: and if possible, take their views at high water, whereby they will experience a greater degree of gratification.
ANECDOTES Relating to VALENTINE MORRIS, ESQ,
PIERCEFIELD was long the property of the family of Walters: in 1736 it was sold to Colonel Morris, of the Island of St. Vincent, father of Valentine Morris – in 1784, it was alienated to George Smith, Esq. of Burnhall, in the county of Durham [note:] The celebrated Charlotte [sic – Elizabeth] Smith [1776–1806], authoress of many novels, sonnets, &c. was once a resident here—a delightful spot for the exercise of the powers of description evinced in her works. [end of note] – in 1794, to Colonel Wood, formerly Chief Engineer at Bengal, who completed the present tasteful mansion, partly built by Mr. Smith – and, in 1803, it was disposed of to Nathaniel Wells, Esq. the present proprietor.

The charms of this luxurious spot, if not created, were disclosed about the year 1753 by Valentine Morris, who engrafted the blandishments of art upon the majestic wildness of nature, without distorting its original character. This gentleman, by the exercise of the most munificent liberality, the most unbounded hospitality, by making his mansion the refuge of the poor and distressed, and by keeping an open and amply furnished table, was greatly reduced in his  finances: and, alas! obliged to part with this paradise, and seek an asylum from the ingratitude of mankind, from the cruel malignancy of his creditors, in the West Indies. [note:] From the above account (copied from the “Gentleman’s Magazine” of that period) the reader may suppose that this amiable man had wasted his property in ostentatious display and ill judged beneficence – but no – Valentine Morris might have long lived the ornament of Piercefield, and a bright example for the gentry around him, had he not unfortunately engaged in a ruinous contest for the representation of the County of Monmouth in Parliament This was the fatal rock on which his fortunes were wrecked, and terminated his earthly happiness. Many estimable public characters have, like him, been totally ruined, from the same cause – the prevalence of party spirit. [end of note]

Before he left this country he paid his last visit, and gave a sad farewell to the enchanting groves of Piercefield, the delectable scenery of which had been delineated by his creative genius. He beheld the sublime landscape vanish from his view, but sustained the shock with that magnanimity so characteristic of Valentine Morris.

Far different were the emotions of the neighbouring poor – those children of misfortune, penury, and distress, who had been fed by his bounty, and clothed by his benevolence. They sorrowfully deplored the loss of their beloved benefactor: they clung around him, bathed his feet with their tears, imploring Heaven to bestow its choicest blessings upon him who had scattered plenty around them.

Mr. M. sympathised with their distress, but preserved great firmness of mind, until a circumstance occurred which penetrated his soul with grief, and completely overwhelmed his feelings. As his chaise was proceeding on the way to London, on crossing Chepstow Bridge, the sound of the muffled bells (as is usual in cases of public calamity) met his ear, and they rung a solemn mournful peal. This unexpected tribute of real and profound veneration deeply affected his mind, and he burst into tears.

In contemplating the events of human life we generally observe, that the most generous and philanthropic persons are the most unfortunate—such was the melancholy fate of Mr. Morris. The genius of evil was ever at his elbow; and from the affecting period of his leaving Piercefield, a regular and cruel series of calamities attended him.

Being appointed to the Government of the Island of St. Vincent, his Excellency expended the residue of his much impaired fortune in promoting the prosperity of that Island, cultivating the colony, and improving its fortifications. The place, however, fell into the hands of the French Government, and the reward of his patriotism was cold neglect, and an unjust refusal to reimburse his expences. The fatal consequences may be easily conjectured. His creditors became clamorous for their debts, and he who had embellished and enjoyed the Elysium of Piercefield was immured within the gloomy walls of the Kings Bench prison. Here, to the disgrace of the Ministry who had solicited his services, and benefited by them – to the disgrace of his creditors, and of the country at large, he was suffered to remain a prisoner seven years!

He had married a niece of the Earl of Peterborough; and of all the. multitude who had basked in the sunshine of his prosperity, one friend only endeavoured to alleviate his distress, or to sympathise in his misery. His amiable lady was unremitting in affectionate attention to her unfortunate arid much injured husband. Her clothes and trinkets she sold, to provide him with bread! But, unable to behold the miseries of her consort, grief deprived her of reason, and she became insane. Mr. Morris, at length recovered his liberty; and fortune, tired of this long persecution; seemed to abate somewhat of her rigour; when death, ere he had half completed the ordinary age of man, closed his chequered career. He died at the house of his brother in-law, Mr. Wilmot, in Bloomsbury-square, in the year 1789.
“Alas! the joys that fortune brings
” Are trifling, and decay.”
Such were the unmerited sufferings of Valentine Morris—a man of sublime taste and elevated genius, whose soul was ever tremblingly alive to distress: who soothed the sorrows of the poor, ameliorated the sufferings of the unfortunate, gave “health to the sick, and solace to the swain.”— in a word, who possessed the fairest virtues of humanity.
Peace to thy shade, thou best of men! And ye who range the hills and dales of Piercefield, who with enraptured eye contemplate its sublime and picturesque beauties, think of him who formed the scenes you now behold: and while the melancholy tale or his misfortunes excites the tear of sensibility, reflect on the mutability of all events in this chequered globe state.
“And what! no monument, inscription, stone!
“His race, his form, his name almost unknown?”
The natural embellishments of Piercefield reject with scorn the decorative artifices of temples, statues, obelisks, yet one solitary Urn, simply dedicated to the memory of Valentine Morris, seems to be called for — but this has not yet been bestowed.
THE WINDCLIFF
HAVING taken leave of the Piercefield Walks, the Party can be taken up by their carriage at the Fishpond:_ they will then proceed through two fields towards the second Lime-kiln on the right of the road—then turn short to the right up the hill leading to the Grove of Firs. Here the Party will alight, if they descend the rock – the carriage may be ordered to go round, the vehicle can be sent back to the commencement of the New Road leading to Tintern. The driver must wait at the Cottage gate until the Company descend the Rock. join him.
We now follow the foot path until we reach the towering eminence of the Cliff when the spectator may exclaim with the Poet,—
“Heavens! what a goodly prospect spreads around,
“Of hills and doles, and woods, and lawns, and spires,
“And glittering towns, and gilded streams! till all
“The stretching landscape into smoke decays!”
We cannot do justice to this astonishing scene; and shall, therefore, detail the opinions of those much better informed on the subject. Fosbroke says,— “What a Cathedral is among Churches, Windcliff is among prospects; and, like Snowdon, it ought to be visited at sun-rise, or to be seen through a sun-rise glass. This is called a Claude glass, and affords a sun-rise view at full day, without the obscuration of the morning mist.
“Windcliff is the last grand scene of the Piercefield drama. It is not only magnificent, but so novel, that it excites an involuntary start of astonishment; and so sublime, that it elevates the mind into instantaneous rapture. The parts consist of a most uncommon combination of wood, rock, water, sky, and plain—of height and abyss—of rough and smooth—of recess and projection—of fine landscapes near, and excellent prospective afar-all melting into each other, and grouping into such capricious lines, that, although it may find a counterpart in tropic climes, it is, in regard to England, probably unique.  
The spectator stands upon the edge of a precipice, the depth of which is most awful, and the river winds at his feet. The right-side screen is Piercefield ridge, richly wooded; the left is a belt of rocks, over which appear the Severn and the fine shores between Thornbury and Bristol, rising behind each other in admirable swells, which unite in most graceful curves. The first fore-ground is, to the eye, a view from the clouds upon earth, and the rich contrast of green meadows to wild forest scenery; the farm of Llancaut, clasped in the arms of the winding river, backed by hanging wood and rock. Thus there is a bay of verdure walled in by nature’s colossal fences—wood, hill and rock. The further horn of the crescent tapers off into a craggy informal mole, over which the eye passes to the second bay. This terminates in Chepstow Castle, the town and rocks beyond; all mellowed down by distance into that fine hazy indistinctness, which makes even deformities combine in harmony with the picture.

In the middle distance, the widening sea spreads itself, and from it the shores of Somerset and Monmouthshire steal away into the horizon. Lastly, all this union of large and bold objects, from being comprised within a circumference of a very few miles, unites the landscape and the prospect, together with the forest and the park, character of unimpeded expanse, for the enclosures are few in any part, and, by distance, are almost diminished into imperceptible streaks.” Fosbroke.

“There is (says Reed) an Eminence called WINDCLIFF which I had frequently heard of, and was very anxious to visit. I found my way thither through a plantation of firs that crowns the summit, at the end of which a landscape of such transcendant beauty opened before me, as cast a sort of shade on every former scene within my observation. I felt as if I had been conducted to the spot by the hand of some invisible agent, to Contemplate the regions of enchantment, or the garden of Elysium. It embraces a thousand picturesque objects, yet, as a whole, it is not picturesque; but possesses something of a superior kind, that can not be easily described. The man of taste would even guise upon it with rapture and astonishment, but he would never think for a moment about sketching its likeness in canvas—he knows that his labour would he in vain, The scene is of too variegated, too immense, and too resplendent a character to receive any just delineation from either the pencil of the Painter, – or the inspiration of the Poet.” Reed.

Other Writers of inferior note, upon reaching the top of this surprising Eminence, and viewing the delectable scenery “above, below, around,” have clapped aloud their wings, and crowed away in similar strains of rapture.

If the stranger can bridle his impatience so far, he should, upon reaching the summit of the Cliff, pursue the beaten path, regardless of the objects that present themselves, until he arrives at a convenient Seat, which is placed immediately over the dreadful chasm below. This Seat is secured in front by a wall. The wonderous scene will then unfold itself in all its majestic grandeur, and the eye may explore the variety  of prospects at its full stretch.

Objects in nine counties, it is said, may be discerned from the Windcliff — in Brecon and Glamorgan, in Wales: with Monmouth, Hereford, Gloucester, Worcester, Wilts, Somerset, and Devon, shires in England.

It has been suggested, that a few high and massy Doric columns, with architraves, however rude, erected on the summit of Windcliff, would have the grand effect of the Ruins of the Temple of Minerva upon the Sunian Promontory; it might be partially immersed in wood, and niches might be hollowed out in the rock, properly railed round to prevent danger The one at the finest point of view might contain a tablet inscribed in the simple taste of the Greek epitaph—
VALENTINE MORRIS
Introduced these sublime Scenes to Public View.
To him be honour—to God, praise,
Having banqueted sufficiently on this “feast of reason,” we now prepare to descend the Rock. Returning to the path, an opening to the left leads to the steps down which we pass, enjoying the romantic scenery at every opening. We soon perceive a Cave, which, although narrow, is of considerable depth. The light afforded from above is not sufficient to guide the step, yet no danger is to be apprehended on that account, the road being perfectly secure. This aperture takes a sweep completely through the body of the rock, and leads to another opening direct upon the vale, which, although the same object we have before  contemplated, bursts upon the sight with additional charms.

The path continues its agreeable windings through the wood, here and there disclosing fresh beauties in the miniature world below: we tread upon a carpet of moss, and seats are placed at easy distances, as well for stations of rest, as for the further gratification of the senses.

We now approach a Cottage adjoining the New Road. The rooms in this rustic habitation are neatly laid out, after the manner of Indian wig-warns: every part is thickly lined with moss, and the pleasing view afforded from the gothic windows renders it a cool and tranquil half-hours retreat. This Cottage, by the liberality of the Duke of Beaufort, is appropriated to the gratuitous accommodation of the picnic parties, and other visitors frequenting these romantic scenes, which are here but faintly described, and require the powerful delineation of the author of “Waverley,” to do any. thing like justice to the subject.

It is recommended that parties do bring refreshments with them. Water, milk, &c. for tea, can be procured of the person who resides at the Cottage.

If a party happen to arrive on a day when Piercefield grounds are not open to the Public, horses or carriages can be left at the Piercefield Inn, at the entrance to the village of St. Arvans during the time the Company are engaged in proceeding to and returning from the Windcliff—the Walk there being always open. Instead of turning down by the side of the Blacksmith’s shop, into the green-lane, as heretofore, a fine road commences at the boundary of Piercefield Park; this leads to the Cottage, thro’ which the Eminence may be ascended. Or, upon reaching the Fish-pond, proceed as before directed.

which has lately been turned in such a direction as to afford the most surprising views of natural scenery, as the traveller approaches the Cottage, through which the Cliff may be gently, ascended.

THE NEW ROAD TO TINTERN …

Anon, A Guide to the Town and Neighbourhood of Chepstow; the beauties of Piercefield; the Grand Scenery of the Windcliff; the Celebrated Ruin of Tintern Abbey, &c. &c., (1825), pp. 41-65. (See 1830 edition below.)

IDENTICAL TO: Anon, A guide to the stranger visiting the town of Chepstow; the delightful regions of Piercefield, the grand scenery of The Windcliff; the celebrated ruin of Tintern Abbey : &c. &c. : detailing whatever is worthy the traveller’s notice in this romantic neighbourhood … compiled from the latest and best authorities. (1825) which  includes on p. 100: Since the former sheets were printed, Piercefield has been disposed of to Mr Newton, a gentleman of Lancashire, for £110,000, but, we understand, the indulgence of inspecting the grounds, etc. will still be continued to the Public. [This appears to be completely erroneous]

1825

This poem describes the journey from England, near Bristol, across the Severn by boat, to Chepstow, Piercefield and Tintern. It includes a number of notes giving advice on practical matters for the benefit of tourists. It was dedicated to Nathaniel Wells, Esq., of Piercefield. The poem includes descriptive passages on:

View of Piercefield House; Piercefield Lodge, the Attendant in book 2 and a long passage on the Entrance of Piercefield Park, The Alcove, The Grounds and the Views from Piercefield.

[View of Piercefield House]
Suddenly on an extended lawn,
Piercefield’s mansion opens to the view,
In “elegant simplicity” it stands,
And glitters to the morning sun:
Long may it stand!
Whilst he, who dwells beneath its roof,
May live in health and peace;

Accept a stranger’s grateful thanks,
Who oft have roved amidst the sylvan shades
Of Piercefield’s park; sheltered at noon,
From the fierce beams,
Of Summer’s hottest sun;
Who oft have watched those beams,
Twinkling behind some favourite grove,
And sigh’d to leave the spot.
How calm, how tranquil
Those delightful hours,
Free’d from false allurements of the town,
Renouncing care and grief, and hope and fear,
I wander unmolested and unknown.

To Piercefield Lodge, –
Emblems of courage, a lion stands
On either pedestal, frowning defiance
To the rolling seasons of the year.
[Note, p. 65] It is necessary here to observe, that when a Party enters the Park and intimates a desire (to the Gate Keeper), to proceed through the Walks, they should … make inquiry if any person is in attendance to open the door at the other end of the grounds, otherwise they would be under the necessity of returning through the same Gates, which would be very inconvenient especially if as previously directed, the Carriage or Horses were sent round to the Fish Pond… this walk is a full Three Miles in length, therefore to return and proceed from the lodge to the Vehicle, the excursion on foot would be about eight Miles; … a large bell is generally rung to announce a Visitor’s arrival in the Park, …
[Note, p. 94] The Temple. The visitor will be disappointed if he expects in this place to see any thing like the remains of an ancient Temple, that is to say, Architectural Ruins; we know the worship of the Druids was by them intended to be extremely simple, perhaps it is owing to that circumstance that a few massive stones plac’d upright in the earth can in any way be entitled to the appellation of a Temple.
[Note, p. 160] We must request the reader’s pardon for not (in the proper place,) informing him that the Grounds of Piercefield are open to the Public, on Tuesdays and Fridays, and on those days only.

Collins, Edward, Tintern Abbey; or, the Beauties of Piercefield, a Poem in four booksinterspersed with illustrative notes (Chepstow 1825), pp. 147-148, 59, 65, 94

 26.7.1826

Visited Piercefield,

le Grice, Charles Valentine, Journal of a tour of Wales, Cornwall Record Office, Truro, X20/40, p. 9

 1827

[By boat down the Wye to Chepstow, where the scenery] ‘improves in grandeur & magnificence, fine cultivation on the Gloucestershire side while the Monmouthshire bank displayed all the beauty of Persfield. Gliding along, always varying our objects the whole terminated in the high cliffs on which the embattled walls of Chepstow castle projected before its town & bridge’

Beecroft, Judith, Excursion to North Wales, Cardiff Central Library, MS2.325, p. 34

1827

Sociables, phaetons, cars and pony-chaises for visiting Piercefield and Tintern Abbey, are increased [at Chepstow] at least tenfold during the last three years.

The Gloucester Journal, 21st July, 1827

 1828

After breakfast I went to see Piercefield the seat of Mr Wells. I rang the park gates and was shown through the park by a boy who having found a woman (one of the guides) she showed me through the walks which are three miles in length and I was informed by the woman that all the money given by visitors went to the gardener and that he paid them a shilling a day to shew strangers the walks and that for that they had sometimes to go five or six times up and down the walks in a day.

{brief description of the grounds}

Clark, Charles B., Tour of Wales in August and September, 1828, NLW MS 15002A, 7th October 1828 (Tuesday)

 1828

Chepstow castle … Piercefield’s dark woods add greatly to the grandeur…

Piercefield {history but no description of the site}

Waddell, Amelia [Emily] (Lady Amelia Jackson), Royal Geographical Society, SSC/79, p. 9, 28th June 1828

 1828

Here are delightful paths, which lead in endless windings through wild woods and evergreen thickets, sometimes on the edge of lofty walls of rock, sometimes through caves fashioned by the hand of Nature, or suddenly emerge on open plateaus to the highest point of this chain of hills, called the Wind-cliff, whence you enjoy one of the most extensive and noble views in England. At a depth of about eight hundred feet, the steep descent below you presents in some places single projecting rocks; in others, a green bushy precipice. In the valley, the eye follows for several miles the course of the Wye, which issues from a wooden glen on the left hand, curves round a green garden-like peninsula rising into a hill studded with beautiful clumps of trees, then forces its foaming way to the right, along a huge wall of rock nearly as high as the point where you stand, and at length, near Chepstow Castle, which looks like a ruined city, empties itself into the Bristol Channel, where ocean closes the dim and misty distance. On this side of the river, before you, the peaked tops of a long ridge of hills extend along nearly the whole district which your eye commands. It is thickly clothed with wood, out of which a continuous wall of rock festooned with ivy picturesquely rears its head. Over this ridge you again discern water,—the Severn, five miles broad, thronged with a hundred white sails, on either shore of which you see blue ridges of hills full of fertility and rich cultivation. The grouping of this landscape is perfect: I know of no picture more beautiful. Inexhaustible in details, of boundless extent, and yet marked by such grand and prominent features, that confusion and monotony, the usual defects of a very wide prospect, are completely avoided. Piercefield Park, which includes the ridge of hills from Wind-cliff to Chepstow, is therefore without question the finest in England, at least for situation. It possesses all that Nature can bestow; lofty trees, magnificent rocks, the most fertile soil, a mild climate favourable to vegetation of every kind, a clear foaming stream, the vicinity of the sea, solitude, and, from the bosom of its own tranquil seclusion, a view into the rich country I have described, which receives a lofty interest from a ruin the most sublime that the imagination of the finest painter could conceive,—I mean Chepstow Castle. It covers five acres of ground, and lies close to the park on the side next the town, though it does not belong to it.

Prince Puckler-Muskau, Tour in England, Ireland, and France, in the years 1828 & 1829 : by a German Prince, 2 vols, (London : 1832); Tour in England, Ireland, and France in the years 1828, 1829, 1832, (Philadelphia 1833), pp, 526-527

1828

PIERCEFIELD is about a mile and a half from Chepstow. This is now classic ground, for it is associated with the memory of Miss Smith, whose extraordinary attainments and superior powers of intellect were only equalled by her extraordinary acquirements in every moral excellence, and her superior advancement in every Christian grace. These associations give an additional charm even to the beauties of Piercefield, notwithstanding art has vied with nature in giving every possible effect to its bewitching scenery. [note in the 4th edition:] This charming as well as wonderful young woman, who was at once capable of whatever is deep and whatever is elegant, is recognised amongst scholars with the most candid acknowledgment of her powers. Frequently, when my youngest brother has sought for me all the information that the great Hebraists can afford me, he will make Elizabeth Smith’s translation of Job his last reference, and admit her opinion to turn the scale. On his advice I forbore learning Hebrew, as being a language so liable to mistake. Memoirs, &c. of Miss Hawkins, vol. 11. p. 162. [end of note:]

The traveller, on his way to Tintern, should visit Wind-Cliff, of which the following description is from the pen of one in whom an enthusiastic admiration for the beauties of nature was a leading characteristic.

“There is in the neighbourhood an eminence called Wind-Cliff, which I had frequently heard of, and was anxious to visit. I found my way thither through a plantation of firs that crowns this summit; at the end of which a landscape of such transcendant beauty and magnificence opened before me, as cast a sort of shade on every former scene within my observation. I felt as if I had been conducted-to the spot by the hand of some invisible agent, to contemplate the regions of enchantment or the gardens of Elysium! It embraces a thousand picturesque objects; yet, as a whole, it is not picturesque, but possesses something of a superior kind, that cannot be easily described. The man of taste would ever gaze upon it with rapture and astonishment; but he would never think for a moment of sketching its likeness on canvass: he knows that the labour would be in vain. The scene is of too variegated, too immense, and too resplendent a character, to receive any just delineation from either the pencil of the painter or the inspiration of the poet.” [Reed]

Evans, John, Rev. Beauties of Clifton; or, the Clifton and Hotwell Guide: with a descriptive arrangement of Excursions in their Vicinities and an Appendix of their Geology, Botany, &c. &c. Illustrated with a map. By the Rev. John Evans, Author of the Ponderer, and of the History and Picture of Bristol.  (4th edition, Bristol, 1828), pp. 30-31

[Author of the picture of Bristol and Master of Park Row Academy, Bristol and [later] the Academy Kingsdown]

1829

Dedication: To Francis Bedwell, Esq. and Mrs Bedwell, This Account of a tour, Enjoyed in their Friendly Society, and written by their suggestion, Is respectfully inscribed by Thomas Drayton Wintle.

The animated and interesting Fosbroke has well said—“What a cathedral is among churches, Windcliff is among prospects. It is the last grand scene of the Piercefield, sublime drama, and should have been included in the grounds. If an opinion must be given concerning the hack question—“Which is the grandest scene on the Wye?’ the answer must be “The prospect from Windcliff”. It is not only magnificent but it is so novel, that it excites an involuntary start of astonishment; and so sublime, that it elevates the mind into instantaneous rapture. Its parts consist in a most uncommon combination of wood, rock, water, sky and plain ; of height and abyss; of rough and smooth; of recess and projection; of fine landscape a-near, and exquisite perspective afar; all melting into each other, and grouping in such capricious lines, that although it may find a counterpart in the tropical climes, it is, as to England, probably unique. It is unlikely, that the mouths of two rivers should be so adjacent, or so arranged, as to form a similar scene, though a thousand views of sea, vale and rock, may be of corresponding character, with only slight differences of surface. But the ground here is singular; and the features not being English, the physiognomy is, of course, such as cannot be found elsewhere. It also improves both upon our natural and foreign landscape; upon the former, because our scenery is not so fine as the foreign, which Windcliff resembles—upon the latter, because, according to the observation of Humboldt, “It has not that something strange and sad, which accompanies aspects of animated nature, in which man is nothing.” The spectator stands upon the edge of a precipice, the depth of which is most awful, and the river winds at his feet. The right-side screen is Piercefield ridge, richly wooded; the left is a belt of rocks, over which appear the Severn and the fine shores between Thornbury and Bristol, rising behind each other in admirable swells, which unite in most graceful curves. The first fore-ground is, to the eye, a view from the clouds upon earth, and the rich contrast of green meadows to wild forest scenery; the farm of Llancaut, clasped in the arms of the winding river, backed by hanging wood and rock. Thus there is a bay of verdure walled in by nature’s colossal fences—wood, hill and rock. The further horn of the crescent tapers off into a craggy informal mole, over which the eye passes to the second bay. This terminates in Chepstow Castle, the town and rocks beyond; all mellowed down by distance into that fine hazy indistinctness, which makes even deformities combine in harmony with the picture. In the middle distance, the widening sea spreads itself, and from it the shores of Somerset and Monmouthshire steal away into the horizon. Lastly, all this union of large and bold objects, from being comprised within a circumference of a very few miles, unites the landscape and the prospect, together with the forest and the park, character of unimpeded expanse, for the enclosures are few in any part, and, by distance, are almost diminished into imperceptible streaks.”

We now prepared to take our leave of the stupendous cliff. Mere philosophy, in comparing Windcliff with the man who views it, would give the advantage to the natural wonder. How insignificant in form is the man how diminutive and contemptible his boasted power and dignity, when in competition with the grandeur and sublimity of the soaring cliff. But Christianity places the matter in a different light—man, in his present state, is but the little seed of what he shall be. At that important awful period, when Windcliff, and the striking forms this earth assumes, shall melt with fervent heat, and be reduced to dust and ashes, man may increase in dignity, shall be transplanted to scenes of brightness itself, and, in ethereal splendour, majestically increase through endless ages. Having seated ourselves in the carriages, we passed by Piercefield to Chepstow.

It was not the day for seeing Piercefield, which we did not so much regret as we had enjoyed its best view from the magnificent Windcliff.

Wintle, Thomas Drayton, A Tour on the Wye: Or an Account of a Three Days’ Journey from Gloucester to Ross, Monmouth & Chepstow, (Gloucester, 1829), pp. 46-48

1829

{views of Piercefield; unable to visit Piercefield [no reason given] , but description follows; description of Piercefield grounds. After passing through a hay field and entering the woods, is a bench enclosed with Chinese rails and another with iron rails; a bathing house [by the river?] visible as a white dot amongst the trees}

‘A temple, a small neat building upon the highest part of these grounds.’ {the cold bath, fed by a spring [is this the bathing house?]; Swivel guns at the mouth of a cave fired to create an echo; description of views; the Grotto

Anon, Tour of the Wye Valley, National Museum of Wales, 184561, pp. 116-129

 1830 (about) Watercolours of Piercefield

[Piercefield House facade, from a distance]

Chepstow Castle from Piercefield

The Grotto

The Giant’s Cave

Smith, Henry, Manuscript Notes in Charles Heath’s, ‘Excursions in Herefordshire and Monmouthshire.’ NLW, mss. 14581B and 14582 B, between. pp. 416 and 417.

These two volumes contain four of Charles Heath’s late editions of his guide books plus additional watercolours, pencil drawings, pen and ink drawings, prints and hand drawn maps produced by Henry Smith of Bristol, some of which may well have been copied from previously published material. There is a few manuscript annotations in the volumes.  Some of the watercolours are dated 1808 but at least one of these is on paper watermarked 1826. The first volume includes letters from Charles Heath dated 1827, presenting the guidebooks to Henry Smith.

1830

Third edition of Anon, A Guide to the Town and Neighbourhood of Chepstow;

Since the Steam Packet has been established, many occasional Visitors flock to Chepstow, for the sole purpose of inspecting the Castle, Piercefield Walks, the Windcliff, and Tintern Abbey, – which may be accomplished in a few hours. …

Excursion to Piercefield, Windcliff, and Tintern Abbey by the New Road to Monmouth. UPON landing from the Steam Packet, should the Visitors’ time be short, and they wish to return to Bristol the same evening, Conveyances to the above places may be immediately secured at the Packet Slip, several persons being-in; attendance with their vehicles for that purpose. Or, if they intend going to Tintern by water, apply at the Lord Nelson, where Boats can be obtained. While. the necessary preparations are made, the Castle, &c. can be inspected.

If the party intend to, remain a few days in the neighbourhood, and prefer a pedestrian tour, they will that case pass through the Town Gate, and turn short on the right into the Monmouth road, which is now rendered less steep than formerly, whereby it affords either a pleasant drive or walk. Alter proceeding about 100 yards, on turning out of the road to the left, behind Huntfield House, the Stranger will be highly gratified ins most delightful view of a part of Piercefield Park, the House, and an extensive Lawn; with the winding of the Wye, part of the Ruins of the Castle, and a good view of the Severn. To the right of the road (opposite to the above house) is a good situation for the exercise of the artist’s talents – the subject would be Piercefield Lawn, through the detached parts of the ruinous Castle, the thick woods overhanging the river, with the stupendous rocks on the opposite bank. The foreground is admirably suited to give a finish to such an enchanting scene as may here be depicted.

Returning to the road, we now pass on through Crossway Green Turnpike, and proceed until the company arrive at Piercefield Lodge. [note:] The Walks of Piercefield are open for public inspection on Tuesdays and Fridays only, from morning till evening, by permission of the Proprietor. [end of note]

As neither carriages nor horses are suffered to pass the gates, the party (if travelling in a Carriage) should enquire of the gatekeeper if any one be in attendance to open the door at the other end of the grounds? If not, a person should be engaged for that purpose; otherwise the company must return through the same gates which would render the excursion less pleasant. By sending the carriage round to the Fishpond through St. Arvans, and previously securing egress from the Park, the walk would not exceed three miles: but if the party be compelled to retrace their stops, the distance would be extended to full eight miles ’ere they could join their carriage.

Having said thus much by way of precaution, we shall now proceed to give a full description  of the beautiful regions of Piercefield (the counterpart of the Leasowes). Upon entering this delightful place, a pleasant path leads to a second gate, Where a person usually waits to conduct visitors over the walks. The ground here begins to take an easy fall into the vale, and soon leads into a neat path, its left side fringed with wood, apparently to screen the neighbouring objects from a premature obtrusion: in the course of a short distance, this brings us to the first,point of view, designated

THE ALCOVE.

Hence you look perpendicularly on the river Wye, with a cultivated slope on the other side.  To the right is a prodigious steep shore of wood winding to the Castle, advanced to the very edge of a perpendicular rock, and so immediately rivetted into it, that from the top of the battlements down to the river seems but one precipice; the same ivy which over-spreads the one twines and clusters among the fragments of the other. The Castle, indeed, is so near to the Alcove, that little circumstances may be discerned in it. On the left is seen a fine bend of the river for some distance: the opposite shore of wild wood, the rock appearing at intervals in rising cliffs: and further on, to the termination of the view that way, the vast walls of rock at Lancaut, which are here seen at length, have a stupendous effect. The littleness of human art is placed in a most humiliating point of view. The Castle, though a noble fortress, is, compared with these natural bulwarks, a mere house of cards. The spectator, delighted with the grandeur of the varied scenes of hill and dale, wood, rock, and water, combined with the glorious canopy on high, will be moved to exclaim with the poet, – “These are thy works, Parent of Good! Almighty!” This is equal to any view in Piercefield.

To this glare of beauty succeeds a walk secluded from every object—formed, as it were, to compose the mind after having indulged in such enjoyment; which brings us to

THE FIRST SEAT.

A large break opens a various view of the distant country; and not far from it another, which is worthy of remark. You look down upon a fine bend of the river winding to the Castle which here wears a very romantic appearance: the opposite bank is a swelling hill with cultivated inclosures, having a cheerful and lively effect. A short distance further, through the same scenery, conducts us, to

THE SECOND SEAT.

Which is thickly shaded with trees, in a dark sequestered spot, from which you look aside through the opening to a landscape that seems formed by the happiest hand of design; it is really nothing but catching a view of accidental objects: the town and castle of Chepstow appear from one part, rising from romantic steeps of wood, in the most beautiful style — a small remove discovers the church steeple, so dropt in the precise point of taste, that one can scarcely believe it real, and not an eye-trap.

A bold point of rock, fronted with iron railing, soon follows, which opens to a hollow of wood, hounded one way by natures wall. and letting in a view of the town the other way, in an exquisite taste: nor should the visitor overlook a range of beech and lime trees on the left of the walk, the stems of which shoot from the rock in a most astonishing manner. Again we enjoy the pleasing and recluse scenery, so desirable in the season when these Walks hold forth their greatest charms. Ascending the hill, we reach

THE THIRD SEAT,
placed under the protection of a fine beech tree, whence the view commands the castle and town of Chepstow—the streams of Severn and Wye, Blaize Castle and Dundry Tower in the distance—the horizon beautifully terminated by the hills of Gloucestershire and those of Somerset. Pursuing the ascent, we come in view of PIERCEFIELD HOUSE. Here the ground falls on the left side, in a fine style, into the vale, and rising again in the same taste, presents to great advantage this elegant and highly finished Mansion, which is constructed of freestone, and stands nearly in the middle of the park. It consists of a centre and two wings, the former having three stories, and the latter one. A light portico in the centre of the building leads into a saloon, the floor of which is laid with black and white marble, rendering it extremely agreeable in the summer season. This room is divided by mahogany sliding doors, inlaid with looking glass, from the reflection of which, when united, the whole of the company present can discern every object within view of the house, with vessels floating on the Severn to their respective ports.

The principal rooms display great elegance in the articles of furniture and decorative ornaments; while the walls are enriched with fine designs in relievo painting. In the billiard-room are similar subjects, and even the chimney-pieces exhibit various efforts  of the painters talents. The wings respectively lead through green-houses to the Library and Music-room. The floors of the rooms are laid with Dutch oak, and the colour of the boards preserved with a liquid, after the manner of that people.

Among the specimens of art that embellish this mansion are four excellent pieces of tapestry from the Gobelin Manufactory at Paris, which formerly belonged to Louis XVI: they exhibit the natural history of Africa, and represent various productions, vegetable and animal, grouped with admirable skill, and uniting correctness of design with richness and colouring.

But to return to the Walks :—The path re-assumes its refreshing coolness, formed by the intertwining branches of laurel mixed with other shrubs, whicl form a pleasing introduction to

THE GROTTO

A point of view exquisitely beautiful. It is a small cave in the rock, stuck with stones of various kinds, copper and iron cinders, &c. You look from the seat in it immediately down a steep slope on to the hollow of a wood, bounded in the front by the craggy rocks which seem to part you from the Severn in breaks; beyond which is seen a large part of Gloucestershire, the town of Thornbury, Oldbury church, and the horizon bounded by the hills around Old Sodbury: forming one of the most lovely landscapes in nature.

Leaving this retirement, a cheerful scene soon presents itself. Through some natural breaks and openings we obtain views of Lancaut fields and houses, distant hills, and the Forest of Dean: in passing on, the commencement of those picturesque rocks called the Twelve Apostles; a fine woody bank in which appears the Giants Cave; the whole terminated by a rich and well cultivated country. We next arrive at what is called

THE DOUBLE VIEW:

A scene that cannot be described here with proper effect—it must be seen—the eye of imagination is not keen enough to take in this point, which the united talents of a Claude and Poussin would scarcely be able to sketch. Full to the left, beneath, the valley lies in all its beauty, surrounded by the rocky woods, which might be called “a coarse selvage of canvas around a fine piece of lawn.” In the front, a prodigious wall of formidable rocks rises from the hollow of the river; and immediately above them, in breaks, winds the Severn, as if only parted from you by these barriers, in so peculiar a manner as if it washed them. The spectator naturally supposes the rocks only separate him from the Severn; whereas, in fact, that river is four or five miles distant: this deceptio visus is eminently beautiful. On the right stand the town of Chepstow and Castle, amidst a border of wood, with the Severn above; and over the whole, as far as the eye can command, an immense prospect of distant country, in which Dundry Tower is a striking object; the horizon bounded by a grand range of the Gloucester, Somerset, and Devon hills. Such varied beauty uniting in the same scene is probably unique in this kingdom. The imagination must be left to give the colours to this mere outline, which is all that can be attempted. Hours might on this spot be passed with pleasure.

Pursuing the umbrageous path, we arrive at a little sequestered spot, shaded by a

BEECH TREE

Affording a beautiful landscape: it is situated in the vast rock which forms the shore of the river Wye, through these grounds. The rock, which is totally covered with a shrubby underwood, is almost perpendicular from the water to the rail that incloses the point of view. One of the sweetest vallies in nature lies underneath, but at such a depth that every object appears in miniature. This valley comprises a complete farm of about 40 inclosures, grass and corn fields intersected by hedges, with many trees: it is a peninsula, almost surrounded by the river Wye, which winds directly beneath in a manner truly romantic; and what renders the

picture more perfect is, its being entirely surrounded by a vast rocks and precipices,

covered thickly with wood down to the waters edge.

The whole is an amphitheatre, which seems to have dropt from the clouds, complete in all its beauty.

As we pass along, rural pictures present themselves, formed by Lancaut Farm, with the Windcliff, and distant scenery: further on we arrive at a spot called the Druids’ Temple, so named from its analogy to their places of worship. From a seat beyond, the Windcliff again shows its front; and, at another seat near it, the scene claims more attention. The Wye makes a fine curve, and shews, on the right, the fine range of rocks called the Twelve Apostles, the left shore formed by the fields of Laneaut, with its stupendous cliffs; and the eye, being carried on to distant objects, meets the hilly terminations of Gloucestershire,—the whole richly picturesque.

Neither the mind nor the eye are now suffered long to repose. Progressively advancing, we arrive at an opening called

THE PLEASANT VIEW;

Which, equally with the preceding, arrests the attention, A most beautiful amphitheatre of woody and rocky hill encircles the foreground—underneath flows the Wye—Lancaut lies beyond—on the left rises the Windcliff—on the right the enormous rocks—and, carrying the eye through the fine break to the centre of the view, the Gloucestershire hills give an admirable finish to the scene.

Immediately after, another opening is made at a point of rock (the first of the Apostles) that looks directly down on the river, and the beautiful peninsula: nor should the Stranger pass on without observing .a remarkable phenomenon—a large oak, venerable for its age, growing out of a cleft in the rock, without the least appearance of earth. Such a circumstance, however incredible, is not singular on the borders of these walks.

After another view of the Apostles Rocks and Lancaut, varied by the windings of the river, we reach

THE GIANTS CAVE;

A romantic cavern, extending twelve yards, hewn out of the solid rock. But its attractions are of secondary moment when compared with the View presented before its entrance. The bold point of rock upon which we stand rises perpendicular from the edge of the river, making another of its fine sweeps, and showing to great advantage, on the right, the whole range of rocks before spoken of; its left screen rising in grandeur, by presenting the corresponding Windcliff, the Lancaut Cliffs and Peninsula still maintaining the dignity of the scene; while the opening before noticed presents the happy termination of the Gloucestershire hills.

This Cave will give some idea of the taste of Mr. Valentine Morris: not a mark of a tool is visible—all is perfectly natural. The archway is made winding, so that on the approach it appears to be the mouth of a cave, and on a nearer view the idea is strengthened by the allowable deception of a black dark hole on the side next the cliff, which seen from the entrance, before the perforation is discovered, seems to :be the  darksome inlet to the body of the cave.

To awe the passing traveller, in a cavity at the top of the rock is placed an Herculean figure, which once sustained the fragment of a rock in its uplifted arms, threatening to overwhelm whoever dared to enter the  retreat; but the weather has sometime since caused the stone to fall, carrying the giants arms along with it: so that it now remains a mutilated statue. Mr. Fosbrook [sic] has pronounces this to be unworthy of Piercefield, and seems to think that no great injury would have been sustained if the elements had dislodged the giant entirely from his throne. The front and sides of the cave are clothed with ivy, which gives it a still more picturesque appearance; and on its summit is an ancient yew tree that grows out of the rock in the same surprising manner as the oak before mentioned. The safety of looking from this charming spot is secured by its being fronted with a wall. When Mr. Morris resided at Piercefield, some swivel guns were placed here, which, when discharged, produced a surprising echo from the rocks.

Passing through a cave, a winding walk on the right, cool, sequestered, and agreeable, leads to

THE COLD BATH.

This building (12 yards long by 7 wide) is neat and well contrived, and the spring that supplies it is plentiful and transparent. The walk from the Cold Bath is dark, and rather gloomy: breaks and objects are very scarce in it. It has been suggested, that a cascade introduced on the left towards the valley, where there is a prodigious hollow filled with a thick wood, would have a good effect, there being no such object throughout the Walks.

Returning by the same path to the extremity of the Cave, we again follow the course of the Walk, which brings us to an elevated Seat under a Rock, commanding a varied view of the opposite shore, bounded by the county of Gloucester; and soon after we reach

THE HILL,

Being the seventh View from the Walks. The foreground from the Wye presents a bold surface of Wood, which spreads from Lancaut Cliffs to the Grotto: while beyond it the Severn increases the beauty of the scene: in the distance is a rich part of the latter river’s district, for a sweep of 50 miles, interspersed with towns, churches, gentlemen’s seats, and other objects—forming, altogether, a rich and enlivening picture.

The path has thus far rose and fell with the irregularity of the shore of the Wye; but here it becomes more even, and leads to the

LOVERS LEAP,

So called from the Leucadian Promontory, whence  despairing lovers (and among them Sappho) precipitated themselves. It is the edge of a perpendicular cliff, overlooking a tremendous abyss, clothed with underwood, which at the bottom looks as fine as a spider’s web, and is usually enveloped in mist. This spot is inclosed with iron railing, and you look instantaneously down one hundred and eighty feet!—a tremendous and sublime picture.

From this spot, which seems to be pushed forward from the rock by the hold hands of the Genius of  Piercefield, you proceed to where formerly stood

THE TEMPLE,

Which is the highest part of these grounds. No imagination can be formed of the beauties disclosed from this amazing point of view. You look down upon all the woody precipices as if in another region, terminated by a wall of rocks. Just above them appears the Severn, as the beholder supposes, washing their sides – a deception of the sight which is truly exquisite; for, viewing first the river beneath, then the vast rocks rising in a shore of precipices, and immediately above them the noble river, as if part of the little world immediately before you, – and, lastly, all the boundless prospect over Gloucestershire and Somersetshire,—they are, when taken together, such a scene of beauty as cannot be exceeded: and contain more romantic variety, with such an apparent junction of separate parts, than is to be met with in, the kingdom. The view to the right over the Park, and the winding valley at the bottom of it, would, from any spot but this, be thought remarkably fine.

High, above competition, at the N. extremity of the scene, rises the Windcliff: a dark wood fringes its lofty summit, and shelves down its sides to the river Wye, which urges its sinuous course at the bottom of the glen. In one place the river, gently curving, appears in all the health of its channel; in another, projecting rocks and intervening foliage conceal its course, or sparingly exhibit its darkened surface. Following the bend of the river on its marginal height, a range of perpendicular cliffs (the Banagor Rocks) appear, above the wooded hills which prevail through the scenery—of so regular a figure that one can hardly help supposing it the fortification of a town, with curtains, bastions, and demi-bastions. But a very leading picture is the peninsula of Lancaut: the hills of Piercefield here receding into a semi-circular bend, watered by the river immediately beneath, are opposed by a similar concavitv in the Banagor rocks, – the whole forming a noble amphitheatre of lofty woods, and precipices. From the opposite side descends a fertile expanses or tongue of land, filling up the area of the circle. This singular valley is laid out in a compact ornamented farm ; the richly verdant meadows are intersected by fine hedgerows, while numerous trees diversify the tract, and  embower the farm-house. A row of elms shadows the margin of the river, which, skirting the base of the hills, nearly surround the valley. These subjects disclose themselves in different combinations through intervals in the shrubbery, which incloses the walk;  and these, although selected from the nicest observations, are managed with such just attention to the  simplicity of nature, as to appear the work of her plastic hand,

Having given a faint description of this noble and commanding situation of Piercefield, we shall conclude our remarks in the language of Mr. Coxe:- “This bowery walk is consonant to the Genius of Piercefield: the screen of wood prevents the uniformity of a birds eye view, and the imperceptible bend of the amphitheatre conveys the spectator from one part of this fairy region to another without discovering the gradations. Hence, the Wye is sometimes  concealed, or half obscured by overhanging foliage – at another time, wholly expanding to view, it is seen sweeping beneath a broad and circuitous channel: hence, at one place the Severn spreads in the midst of a boundless expanse of country, and at the opposite shore of the Wye—at another, both rivers appear on the same side, and the Severn seems supported on the level summit of the cliffs which form the banks of the Wye. Hence, the same objects present themselves in different aspects, and with varied accompaniments: hence, the magic transition from the impervious gloom of the forest to open groves – from meadows and lawns to rocks and precipices—and from the mild beauties of English landscape to the  wildness of Alpine scenery.”

Mr. Gilpin, also, adds his testimony to the taste displayed by Valentine Morris in opening walks and views through the woods to the various objects around them :- “All this the ingenious Proprietor hath done with great judgment; and hath shewn his rocks, his woods, his precipices, under various forms, and to great advantage. Sometimes a broad face of rock is presented, stretching along a vast space like the Walls of a citadel: sometimes it is broken by intervening trees: in other parts, the rocks rise above the woods— a little further they sink below them—sometimes they are seen through them—and sometimes one series of  rocks appears rising above another: and though many of these objects are repeatedly seen, yet seen from different stations, and with fresh accompaniments,

they appear new. The Winding of the precipice is the magical secret by which all these enchanting scenes are produced.”

The Public are greatly indebted to the present Proprietor of these lovely domains, for his liberality ; in permitting freedom of access twice in every week. Visitors should, therefore, make their arrangements for the excursion on Tuesdays and Fridays: and if possible, take their views at high water, whereby they will experience a greater degree of gratification.

ANECDOTES Relating to VALENTINE MORRIS, ESQ,

PIERCEFIELD was long the property of the family of Walters: in 1736 it was sold to Colonel Morris, of the Island of St. Vincent, father of Valentine Morris – in 1784, it was alienated to George Smith, Esq. of Burnhall, in the county of Durham [note:] The celebrated Charlotte [sic – Elizabeth] Smith [1776–1806], authoress of many novels, sonnets, &c. was once a resident here—a delightful spot for the exercise of the powers of description evinced in her works. [end of note] – in 1794, to Colonel Wood, formerly Chief Engineer at Bengal, who completed the present tasteful mansion, partly built by Mr. Smith – and, in 1803, it was disposed of to Nathaniel Wells, Esq. the present proprietor.

The charms of this luxurious spot, if not created, were disclosed about the year 1753 by Valentine Morris, who engrafted the blandishments of art upon the majestic wildness of nature, without distorting its original character. This gentleman, by the exercise of the most munificent liberality, the most unbounded hospitality, by making his mansion the refuge of the poor and distressed, and by keeping an open and amply furnished table, was greatly reduced in his  finances: and, alas! obliged to part with this paradise, and seek an asylum from the ingratitude of mankind, from the cruel malignancy of his creditors, in the West Indies. [note:] From the above account (copied from the “Gentleman’s Magazine” of that period) the reader may suppose that this amiable man had wasted his property in ostentatious display and ill judged beneficence – but no – Valentine Morris might have long lived the ornament of Piercefield, and a bright example for the gentry around him, had he not unfortunately engaged in a ruinous contest for the representation of the County of Monmouth in Parliament This was the fatal rock on which his fortunes were wrecked, and terminated his earthly happiness. Many estimable public characters have, like him, been totally ruined, from the same cause – the prevalence of party spirit. [end of note]

Before he left this country he paid his last visit, and gave a sad farewell to the enchanting groves of Piercefield, the delectable scenery of which had been delineated by his creative genius. He beheld the sublime landscape vanish from his view, but sustained the shock with that magnanimity so characteristic of Valentine Morris. Far different were the emotions of the neighbouring poor – those children of misfortune, penury, and distress, who had been fed by his bounty, and clothed by his benevolence. They sorrowfully deplored the loss of their beloved benefactor: they clung around him, bathed his feet with their tears, imploring Heaven to bestow its choicest blessings upon him who had scattered plenty around them. Mr. M. sympathised with their distress, but preserved great firmness of mind, until a circumstance occurred which penetrated his soul with grief, and completely overwhelmed his feelings. As his chaise was proceeding on the way to London, on crossing Chepstow Bridge, the sound of the muffled bells (as is usual in cases of public calamity) met his ear, and they rung a solemn mournful peal. This unexpected tribute of real and profound veneration deeply affected his mind, and he burst into tears.

In contemplating the events of human life we generally observe, that the most generous and philanthropic persons are the most unfortunate—such was the melancholy fate of Mr. Morris. The genius of evil was ever at his elbow; and from the affecting period of his leaving Piercefield, a regular and cruel series of calamities attended him. Being appointed to the Government of the Island of St. Vincent, his Excellency expended the residue of his much impaired fortune in promoting the prosperity of that Island, cultivating the colony, and improving its fortifications. The place, however, fell into the hands of the French Government, and the reward of his patriotism was cold neglect, and an unjust refusal to reimburse his expences. The fatal consequences may be easily conjectured. His creditors became clamorous for their debts, and he who had embellished and enjoyed the Elysium of Piercefield was immured within the gloomy walls of the Kings Bench prison. Here, to the disgrace of the Ministry who had solicited his services, and benefited by them –

to the disgrace of his creditors, and of the country at large, he was suffered to remain a prisoner seven years! He had married a niece of the Earl of Peterborough; and of all the. multitude who had basked in the sunshine of his prosperity, one friend only endeavoured to alleviate his distress, or to sympathise in his misery. His amiable lady was unremitting in

affectionate attention to her unfortunate arid much injured husband. Her clothes and trinkets she sold, to provide him with bread! But, unable to behold the miseries of her consort, grief deprived her of reason, and she became insane. Mr. Morris, at length recovered his liberty; and fortune, tired of this long persecution; seemed to abate somewhat of her rigour; when death, ere he had half completed the ordinary age of man, closed his chequered career. He died at the house of his brother in-law, Mr. Wilmot, in Bloomsbury-square, in the year 1789.

“Alas! the joys that fortune brings
“Are trifling, and decay.”

Such were the unmerited sufferings of Valentine Morris—a man of sublime taste and elevated genius, whose soul was ever tremblingly alive to distress: who soothed the sorrows of the poor, ameliorated the sufferings of the unfortunate, gave “health to the sick, and solace to the swain.”— in a word, who possessed the fairest virtues of humanity. Peace to thy shade, thou best of men! And ye who range the hills and dales of Piercefield, who with enraptured eye contemplate its sublime and picturesque beauties, think of him who formed the scenes you now behold: and while the melancholy tale or his misfortunes excites the tear of sensibility, reflect on the mutability of all events in this chequered globe.

“And what! no monument, inscription, stone!
“His race, his form, his name almost unknown?”

The natural embellishments of Piercefield reject with scorn the decorative artifices of temples, statues, obelisks, yet one solitary Urn, simply dedicated to the memory of Valentine Morris, seems to be called for — but this has not yet been bestowed.

THE WINDCLIFF

HAVING taken leave of the Piercefield Walks, the Party can be taken up by their carriage at the Fishpond:_ they will then proceed through two fields towards the second Lime-kiln on the right of the road—— then turn short to the right up the hill leading to the Grove of Firs. Here the Party will alight—the carriage may be ordered to go round, and wait at the Cottage gate until the Company descend the Rock.

We new follow the foot path until we reach the towering eminence of the Cliff when the spectator may exclaim with the Poet,—

“Heavens! what a goodly prospect spreads around,

     “Of hills and doles, and woods, and lawns, and spires,

     “And glittering towns, and gilded streams! till all

     “The stretching landscape into smoke decays!”

We cannot do justice to this astonishing scene; and shall, therefore, detail the opinions of those much better informed on the subject. Fosbroke says,— “What a Cathedral is among Churches, Windcliff is among prospects; and, like Snowdon, it ought to be visited at sun-rise, or to be seen through a sun-rise glass. This is called a Claude glass, and affords a sun-rise view at full day, without the obscuration of the morning mist. Windcliff is the last grand scene of the Piercefield drama. It is not only magnificent, but so novel, that it excites an involuntary start of astonishment; and so sublime, that it elevates the mind into instantaneous rapture. The parts consist of a most uncommon combination of wood, rock, water, sky, and plain—of height and abyss—of rough and smooth—of recess and projection—of fine landscapes near, and excellent prospective afar-all melting into each other, and grouping into such capricious lines, that, although it may find a counterpart in tropic climes, it is, in regard to England, probably unique.  The spectator stands upon the edge of a precipice, the depth of which is most awful, and the river winds at his feet. The right-side screen is Piercefield ridge, richly wooded; the left is a belt of rocks, over which appear the Severn and the fine shores between Thornbury and Bristol, rising behind each other in admirable swells, which unite in most graceful curves. The first fore-ground is, to the eye, a view from the clouds upon earth, and the rich contrast of green meadows to wild forest scenery; the farm of Llancaut, clasped in the arms of the winding river, backed by hanging wood and rock. Thus there is a bay of verdure walled in by nature’s colossal fences—wood, hill and rock. The further horn of the crescent tapers off into a craggy informal mole, over which the eye passes to the second bay. This terminates in Chepstow Castle, the town and rocks beyond; all mellowed down by distance into that fine hazy indistinctness, which makes even deformities combine in harmony with the picture. In the middle distance, the widening sea spreads itself, and from it the shores of Somerset and Monmouthshire steal away into the horizon. Lastly, all this union of large and bold objects, from being comprised within a circumference of a very few miles, unites the landscape and the prospect, together with the forest and the park, character of unimpeded expanse, for the enclosures are few in any part, and, by distance, are almost diminished into imperceptible streaks.” Fosbroke.

“There is an Eminence called WINDCLIFF which I had frequently heard of, and was very anxious to visit. I found my way thither through a plantation of firs that crowns the summit, at the end of which a landscape of such transcendant beauty opened before me, as cast a sort of shade on every former scene within my observation. I felt as if I had been conducted to the spot by the hand of some invisible agent, to Contemplate the regions of enchantment, or the garden of Elysium. It embraces a thousand picturesque objects, yet, as a whole, it is not picturesque; but possesses something of a superior kind, that can not be easily described. The man of taste would even guise upon it with rapture and astonishment, but he would never think for a moment about sketching its likeness in canvas—he knows that his labour would he in vain, The scene is of too variegated, too immense, and too resplendent a character to receive any just delineation from either the pencil of the Painter, – or the inspiration of the Poet.” Reed.

Other Writers of inferior note, upon reaching the top of this surprising Eminence, and viewing the delectable scenery “above, below, around,” have clapped aloud their wings, and crowed away in similar strains of rapture.

If the stranger can bridle his impatience so far, he should, upon reaching the summit of the Cliff, pursue  the beaten path, regardless of the objects that present  themselves, until he arrives at a convenient Seat, which is placed immediately over the dreadful chasm – below. This Seat is secured in front by a wall. The wonderous scene will then unfold itself in all its majestic grandeur, and the eye may explore the variety  of prospects at its full stretch. Objects in nine counties, it is said, may be discerned from the Windcliff — in Brecon and Glamorgan, in Wales: with Monmouth, Hereford, Gloucester, Worcester, Wilts, Somerset, and Devon, shires in England.

It has been suggested, that a few high and massy Doric columns, with architraves, however rude, erected on the summit of Windcliff, would have the grand effect of the Ruins of the Temple of Minerva upon the Sunian Promontory; it might be partially immersed in wood, and niches might be hollowed out in the rock, properly railed round to prevent danger The one at the finest point of view might contain a tablet inscribed in the simple taste of the Greek epitaph—

VALENTINE MORRIS

Introduced these sublime Scenes to Public View.

To him be honour—to God, praise,

Having banqueted sufficiently on this “feast of reason,” we now prepare to descend the Rock. Returning to the path, an opening to the left leads to the steps down which we pass, enjoying the romantic scenery at every opening. We soon perceive a Cave, which, although narrow, is of considerable depth. The light afforded from above is not sufficient to guide the step, yet no danger is to be apprehended on that account, the road being perfectly secure. This aperture takes a sweep completely through the body of the rock, and leads to another opening direct upon the vale, which, although the same object we have before  contemplated, bursts upon the sight with additional charms, The path continues its agreeable windings through the wood, here and there disclosing fresh beauties in the miniature world below: we tread upon a carpet of moss, and seats are placed at easy distances, as well for stations of rest, as for the further gratification of the senses.

We now approach a Cottage adjoining the New Road. The rooms in this rustic habitation are neatly laid out, after the manner of Indian wig-warns: every part is thickly lined with moss, and the pleasing view afforded from the gothic windows renders it a cool and tranquil half-hours retreat. This Cottage, by the liberality of the Duke of Beaufort, is appropriated to the gratuitous accommodation of the picnic parties, and other visitors frequenting these romantic scenes, which are here but faintly described, and require the powerful delineation of the author of “Waverley,” to do any. thing like justice to the subject.

It is recommended that parties do bring refreshments with them. Water, milk, &c. for tea, can be procured of the person who resides at the Cottage.

If a party happen to arrive on a day when Piercefield grounds are not open to the Public, horses or carriages can be left at the Piercefield Inn, at the entrance to the village of St. Arvans during the time the Company are engaged in proceeding to and returning from the Windcliff—the Walk there being always open. A fine road commences at the boundary of Piercefield Park, which has lately been turned in such a direction as to afford the most surprising views of natural scenery, as the traveller approaches the Cottage, through which the Cliff may be gently, ascended.

THE NEW ROAD TO TINTERN …

Anon, A Guide to the Town and Neighbourhood of Chepstow; the beauties of Piercefield; the Grand Scenery of the Windcliff; the Celebrated Ruin of Tintern Abbey, &c. &c. (Chepstow: Third edition with various Alterations and Additions, 1830), pp. 38-61

c. 1830-1840  [guide book]

Madeley, G.E., Four Views of Piercefield, One of the views shows a distant view of the mansion (all printed in Elizabeth Whittle’s article, see below)

1832  (pre) [guide book]

Willett, Mark, The strangers’ guide to the banks of the Wye : including Chepstow, Piercefield, Windcliff, Tintern Abbey, Raglan Castle, and other parts of the Welsh borders : with historical, topographical, and antiquarian remarks  3rd edition (1832); 4th edition [1845]

1832

Drawings by the Rev John Skinner of Camerton, Somerset, (1772-1839). The quality of his drawings varied considerably; some are very sketchy and poor and his handwriting is often almost illegible. By ‘View Beyond’ he meant a view from the grounds, looking beyond them to surrounding landscapes.
On entering the gardens, we directed the carriage to be driven round to the farther extremity of the grounds to await our arrival, and walked to the seat placed at the point which commands the castle of Chepstow to great advantage …
‘no. 29 The First seat in Piercefield Gardens above the Gorge looking towards Chepstow Castle’ mix0095.jpg
‘no. 30 Course of the Wye under Piercefield …’
‘no. 31 View beyond from another seat’
‘no. 32 View Beyond’
‘no. 33 View beyond of a horse shoe c??????????? of the river’
‘no. 34 View Beyond’
‘no. 35 … view beyond …’
‘no. 36 view beyond’
‘no. 37 view beyond’
‘no. 38 view beyond’
‘no. 39 a cavern with the Wye beneath’
‘no. 40 Opening of the Cavern over the Wye’
‘no. 41 Wye cliff hill …’
‘no. 42 ?curvalum of the river under the cavern’
John Skinner ms., Vol. XCIII. JOURNAL continued, describing visits to the Cheddar Cliffs, Chepstow, Tintern, Monmouth, and Stanton Drew; 1832, British Library, Add MS 33725, ff. 235-252

1833 

On reaching the entrance lodge to Piercefield we endeavored, tho without success, to get through the park.

Letts, Thomas, Journal of Tour, NLW MS 22340B, f. 21v

 1833

The children dined early then to Piercefield {features not diversified enough}

A Diary kept by John Benn Walsh, 1st Lord Ormathwaite (1798-1881), NLW Ormathwaite Papers, FG 1/7, p. 35, 12th and 13th September 1833

1835

After passing an hour in Chepstow Castle, we found our way out by the western tower, and then crossing some fields came upon the Tintern road, which, in a few minutes, led us to one of the lodges and entrances of Piercefield Park, a truly beautiful place, occupying an irregular and very extensive area between the high road and the precipitous cliffs of the Wye. From the woods and plantations, which cover a bolt, broken ground, and run close to the edge of the cliffs, the eye commands some of the finest views in England; and these views are varied at almost every step by the windings of the path, the changing foreground,–now of jagged rocks, now of majestic trees,–and by other accidents of elevation or depression. The guide-books set down by name nine particular points, each of which is furnished with benches or rustic seats, but there are twenty more almost equally fine. Looking across and up the river, we saw under a different aspect much of the grand rock-and-cliff scenery we had passed the day before; and, in the earlier part of the walk, on looking down the river, or to the east, the towers of Chepstow Castle,–the town,–the bridge,–the shipping,–the red cliffs on the Gloucestershire Wye, a ridge of hills which conceals the mouth of the river, and then the broad estuary beyond it,–all stood out in most picturesque effect.

These walks extend almost from the moat of the castle to the foot of the Wynd Cliff, and are about three miles long, if you follow all their sinuosities. At their farther extremity we issued again forth upon the Tintern road, and were presently climbing up the steep sides of the Wynd Cliff, which would be almost inaccessible on the river side, but for some ladder-like steps that have been arranged, and some zigzag paths that have been cut in the rock. In the rear of the cliff there is a much easier ascent. We mention this, because the fatigue may deter some persons from climbing up in front, and because the view on the summit is too fine and extensive to be lost. There, standing on the edge of the loftiest rock, the eye embraces a considerable part of the counties of Monmouth, Gloucester, Hereford, Brecon, Glamorgan, Worcester, Somersetshire, Wiltshire, and Devonshire,–the river and the estuary of the Severn, with Kingroad and the broad Bristol Channel expanding into the great ocean. The scenery of the winding river, which washes the foot of the mighty cliff on which you stand, is seen to a great extent,–and at this grand point we take our leave of the lovely Wye.

Anon, The Wye, The Penny Magazine, issue no. 219, Aug. 31, 1835.  

 1836

We passed Persfield and only regretted that we had not time to ramble in these delightful places.

Williams, Esther, Cardiff Central Library, MS1.521, 16th July, 1836

13.9.1836

Piercefield … is at this time closed to the public, but a letter to the owner generally assures admission; it is necessary to give at least a day’s notice.

Anon (A Pedestrian), Hints to Pedestrians, or How to Enjoy a Three-Weeks Ramble through North and South Wales, (Joseph Onwhyn, 1837) pp. 17-18

16.8.1837 

‘Went round the walk at Piercefield very little worth the trouble as the walk is more than 3 miles long and very little to be seen.’

Biddulph, Robert, [Possibly Robert Biddulph, 1801-1864, MP for Hereford, 1831-1837, son of John Biddulph 1768-1845], Herefordshire Record Office, G2/IV/J/71

1839

[Piercefield] the far-famed and enough-praised grounds. I am not quite sure that a slight touch of disappointment did not mingle in my feelings at the time … the reality did not surpass the expectations I had formed. …  The park is very much like most other parks that have fair lawny glades, and noble timber to adorn them, with a fine handsome mansion placed in a commanding situation, looking about with all its windows, and seeming to say ‘Am I not an exceedingly good-looking house for my years?’ At a little distance from the lodge we met a small boy, who walked with us to a tall tree, and catching at a rope hanging to it, rang such a sonorous peal on a great bell hidden among the branches, as must have long since scared away all the. Dryads and gentle Genii of the place. This startling summons having brought the guide to our assistance ; we were conducted to the ‘ Alcove,’ the first view-point, and then to eight others, ‘ as established by law,’ each affording a beautiful and Extensive prospect of Chepstow, the Wye, rock, wood. A gigantic old laurel, which stretches its immense limbs beside the path for some distance, enjoyed one share of admiration, and the ‘Lover’i Leap’ another. This sentimental spot, whose name must render it charming to all despairing swains and sighing nymphs of the Corydon and Phyllis schools, overlooks a deep and wooded glen of exceeding grandeur and beauty, above which towers the Windcliff.—Whilst I was gazing down on the undulating and many-tinted forest so far below me, a fine kite flew out of the next wood, and for some time sailed grandly about, or poising himself on his outspread wings, hung balanced on the air. How beautiful it was!

‘A sylvan scene; and as the ranks ascend,
Shade above shade a woody theatre
Of stateliest view.’—Milton.

And the wild, grandly-graceful bird, the only moving thing in the great picture 1 I remember the ‘Lover’s Leap’ well; but the ‘Grotto,’ and the ‘Giant’s Cave,’ and all such small trickery upon grand nature,—such tinkering upon gold,—are my aversion. In the glen below the Lover’s Leap is a cold bath, approached by a path winding through the wood; but few visitors are inclined to lengthen their walk so far; nor did I; but, quitting the Fiercefield grounds by the St. Arvan’s gate, we found our chaise waiting, and journeyed quietly towards the Windcliff.

Twamley, Louisa A. The annual of British Landscape Scenery; An autumn ramble on the Wye, (London : 1839), p. 40

 

1839

Review of ANNUAL OF BRITISH LANDSCAPE SCENERY. An Autumn ramble on the banks of the Wye.

Miss Twamley, known by her elegant flower volumes, is not alone the editress—a new word, by the way, in the English language, and one most fairly introduced—but the sole author of this Annual. The lively and light-hearted lady has an exuberance of animal spirits, a good eye for the picturesque, catholic taste, an abounding love of fun, and that modern inclination for all the arts and sciences, which jumbles together geology, botany, ornithology, &c. &c., and which loads ladies with insect-boxes and botanical specimen-boxes instead of band-boxes— and with hammers instead of fans. The scene of her perambulations was the WYE ; and to those who have never seen the Wye, we cannot conceive why it should not be quite as captivating in description as the “lazy Scheldt or wandering Po”—“the blue and arrowy Rhone”—or, “the Rhine ! the Rhine !” Miss Twamley embarked at Bristol in a steamer bound for Chepstow, and saw and noted a great deal long before she reached port. Chepstow Castle detained her long; but we may safely slip the antiquarian and historical, to get at the descriptive parts. “Right pleasantly,” she says, “passed my morning, amid the thoughts and things but feebly, though, perhaps, too diffusely described here. While my patient and indulgent companion amused herself with exploring the recesses and loop-holes nearest my whereabout, and chatted to an old gardener about Kings and cabbages, I sketched a few scraps of the ruin, and dreamed of ‘by-gones.” Large, soft, downy-winged owls flew silently past, in the great hall, and sat staring at me from sheltering ivy-tods above the windows; and jackdaws, the unfailing tenants of ruins, cawed and grumbled about most noisily. Retracing our way back, we requested to see the underground apartments mentioned by some writers; and, on payment of an extra douceur, our blooming young conductress, unlocking a ponderous door under the uninhabited towers, led the way down a rather long and broad flight of stone stairs, in almost perfect darkness. We followed, and, groping our way on, found ourselves in a large vault, hollowed in the rock, with a groined roof, and one opening through which the light faintly struggles in, being nearly excluded by ivy and brambles, which fall over the cliff. Looking down, the Wye was seen rolling at a great depth below. Massive rings of iron in the rocky wall shew that this murky vault was used as a dungeon for the confinement of prisoners; and, damp, dark, and dreary as it is, was probably commodious, when compared with many a loathsome den allotted to such purposes in feudal fortresses.” And Miss Twamley recalled the prisoners of Chillon, and, with a thankful heart, bounded into the sunshine, and thanked her stars for British freedom. As she stood on a fine point of view above the Wye, commanding the town of Chepstow, the Severn, the Gloucestershire coast, and the Channel, she remembered another visit to the same spot ; and, truly, the wanderers on the Continent rarely find so fair a scene, in so felicitous an hour—a soft, dewy, calm, spring evening. “The brightness of the day was over, but “‘The golden clouds, on which the sun had left. The footsteps of his splendour,” still lay upon the deepening sky, and were mirrored in the glassy river. The whole scene was so noiseless, so placid, that it seemed asleep— nothing but happy slumber was ever so still ; but soon the spell was broken by a distant owl sending a long low hoot along the river, which seemed to awake in a dozen places, and echo back the notes. Other owls now answered at intervals; but, whilst we were listening, and trying to trace the different cries, a rich, rapid, but brief cadence thrilled on our ears from the opposite woods, and, as if they had only waited for a signal, a choir of nightingales took up the strain, and the whole atmosphere seemed vibrating with music. Not two, nor three, nor four, but a countless number of these wondrous voices burst forth as if by enchantment ; and, hearing them as we did, across the river and its deep valley, the effect was more exquisite than anything I could have conceived.” And then Miss Twamley quotes some very sweet lines to the nightingales, by some young lady, whose initials are L. A. T. Of the far-famed Piercefield Park, she says, smartly—“The park is very much like most other parks that have fair lawny glades, and noble timber to adorn them, with a fine handsome mansion placed in a commanding situation, looking about with all its windows, and seeming to say ‘Am I not an exceedingly good-looking house for my years?” We do not intend to say anything about the beautiful engravings of the Wye scenery. We shall only imitate the post-boy, who drove Miss Twamley, and, at a given point, according to custom, touched his hat with—“ First view of Tintern, Ma’am ” Monmouth and Ragland Castle we also pass by, but we shall have a scramble to the summit of Symond’s Yat, for which the boat was moored in floating down the Wye, that the fair adventuress might scale its height:— The path being very steep and fatiguing, my companion preferred sitting in the guide’s cottage, whilst I made my pilgrimage; and, with his wife as my pilot, I set forth, slipping and scrambling along, “through mud and mire,” the slippery clay causing more than one degradation of my dignity by a fall; but in due time we gained the platform of rock, crowning the narrow ridge, and I was well rewarded for my toils and tumbles, by the grand view spread around; with the Wye winding about below, and almost making an island of the lofty point on which I stood. A description of such a panorama as this view, would claim a chapter to its own share: the extent will be best estimated if I mention a few of the places within its range. The Kymin, Black Mountains, high land about Carmarthen, the Brown Clee Hills, Stoke Edith, and hills in Radnorshire, besides the comparatively nearer view, comprising the Dowards, and Goodrich Court and Castle; and all this lit up gloriously by real sunshine—not the counterfeit usually seen in our cloudy land, but clear, laughing, cheerful sunshine ! It was a thing not easily forgotten. The variety of wild berries, which were ripe in the woods, on the mountain ash, wild service, viburnum, elder, dogwood, wild rose, and hawthorn trees, together with a few pale autumn flowers, delighted me exceedingly ; and, as I was gathering sprays of each, the good woman who acted as guide, exclaimed regretfully, “Ah, ma’am, you should come here in summer, we’ve hall the horchises.” Numbers of mules, laden with coal, pass over this high edge from the forest of Dean, and descend on the south side, where they are ferried over the Wye, and carry their burdens up to the kilns on the Great Doward, which are supplied in this manner. Many of the mules were really beautiful animals : and, as they wound down the rugged and narrow path, picking their way with unerring sureness of foot, and stepped into the ferry-boat, I heartily wished them a kindlier lot. Such is a fair specimen of the entertainment that readers may expect in Miss Twamley’s Annual. The good taste of some nameless lady, who has a right to rule in Wilton Castle, is thus blazoned. There remained but one more object of material interest for me to visit in the vicinity of Ross, and that was Wilton Castle, to which I walked in the evening, but only to experience disappointment and vexation, at the vile taste which has grafted a little pert, formal, fresh-painted, venetian-blinded, muslim-curtained “cottage of gentility” upon the crumbling old towers and ivy-grown walls of the hoary castle. There was something quite pitiable and melancholy in the forced and outrageous masquerade; and a very brief survey sufficed me. One tower is transformed into a thatched summer-house, among similar travesties; and a fine colony of rooks, that formerly inhabited the lofty trees near, has been exterminated by the same lady by whom the other improvements have been made. Fancy those saucy artists and lovers of nature, who will not let gentle folks do what they like with their own The castle, thus embellished and modernized, was built by King Stephen. Miss Twamley has interspersed several copies of pretty verses with her pleasant and pretty guide-book. She is one of Flora’s favourite minstrels or glee-maidens at present, and one of the most mellifluous.

Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 5, December, 1838, pp. 799-800

 

 

1839

Piercefield … {Details of where to leave the carriage, take walks, get refreshments and where to be picked up by your carriage}

Anon, Thirteen views with a brief account of the picturesque scenery on the banks of the Wye between Ross and Chepstow. / A brief account of the picturesque scenery on the banks of the Wye between Ross and Chepstow. (Gloucester : 1839), p. 38

1840

Most of this is a quotation from William Coxe, An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire, (1801)

The romantic region of Piercefield, extending from Chepstow to Wyndcliff -a distance of about three miles by the sinuous walk, is one of the grand attractions of this place. It is nothing more, it is true, than a gentleman’s park; but then the landscape gardener by whom this park was laid out is Nature herself, who has lavished here her beauty, her grandeur, and her romance, in the wildest profusion. Art is entirely subservient to her purposes, opening the view where it was shut in, and forming paths for the pilgrim foot that would approach to worship.

“In the composition of the scenery,” says the historical tourist, “the meandering Wye, the steep cliffs, and the fertile peninsula of Lancaut, form the striking characteristics.

“The Wye, which is everywhere seen from a great elevation, passes between Wyndcliff and the Bangor rocks, winds round the peninsula of Lancaut, under a semicircular chain of stupendous cliffs, is lost in its sinuous course, and again appears in a straight line at the foot of the Lancaut rocks, and flows under the majestic ruins of Chepstow Castle towards the Severn.

“The rocks are broken into a variety of fantastic shapes, and scattered at different heights and different positions: they start abruptly from the river, swell into gentle acclivities, or hang on the summits of the hills; here they form a perpendicular rampart, these jet into enormous projections, and impend over the water.

“But their dizzy heights and abrupt precipices are softened by the woods which form a no less conspicuous feature in the romantic scenery; they are not meagre plantations placed by art, but a tract of forests scattered by the hand of nature. In one place they expand into open groves of large oak, elm, and beech; in another form a shade of timber trees, copses, and underwood, hiding all external objects, and wholly impervious to the rays of the sun, they start from the crevices of the rocks, feather their edges, crown their summits, clothe their sides, and fill the intermediate hollows with a luxuriant mass of foliage, bring to recollection of the border.  [much more, see digital version]

Ritchie, Leitch, The Wye and its Associations, A Picturesque Ramble (London 1841), chapter 13,  pp. 58-

1840

The traveller should arrange his time so as to see the grounds of Piercefield, which are shown only on Tuesdays and Fridays. The house is now exhibited to strangers, by an order from the Piercefield Inn. The principal lodge is about 1/2 m. from Chepstow, on the Monmouth road, where the party may alight, and order the horses to meet them at the village of St. Arvan, 1m. beyond, near the upper extremity of the walks, where there is good accommodation at the Piercefield Inn. At this lodge the gardener resides, who will attend parties through the walks.

Piercefield was long the property of the family of Walters. It was sold in 1736 to Colonel Morris, of the Island of St. Vincent, father of Valentine Morris, to whom it owes its improvements. In 1784 it was disposed of to George Smith, Esq., of Burnhall, in the county of Durham : of whose accomplished daughter Mr. Bowdler has published some memoirs. This property then devolved, in 1794, to Colonel Wood, formerly chief engineer at Bengal, who completed the present tasteful and magnificent mansion, after it had been partly built by Mr. Smith. In 1803 it was sold to the present proprietor, Nathaniel Wells, Esq. The house is constructed of freestone, and stands nearly in the centre of the park. It consists of a centre and two wings, the former having three stories, and the latter one. Among the specimens of art which embellish this mansion, are four exquisite pieces of gobeline tapestry, which belonged to Louis XVI. They exhibit the natural history of Africa, and represent various productions, vegetable and animal, grouped with admirable skill, and uniting great correctness of design, with richness and beauty of colouring.

Quitting the lodge, cross through the park, and arrive at a second gate, whence descend along the road which leads towards the mansion; then turning to the r., enter a bordering of wood, and come to the Alcove, where look down upon the river, which flows at a tremendous depth below. To the r. are the majestic ruins of Chepstow Castle, and the town. In front are the rich meads of the Chapel House Farm. To the l., the fine reach of the Wye, called Long Hope, terminating with the bold rocky eminence of Llancaut. Passing from this delightful spot through a dark walk, we reach the first seat. Here an opening in the wood presents some beautiful scenery. In passing it, now and then catch a glimpse of Long Hope. The second seat presents the same objects, varied. With the park on the I., and a thickly shaded wood on the r., we reach the third seat. The fourth seat produces a view of the castle, town, and church. At the fifth seat, the castle, the upper part of the town, and summit of the church tower, continue in view. The second great object is the Platform, enclosed by iron railing. We have still the town and castle on the r., but the white cliffs of Llancaut glisten through the thick wood on the l.

Descending, we cross a road from the park, down a hollow vale towards the river, and again ascend up to the first seat from the platform. From this station, we have another view of the town, with Ewin’s Rocks, the river near its conflux with the Severn, and an extensive prospect over Gloucestershire. Still ascending, we reach another seat where the same scenery is much extended. The walk now skirts through a light forest like wood, to the edge of the park, where we catch a glimpse of the mansion. We continue our ascent to a third seat, which affords a pleasing view of the undulating lawn in front of the house. We continue the embowered walk, proceed by a large and aged elm, pass under some inclining laurel trees, and arrive at The Grotto, a romantic little cave, excavated from the rock, and studded with various stones and scoriae. A picture, in the happiest state of composition, is presented from this spot. A diversified plantation occupies the foreground, and descends through a grand hollow to the river, which passes in a long reach under the elevated ruin of Chepstow Castle, the town, and bridge. Towards the Severn, rocks and precipices, dark shelving forests, groves, and lawns, hang upon its course, with various sailing vessels. The path next leads to a seat near the edge of a rocky precipice, which fronts the peninsula of Llancaut, and produces a view of the magnificent Wyndcliff. We continue our walk along the edge of the rock, and from another seat survey the windings of the river, and concomitant objects. These are preliminary points to the fourth grand object, called the Double View, whence the different scenes which we have seen in detail appear in one comprehensive range. The mazy Wye, with all its interesting accompaniments, passes from beneath, through a richly variegated country to its junction with the Severn, beyond which silvery expanse, the grand swelling shores of Somersetshire form the distance. A curious deceptio visits occurs here; it arises from a coincidence in the angle of vision between the embattled rocks already mentioned, and a part of the Severn, which appears to wash their summit, although it is many miles distant. The walk declines to the fifth principal view, called the Halfway Seat, placed under a large and aged beech tree. From the front of this seat a most delightful view of the rich inclosures of Llancaut is obtained. Descending from this spot through a shaded walk, we reach the Druid’s Temple, so called from a circle of upright stones. From the next seat the lofty Wyndcliff rears its super-imminent head. The view from the succeeding seat produces the two extremities of Llancaut Hamlet, bounded by the darker Wyndcliff on the N. Another seat presents a variation of the same objects. A few yards further on the l., see a large oak, having for its soil a cleft in the rock. Passing under the edge of high wooded rocks, we arrive at the Giant’s Cave, which is a passage cut through a rock. Over the s. E. entrance is a mutilated colossal figure, which once sustained the fragment of a rock in his uplifted arms, threatening to overwhelm whoever dared to enter his retreat; but some time since, the stone fell, carrying the giant’s arms along with it. From this place a path, traced under the woods, descends to the bath, a commodious building, concealed from outward view by impending foliage. Returning up to the cave, we resume the walk to a seat placed at the foot of a rock. Pursuing the ascent to another seat, and thence, still ascending, we skirt the park, and approach the seventh grand station, which is a Seat near two Beeches, upon the edge of a precipice. The prospect from this spot is very fine. Hence a beautiful mossy path leads you to the verge of a perpendicular rock, guarded with iron rails, called the Lover’s Leap. This view is exquisitely grand, wild, and majestic. A fine reach of the river above Llancaut Farms, called Prior’s Reach, with Wyndcliff, and the Ban-y-gor rocks, are the leading objects. We now bend round a side of the ravine, through which runs the stream that supplies the cold bath, and pass along a corner of the park to the last seat, near which formerly stood a small temple. It is impossible to give an adequate description of the exquisite beauties of this view; the magic pencil of a Claude would falter at the task. Emerging through a door in the park wall, we pass down a road to the Fishpond, then turning through a gate on the r., and crossing three fields, we reach the Summit of Wyndcliff. From this lofty eminence are seen,’, beneath the circuitous Wye, the pretty hamlet of Llancaut, and the whole domain of Piercefield. Beyond, somewhat to the l., the town and castle of Berkeley and Thombury; in front, the town and castle of Chepstow, the majestic Severn, the union of the Wye with the Severn, the Old and New Passages, Durham Down, Blaire Castle, and Dundry Tower ; a little to the r., Kingroad, the mouth of the Avon, and Denny Islet, and Portishead Point; still farther to the r., the Holmes, and Penarth Point, near Cardiff; behind lie the Black Mountains, and within the circle of the horizon, parts of the several counties of Monmouth, Gloucester, Wilts, Somerset, Devon, Glamorgan, Brecon, Hereford, and Worcester. Return again to the Fishpond, and a few yards farther is St. Arvan’s, where we enter the Monmouth road, 2 m. from Chepstow. The charms of Piercefield, if not created, were disclosed by Valentine Morris, Esq., about the year 1753, who engrafted the blandishments of art upon the majestic wildness of nature, without distorting its original character. Philanthropic, hospitable, and magnificent, his house was promiscuously open to the numerous visitors whom curiosity led to his improvements; but, alas ! his splendid liberality, his unbounded benevolence, and some unforeseen political contingencies, involved his fortune. He was obliged to part with his estate, and take refuge in the West Indies. Before he left his country, he took a farewell view of Piercefield, and with manly resignation, parted with that idol of his contemplations. The industrious poor, whose happiness he had promoted by his exertions and his bounty, crowded around him, and, on their knees, implored the interposition of providence in his behalf, with tears and prayers. That mind which oft had melted at the recital of their sorrows, beheld them now unmoved; nor did his firmness forsake him in quitting what was most interesting to him; but after having crossed Chepstow Bridge, hearing the mournful sound of the muffled bells, he could not support so striking a mark of affection and respect, without giving vent to tears. In quitting England, he did not shake off the evils of his destiny. Being appointed governor of St. Vincent’s, he expended the residue of his fortune in advancing the cultivation of the colony, and raising works for its defence, when the island fell into the hands of the French. Government failing to reimburse his expenses, on his return to England, he was thrown into the King’s Bench prison by his creditors. Here, left destitute by his nearest relations, or a dole of broken victuals only offered, he experienced all the rigour of penury, during a confinement of seven years. Out of the numerous sharers of his prosperity, his amiable wife, and one friend only, remained to participate his misery, and alleviate his distress. Even the clothes of his lady, who was a niece of lord Peterborough, were sold to purchase bread; and, that nothing of evil might be wanting to fill his cup of wretchedness, the faithful partner of his cares, unable to bear up against continued and accumulating misery, became insane. At length he recovered his liberty; and Fortune, tired of this long persecution, seemed to abate somewhat of her rigour ; when death, ere he had half completed the ordinary age of man, closed his checkered career at the house of his brother-in-law, Mr. Wilmot, in Bloomsbury Square, in the year 1789.

The natural embellishments of Piercefield reject, with scorn, the decorative artifices of temples, statues, obelisks; yet one solitary URN, simply dedicated to the memory of Valentine Morris, seems a desideratum.

Mr. Willett, author of an “Excursion from the Source of the Wye to Chepstow,” advises the tourist to enter the grounds at the principal lodge on the Monmouth Road, and end at St. Arvan’s, as here described. Mr. Coxe says, ” it is always preferable to pass through the village of St. Arvan’s, to the upper part of the grounds, and descend from the Lover’s Leap to the Alcove.” In the latter case this description must be inverted.

Nicholson, N., The Cambrian traveller’s guide, and pocket companion, (3rd edition revised, 1840), pp. 198-201

1842

‘the gates were closed to strangers after 12 o’clock’

Anon, ‘A Five Days tour to the Wye, August, 1842’, NMW 190489, p. 53

1842-1845 

The grounds of Piercefield are well worth seeing but are only shown one day a week.

Caswall, Robert Clarke, Rev (1768-1846), Dorset History Centre, D/DES/F37

1843

[From Chepstow] You pass Crossway-green turnpike, and descending the hill arrive at Piercefield Lodge, a chaste Grecian structure, which opens upon this celebrated demesne.

Admission may be easily procured by a written application to Nathaniel Wells, Esq., to whom a character for great attention and courtesy to strangers is very generally and justly ascribed. Should you ride you must send your carriage forward to the Fish-pond beyond St. Arvans, at the extremity of the estate, whilst you proceed thither through the walks, by a circuitous and shady path, winding upon the rocks that overhang the Wye. At intervals these serpentine walks disclose several magnificent prospects, in which the sister rivers, —the towering Windcliff—the peaceful promontory of Llancaut,—and the ivied ruins of Chepstow Castle, give their contrasting beauties to the various scenes.

[Long quotation from Louisa Twamley (1839) see above]

The road is now regained upon the summit of a gentle eminence, from which the prospect is very beautiful; thence gently descending you reach the path leading to Windcliff, slowly winding your way up a devious and gentle ascent, encircled by woods, you are at length brought to the pine-crowned summit of Windcliff, where, standing on its brow, the vision at once expands to grasp an extent of scenery, incommunicable as regards description, even by the tongue of the most gifted and inspired of poets, as we may judge by the subjoined confession of a favourite author.

Coleridge’s poem “Oh, what a goodly scene!   …  Blest hour I it was a luxury—to be.”

To obtain admission to Piercefield, send you card, with a request for admission, directed for Nathaniel Wells, Esq., the urbane proprietor, who will leave orders at the lodge for the following morning.

“The spectator stands upon the edge of a precipice, the depth of which is most awful, and the river winds at his feet. The right screen is Piercefield ridge, richly wooded; the left is a belt of rocks, over which appears the Severn, and the fine shores between Thornbury and Bristol, rising behind each other in admirable swells, which unite in most graceful carves. The first foreground is to the eye a view from the clouds upon earth, and the rich contrast of green meadows to wild forest scenery; the farm of Lancaut clasped in the arms of the winding river, backed by hanging wood and rock. The further horn of the crescent tapers off into a craggy informal mole, over which the eye passes to a second bay: thui terminates in Chepstow Castle; the town and rocks beyond all, mellowed down by distance into that fine hazy indistinctness, which makes even deformities combine in harmony with the picture. In the middle distance the widening sea spreads itself, and from the shores of Somerset and Monmouth shires steals away into the horizon. Lastly, all this union of large and hold objects, from being compressed within the circumference of a very few miles, unites the landscape and the prospect, together with the forest and park character of unimpeded expanse: for the enclosures are very few in any park, and by distance are almost diminished to imperceptible streaks.”—Fosbroke.

Reluctantly leaving this beautiful scenery, you will commence the descent to the cottage, passing in your course through the bowels of a natural cave, and subsequently winding along a narrow and fantastic path, through a wood of oak trees, beech, and venerable yews, between the branches of which you may now and then catch a partial and pleasing glimpse of the surrounding scenes. The moss cottage, like all other similar erections, is simple and pretty, and is altogether suited for the purpose of picnics and refreshment, for which it is entirely designed. Its spacious table is wrought from a slab of a walnut-tree, which once grew in the ditch of Chepstow Castle.

Leaving the base of Windcliff, the road becomes a continued descent to the lovely vale of Tintern, which is consecrated to religion and the arts, by that surpassing ruin which reposes in its bosom. The scenery is delightfully umbrageous, and assumes a freshness and beauty which precludes the intrusion of sombre feelings, whilst it opens every avenue of the heart to sentiments of pure and exalted pleasure.

“The immediate vicinity of Tintern,” says a recent writer, “is most congenial and picturesque. We can at once distinguish that fire and water, those agents of reproduction and decay,—those grand artificers of all that is sublime and magnificent in scenery,—have been eminently busy here. Here are chronicled in eternal characters the prowess of the earthquake and the deluge, which from a vast and pointless plain,—perhaps the bed of some gloomy lake during the dominion of chaos or the dawn of the creation,—have cast up mountains in a moment, and clothed their chasms with a sylvan congenial garb of countless hues; planted their bases with verdant meadows, and carved sinuous channels for their perennial streams. Here we have on every side lofty and precipitous hills, whose bases intersect each other like the teeth of those gigantic saurians,— dragons of olden time,—whose remains are so plentifully exhumed around, enclosing a narrow and winding ravine, broken into meadows, carpeted with luxuriant grass, and thickly sprinkled with whitewashed cottages, which, ‘half hidden amidst a domestic grove of apple trees, reflect their lucid images in that vagarious stream which completes the charming scenery of this romantic spot.”

Anon [Willett, Mark], The Stranger’s Illustrated Guide to Chepstow, (1843), note, pp. 15-21

 

1843

A Walk or Ride through Piercefield to the Brow of Windcliff

The first walk will consequently comprehend a visit to Piercefield, Windcliffe, and Tintern Abbey. [note:] To obtain admission to Piercefield, send your card, with a request for admission, directed to Nathaniel Wells, Esq., the urbane proprietor, who will leave orders at the lodge for the following morning.

You … arrive at Piercefield Lodge, a chaste Grecian structure, which open upon this celebrated demesne. Admission may be easily procured by a written application to Nathaniel Ewells, Esq., to whom a character for great attention and courtesy to strangers is very generally and justly ascribed. Should you ride you must send your carriage forward to the Fishpond beyond St Arvans, at the extremity of the estate, whilst you proceed thither through the walks, by a circuitous and shady path, winding upon the rocks that overhand the Wye. At intervals these serpentine walks disclose several magnificent prospects, in which the sister rivers, – the towering Windcliff, – the peaceful promontory of Lancaut, – and the ivied ruins of Chepstow Castle, give their contrasting beauties to the various scenes.

To these the Landscape Annual for 1839 contains the following playful allusions:

The park is very much like most other parks that have fair lawny glades, and noble timber to adorn them, with a fine handsome mansion placed in a commanding situation, looking about with all its windows, and seeming to say ‘Am I not an exceedingly good-looking house.’ At a little distance from the lodge we met a small boy, who walked with us to a tall tree, and catching at a rope hanging to it, rang such a sonorous peal on a great bell hidden among the branches, as must have long since scared away all the. Dryads and gentle Genii of the place. This startling summons having brought the guide to our assistance ; we were conducted to the ‘ Alcove,’ the first view-point, and then to eight others, ‘ as established by law,’ each affording a beautiful and Extensive prospect of Chepstow, the Wye, rock, wood and vale.

A gigantic old laurel, which stretches its immense limbs beside the path for some distance, enjoyed one share of admiration, and the ‘Lover’s Leap’ another. This sentimental spot, whose name must render it charming to all despairing swains and sighing nymphs of the Corydon and Phyllis schools, overlooks a deep and wooded glen of exceeding grandeur and beauty, above which towers the Windcliff.—Whilst I was gazing down on the undulating and many-tinted forest so far below me, a fine kite flew out of the next wood, and for some time sailed grandly about, or poising himself on his outspread wings, hung balanced on the air. How beautiful it was!

‘A sylvan scene; and as the ranks ascend,
Shade above shade a woody theatre
Of stateliest view.’—Milton.

And the wild, grandly-graceful bird, the only moving thing in the great picture 1 I remember the ‘Lover’s Leap’ well; but the ‘Grotto,’ and the ‘Giant’s Cave,’ and all such small trickery upon grand nature,—such tinkering upon gold,—are my aversion. In the glen below the Lover’s Leap is a cold bath, approached by a path winding through the wood; but few visitors are inclined to lengthen their walk so far; nor did I; but, quitting the Piercefield grounds by the St. Arvan’s gate, we found our chaise waiting, and journeyed quietly towards the Windcliff.

The road is now regained upon the summit of a gentle eminence, from which the prospect is very beautiful; thence gently descending you reach the path leading to Windcliff, slowly winding your way up a devious and gentle ascent, encircled by woods, you are at length brought to the pine-crowned summit of Windcliff, where, standing on its brow, the vision at once expands to grasp an extent of scenery, incommunicable as regards description, even by the tongue of the most gifted and inspired of poets, as we may judge by the subjoined confession of a favourite author.

“Oh, what a goodly scene!
Grey clouds that shadowing spot the sunny fields
And river, now with bushy rocks o’er-browed,
Now winding, bright and full, with naked banks;
And seats and lawns, the abbey and the wood,
And cots and hamlets, and faint city spire;
The channel there, the island, and white sails,
Dim coasts, and cloud-like hills, and shoreless ocean.
It seemed like Omnipotence! God, methought,
Had built him there a temple; the whole world
Seemed imaged in its vast circumference.
No wish profaned my overwhelmed heart i
Blest hour! it was a luxury—to be.”

Coleridge.

“The spectator stands upon the edge of a precipice, the depth of which is most awful, and the river winds at his feet. The right screen is Piercefield ridge, richly wooded; the left is a belt of rocks, over which appears the Severn, and the fine shores between Thornbury and Bristol, rising behind each other in admirable swells, which unite in most graceful carves. The first foreground is to the eye a view from the clouds upon earth, and the rich contrast of green meadows to wild forest scenery; the farm of Lancaut clasped in the arms of the winding river, backed by hanging wood and rock. The further horn of the crescent tapers off into a craggy informal mole, over which the eye passes to a second bay: thui terminates in Chepstow Castle; the town and rocks beyond all, mellowed down by distance into that fine hazy indistinctness, which makes even deformities combine in harmony with the picture. In the middle distance the widening sea spreads itself, and from the shores of Somerset and Monmouth shires steals away into the horizon. Lastly, all this union of large and hold objects, from being compressed within the circumference of a very few miles, unites the landscape and the prospect, together with the forest and park character of unimpeded expanse: for the enclosures are very few in any park, and by distance are almost diminished to imperceptible streaks.”—Fosbroke.

Reluctantly leaving this beautiful scenery, you will commence the descent to the cottage, passing in your course through the bowels of a natural cave, and subsequently winding along a narrow and fantastic path, through a wood of oak trees, beech, and venerable yews, between the branches of which you may now and then catch a partial and pleasing glimpse of the surrounding scenes. The moss cottage, like all other similar erections, is simple and pretty, and is altogether suited for the purpose of picnics and refreshment, for which it is entirely designed. Its spacious table is wrought from a slab of a walnut-tree, which once grew in the ditch of Chepstow Castle.

Leaving the base of Windcliff, the road becomes a continued descent to the lovely vale of Tintern, which is consecrated to religion and the arts, by that surpassing ruin which reposes in its bosom. The scenery is delightfully umbrageous, and assumes a freshness and beauty which precludes the intrusion of sombre feelings, whilst it opens every avenue of the heart to sentiments of pure and exalted pleasure.

“The immediate vicinity of Tintern,” says a recent writer, ” is most congenial and picturesque. We can at once distinguish that fire and water, those agents of reproduction and decay,—those grand artificers of all that is sublime and magnificent in scenery,—have been eminently busy here. Here are chronicled in eternal characters the prowess of the earthquake and the deluge, which from a vast and pointless plain,—perhaps the bed of some gloomy lake during the dominion of chaos or the dawn of the creation,—have cast up mountains in a moment, and clothed their chasms with a sylvan garb of countless hues; planted their bases with verdant meadows, and carved sinuous channels for their perennial streams. Here we have on every side lofty and precipitous hills, whose bases intersect each other like the teeth of those gigantic saurians,— dragons of olden time,—whose remains are so plentifully exhumed around, enclosing a narrow and winding ravine, broken into meadows, carpeted with luxuriant grass, and thickly sprinkled with whitewashed cottages, which, ‘half hidden amidst a domestic grove of apple trees,’ reflect their lucid images in that vagarious stream which completes the charming scenery of this romantic spot.”

Anon, A guide to the stranger visiting the town of Chepstow and its Neighbourhood; with Copious Notices of Tintern Abbey, Wyndcliff and the Districts of Chepstow, Caldicot, Rhaglan, Monmouth, Goodrich, and Ross (London, 1843), pp. 15-21

 

1844

Percefield. In the immediate environs, many objects are found to invite the traveller’s attention; but, as a combination of rich English scenery, the attractions of Persefield, or Piercefield, stand pre-eminent. The house and grounds are thus briefly described: The latter extend westward along the precipitous banks of the Wye, as shown in the engraving. On the north is the Wind-Cliff, or Wynd Cliff. The grounds are divided into the lower and upper lawn by the approach to the house, a modern edifice, consisting of a stone centre and wings, from which the ground slopes gracefully but rapidly into a valley profusely shaded with ornamental trees. To give variety to the views, and disclose the native grandeur of the position, walks have been thrown open through the woods and along the precipitous margin of the river, which command the town, castle, and bridge of Chepstow, with the Severn in the distance, backed by a vast expanse of fertile valleys and pastoral hills. But to describe the romantic features of this classic residence with the minuteness they deserve, would far exceed our limits; it is a scene calculated to inspire the poet as well as the painter; and it is gratifying to add that, by the taste and liberality of the owner, strangers are freely admitted to the grounds and walks of Persefield.

The Wynd Cliff.-This lofty eminence commands one of the finest and most varied prospects in the United Kingdom; while the scenery of the Cliff has a particular charm for every lover of the picturesque. Poet, painter, and historian, have combined their efforts to make it a place of pilgrimage; but, to f. seen in all its beauty, the rich and various tints of autumn and a bright sun are indispensable accessories. It may be called the “Righi” of the Wye, commanding a vast circumference of fertile plains and wooded hills, all enlivened with towns, villages, churches, castles, and cottages; with many a classic spot on which the stamp of history is indelibly impressed—names embodied in our poetry, and embalmed by religious associations. From the edge of the precipice, nearly a thousand feet in height, the prospect extends into eight counties—Brecon, Glamorgan, Monmouth, Hereford, Gloucester, Wilts, Somerset, and Devon.

For the enjoyment of this inspiring scene, every facility has been supplied; and even the invalid tourist, with time and caution, may reach the summit without fatigue. “The hand of art,” says the local guide, “has smoothed the path up the declivity, tastefully throwing the course into multiplied windings, which fully accord with its name, and the nature of the scenery which it commands. At every turn some pendant rock girt with ivy, some shady yew, or some novel glimpse on the vale below, caught through the thick beechy mantle of this romantic precipice, invite the beholder to the luxury of rest.” Still ascending, the tourist penetrates a dark-winding chasm, through which the path conducts him in shadowy silence to the last stage of the ascent, which gradually discloses one of the most enchanting prospects upon which the human eye can repose. From the platform to the extreme verge of the horizon, where the Downs of Wiltshire and the Mendip hills form the boundary line, the eye ranges over a vast region of cultivated fields, waving forests, and populous towns, sufficient of themselves to furnish the resources of a principality.

The pens of Reed, Warren, and Gilpin, have been successively employed in sketching the features of this magnificent panorama; but nothing can be more correct and graphic than the following description by Fosbroke:–“What a cathedral is among churches, the Wynd Cliff is among prospects. Like Snowdon, it ought to be visited at sunrise, or seen through a sunrise-glass called a Claude, which affords a sunrise view at mid-day, without the obscuration of the morning mist. This cliff is the last grand scene of the Piercefield drama. It is not only magnificent, but so novel, that it excites an involuntary start of astonishment; and so sublime, that it elevates the mind into instantaneous rapture. The parts consist of a most uncommon combination of wood, rock, water, sky, and plain—of height and abyss—of rough and smooth—of recess and projection—of fine landscapes near, and excellent prospective afar-all melting into each other, and grouping into such capricious lines, that, although it may find a counterpart in tropic climes, it is, in regard to England, probably unique. The spectator stands upon the edge of a precipice, the depth of which is awful to contemplate, with the river winding at his feet. The right screen is Piercefield ridge, richly wooded; the left is a belt of rocks, over which, northward, appears the Severn, with the fine shores between Thornbury and Bristol, rising behind each other in admirable swells, which unite in most graceful curves. The first foreground appears to the eye like a view from the clouds to the earth, and the rich contrast of green meadows to wild forest scenery, the farm of Llancaut, clasped in the arms of the winding river, backed by hanging wood and rock. The further horn of the crescent tapers off into a craggy informal mole, over which the eye passes to a second bay; this terminates in Chepstow Castle, the town and rocks beyond all mellowed down by distance, into that fine hazy indistinctness which makes even deformities combine into harmony with the picture.” Fosbroke, Local History and Guide

An observatory, the guide informed us, was intended some years since to have crowned this noble eminence, and a subscription was got up for the purpose; but some difference having arisen between the projectors of the scheme and the proprietor of the land, it was dropped. It was suggested by a local writer, that a few Doric columns with architraves, however rude, would have had an imposing effect on the summit of the Wynd Cliff, and reminded the classic traveller of the ruined temple of Minerva on the Sunium promontory. “It might,” he says, “be partially immersed in wood; while, in the native rock, niches might be hollowed out; and on a tablet, at the finest point of view, the following words should be inscribed:—VALENTINE MORRIS introduced these sublime scenes to public view. To him be honour: to God praise.” This is concise and classical; but it is reserved probably for another generation to witness the completion of the design.

The whole scene, from this point to the Abbey of Tintern, presents an uninterrupted combination of picturesque and romantic features. Above are hanging cliffs, richly clothed in variegated woods, perfumed with flowers, irrigated by murmuring rivulets, fountains, and cascades, and rendered vocal by the songs of birds. These woody solitudes are the annual resort of nightingales, whose note is familiar to every late and early tourist, who with slow and lingering step measures his leafy way between Chepstow and Tintern—unable to decide at what point of the road there is the richest concentration of scenery. It is, indeed, a sylvan avenue of vast and variegated beauty, reminding us of the softer features of Helvetian landscape.

Far below, and seen only at intervals through its thick curtain of foliage, the classic Vaga continues its winding course. Here basking in sunshine, there sweeping along under shadowy cliffs—now expanding its waters over a broad channel, or rushing through deep ravines, it is often enlivened by boats laden with produce, or visitors in pleasure-barges, who make the “descent of the Wye,” as, in former days, pilgrims made that of the Rhine and Danube; for the boats that perform the trip from Ross to Chepstow, make, in general, but one voyage, and are otherwise employed or broken up at its conclusion—

Facilis descensus Averni—
Sed revocare gradum.

It is but recently, says a periodical authority, that the Wye has become at all frequented on account of its scenery. About the middle of last century, the Rev. Dr. Egerton, afterwards Bishop of Durham, was collated by his father to the rectory of Ross, in which pleasant town, situated on the left bank of the river, and just at the point where its beautiful scenery begins, the worthy doctor resided nearly thirty years. He was a man of taste, and had a lively enjoyment of the pleasures of society amidst the beautiful scenery of his neighbourhood. His chief delight was to invite his friends and connections, who were persons of high rank, to pay him summer visits at Ross, and then to take them down the Wye—

“Pleased Vaga echoing through its winding bounds,”—

which, as well as the town of Ross, had derived a new interest from the lines of Pope. For this purpose, we are told, Dr. Egerton built a pleasure-boat; and, year after year, excursions were made, until it became fashionable in a certain high class of society to visit the Wye. But when the rector of Ross was consecrated to the see of Durham, his pleasure-boat, like that of the Doges of Venice and Genoa, was suffered to rot at anchor; and with no successor of similar means and taste to follow his example, excursions on the Wye became unfrequent, because no longer fashionable. Yet the beauties of the scenery once explored, became gradually more attractive; and some pilgrim of Nature, deviating now and then from the beaten track, spoke and sang of its beauties, until, having again caught the public ear, it was admitted that we had a “Rhine” within our own borders—with no vineyards and fewer castles, but with a luxuriance of scenery peculiarly its own, and with remains of feudal and monastic grandeur which no description could exaggerate. Mr. Whately, a writer on landscape gardening, and an exquisite critic, first directed attention to the new weir at Tintern Abbey, and one or two other scenes on its banks; and, in 1770, the Wye was visited by William Gilpin, who did good service to taste and the lovers of nature by publishing his tour. The same year, a greater name connected itself with the Wye—for it was visited by the immortal author of the “Elegy in a Country Churchyard.” “My last summer’s tour,” says Gray, in one of his admirable letters to Dr. Wharton, “was through Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire, Herefordshire, and Shropshire— five of the most beautiful counties in the kingdom. The very principal sight and capital feature of my journey was the river Wye, which I descended in a boat for nearly forty miles, from Ross to Chepstow. Its banks are a succession of nameless beauties.” The testimony thus bequeathed to it by the illustrious Gray, has been confirmed and repeated by Wordsworth, while other kindred spirits, following each other in the same track, have sacrificed to Nature at the same altar, and recorded their admiration in immortal song:

Once Again / Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, / … How often has my spirit turned to thee! Wordsworth, July 13, 1798

Note: Brief list of sources

TINTERN ABBEY …

Beattie, William, The Castles and Abbeys of England, from the National Records, …  Second Series, [1844], pp. 26- 31

 

 

11.8.1847

‘Fine hot day, walked to Piercefield and feel that we have had our labours for our pains … I do not think I have ever been more utterly disappointed. There is really nothing to repay the fatigue of walking so far and after having seen the Wyndcliff there is nothing at all to see. For the arrangement of the place itself is nothing like so pretty – the fatigue much greater and the views not so good. … I should certainly say to anybody wanting to go to Piercefield – “Don’t” …

‘it is very disappointing …It is not by any means worth the 3 shillings which you have to give the woman.’ …

29.9.1847 ‘in the afternoon to see Mrs Oakley’s grounds [Tanybwlch] – a 1000 times more worth seeing than that odious Piercefield.’

Hall, Emily, Bromley Archives, 855/F2/5, pp. 163, 194, 196

 1848

From Piercefield Park, a splendid seat, the views are remarkably magnificent, and embrace numerous reaches of the Wye, the Severn, and a great range of the surrounding country. The mansion, situated on an eminence, in the midst of fine plantations, is a superb elevation of freestone, consisting of a centre and two wings, and much admired for its tasteful architecture: on the spacious staircase are four beautiful pieces of Gobelin tapestry which belonged to Louis XVI, representing subjects in the natural history of Africa.

Lewis, Samuel, Topographical Dictionary of England (1848)

1849

A short distance below the castle is Piercefield, the grounds of which are among the most beautiful in the kingdom. Gilpin, and some other of the writers who were in the last century regarded as the authorities in all that related to ” the picturesque” in scenery, have spoken somewhat disparagingly of these famous walks; and it would seem that, in their day, there were some artificial adornings that were not in the happiest taste; but they are gone now, and probably no one whose judgment is of any value would now stroll through them without delight. To see them, it is necessary to send a note the previous day; and consequently they are not generally visited, but, if possible, they should be seen. The walks are three miles in length, for the most part winding along the summit of the lofty cliffs, at whose base flows our river. On a summer’s day nothing can be more refreshing than the rich, umbrageous arcades, with the pleasant murmur of the unseen river “singing a quiet tune;” or the shady bowers from which you look out over a vast expanse of varied scenery through which the Wye winds gracefully, and beyond it the Severn, like a huge lake, stretches far away to the hills that are seen on the distant horizon, mingling with the low clouds in such gladsome revelry, that the eye is unable to distinguish the one from the other. The views from Piercefield are indeed of the most exquisite kind, and of great variety. Now the Wye is seen, in all its nobleness, winding among towering rocks, riven, many of them, into the most fantastic forms ; presently the same river appears diminished into only an inferior feature in the landscape, which spreads out like a wide panorama before you, glistening in the glowing sunshine, and sinking into the heart with a loveliness that may be felt, but can neither be expressed nor represented. At other times, little more is seen than some weather beaten fragment of the old castle; again you have a fair view of the town, with its bridge, and port, and shipping. But we will not dwell on a place that all may not be able to see, though from our own experience we apprehend that the visitor will, on application, meet with a ready and courteous admission.

Anon, The land we live in, a pictorial and literary sketch-book of the British empire, vol. 1, [London, 1849], pp. 244

 

1850

Leased to John Russell (1788-1873) after 1852, and purchased by him in 1855. There is one reference to his wife showing visitors around the house.

 1853 [guide book]

Taylor, Robert, Taylor’s illustrated guide to the banks of the Wye : including Chepstow, Monmouth, Ross, Piercefield, Wyndcliff, Tintern Abbey, Raglan and Goodrich Castles … (1853 and subsequent editions, 1854, 1863 and see 1870 edition below)

1854

Piercefield Park, the marvel of the last and the attraction of the present generation, extends nearly from Windcliff to Chepstow, and is certainly a beautiful example of landscape-gardening ; but to a mind which has become familiarized with the grand and simple scenes of nature, a ramble through the three-mile walk of Piercefield Terrace is far less gratifying than the same distance would prove through the wild greenwood, or over the breezy hills. Maugre [sic] all this, we owe much to the taste which has adorned this place, and to the liberality which has thrown it open to the public for their gratification.

The attractions of Piercefield arise from the peculiar features of nature, forming almost every element in pictorial composition, which are assembled on this spot, or which belong to its neighbourhood. The park itself is comparatively small, not extending over more than three hundred acres, in the centre of which is the mansion; but the varieties on its surface, and the manner in which it gently undulates on one side, and on the other descends precipitately into a deep vale, —the thick majestic woods, which encompass some portions of it, and the graceful masses that adorn others,—the single trees that fling their arms on all sides in supreme beauty,-—the gentle slopes, the rising hills, the stern bald crags, the rolling river giving the sweet voice of its waters to the umbrage around,—the mingling of colours under the first tints of autumn,—the sublime, the terrific, and the beautiful, singularly, and as it were accidentally, combined, give to Piercefield a charm, which makes it the Hafod or the Elan of Monmouthshire. The hand of taste has been here too, not in its crudities and patchwork, but in its enchanting disclosures of the natural beauties and sublime originals of the place, in its graceful combinations, and in its captivating allurements of shades and openings, and winning promises of fresh delights to the onward visitor. The kindly feeling of the proprietor is obvious in the provision he has made of walks and ascents for the most comprehensive views, of resting-places for the foot of the traveller, of grottos scooped from the rocks, and of flower-embroidered alcoves, where the wood’s minstrelsy may be most enjoyed, and in the labour he has employed to afford engagement to the memory and the fancy, while the senses have been thus regaled,—and all this surrounded, as it is, by the wild and untameable in nature, by gibbous and craggy rocks, precipices, magnificent mountains, the boundless forest, and tracks of heath and moorland.

The proprietor to whom Piercefield owes its improvement, and the public their enjoyment, was Mr.Valentine Morris. His history is short and melancholy. In the course of the American war he was appointed governor of the island of St. Vincent, where he expended a large sum from his own private fortune in its fortifications. Upon its fall, the minister of the day disavowed his claim for compensation. His creditors became clamorous, and he was cast into the King’s Bench prison, where he languished for twelve years. He was released from his confinement, broken in health and spirits, suffering most of all from the domestic calamity which his fallen fortunes had produced, in the insanity of his wife, and shortly after he died at“the house of a relative in London. He was a generous and benevolent man, as the poor of his ‘neighbourhood could well testify. On his departure for the West Indies, they came in troops to bid him a tearful farewell, and the muflled bells of the neighbouring church rang a funeral knell as he left the home of his love, and the scenes which he had embellished both by his taste and his life.

Roscoe, Thomas, Wanderings and Excursions in South Wales with the Scenery of the River Wye, (London, 1854), pp. 155-157

1854

Walks and Rides round Chepstow

Route 1

To Piercefield, Windcliff, and Tintern Abbey

PIERCEFIELD

The traveller at Chepstow will not do justice to himself or the deservedly-admired scenery of Piercefield Walks, should he omit to pay the latter a visit. It is at present closed to the public; but a letter addressed to the occupant of this splendid property generally ensures admission. It is usual to give at least a day’s notice; but travellers applying at the lodge, and sending their card to the mansion (if time will admit), will meet with every attention.

The principal lodge is a mile from Chepstow, on the Monmouth road, where the party will alight, and order their vehicle to meet them at the fish-pond, beyond St. Aryan’s, nearly a mile and a half further, at the upper extremity of the walks. At St. Arvan’s there is a respectable house called the Piercefield Inn.

In the year 1620 we find Piercefield in the possession of John Walter, son of Thomas Walter, by Elizabeth, his wife, daughter of Thomas Thomas, Esq., of Aylburton, in the county of Gloucester. This John Walter was the twelfth in descent of the family of Walter, who were possessed of Piercefield. Their heraldic bearings are over the fireplace in the hall. In 1736 Colonel Morris, of the island of St. Vincent, purchased the estate. Piercefield so far as depends upon Art, was the creation of Valentine Morris, son of Colonel Morris, he was a character as distinguished for his imprudence, as for his benevolence and hospitality. He was, however, greatly beloved,—for when his embarrassed circumstances obliged him to offer Piercefield for sale, and quit the neighbourhood, his departure excited deep regret in the breast of persons of almost every description He divided money among the poor assembled in the church-yard; shook each by the hand, and was followed to the Passage by a procession of Carriages. The bells rung a muffled peal; and why he invited such a severe trial to his feelings at all, would not be easy to account for, in a man who did not (like himself), over rule popularly; as his embarrassed circumstances was mainly brought about in the vain attempt of removing the Morgans of Tredegar, from the representation of the County.

To the honour of Valentine Morris, be it said, that he was a strenuous promoter of good roads in the County, and that brought  him into opposition with a many of the Gentry of the County who opposed the Turnpike Act. Morris was examined at the Bar of the House of Commons, and being asked “What roads are there, in Monmouthshire?” he replied ”None.” “How then do you travel?” “In ditches.”

In 1784 Piercefield was sold to Mr. Smith, of Burnhall, Durham, whose daughter published an Ode on the death of Lewellen ap Griffiths, the last Prince of Wales, whom the authoress supposes, was killed near this spot. Be this as it may, the Ode, written at fifteen years of age, must be pronounced highly creditable to the amiable Miss Smith’s genius and memory.

In 1794 to the late Colonel Wood, afterwards Sir Mark Wood, Bart., of Gatton, Surrey, formerly chief engineer at Bengal, who completed the present house, which was begun by Mr. Smith. Subsequently it was purchased by the late Nathaniel Wells, Esq., to whose descendants the property now belongs.

The mansion is an elegant modern building, standing in the back part of the park. It is ornamented with four elegant pieces of Gobeline tapestry, which belonged to Louis XVI., representing the natural history of Africa.

The walks are about three miles in length, winding almost from Chepstow Castle to Wyndcliff.

The grand views are the following, which are interspersed with many others of somewhat lesser interest, and where are placed seats for the spectator to survey the scenery at his leisure:—1. The Alcove. 2. The Platform. 3. The Grotto. 4. The Double View. 5. The Half-way Seat. 6. The Giant’s Cave. 7. A Seat near two beech-trees on the edge of the precipice. 8. The Lover’s Leap. 9. Wyndcliff.

Leaving the lodge, you cross through the park, and arrive at a Second gate, from which you descend along the road which leads towards the mansion; then verging to the right, you enter a bdr; dering of wood, and come to the Alcove. Here you look down : upon the river, which flows; with passing grandeur, at a fearful and tremendous depth below. To the right, the majestic ruins of Chepstow Castle, with its elevated chapel upon the rook, and the town, appear in full view. Before you are the rich meads of the ; Chapel-house Farm. To the left is the fine reach of the Wye, Called Long Hope, terminating with the bold, rocky eminence of  Llancaut.

Passing, with regret, from this delightful spot through a dark ‘walk, you reach the first seat. Here is an opening through the i wood of some beautiful scenery. Prom there the walk becomes somewhat lighter, and you now and then catch an obscured peep of Long Hope.

The second seat now presents itself. Here the same objects appear, but with different faces.

Proceeding from this place, a light view of the park on the left, and a thickly-shaded wood on the right, lead to the third seat.

Still continuing the walk to the fourth seat, a pretty view of the castle, town, and church unfolds itself.

From the fifth seat, the castle, with the upper part of the town, and the very summit of the church tower, still continue in view, but with apparent variety.

You now arrive at the Platform, a dark point of view enclosed with iron railings. Here you have a semi-transparent prospect of the town and castle of Chepstow on the right, and of the white cliffs of Llancaut glistening through the thick wood on the left, in a most beautiful and inexpressible manner.

Descend from this second grand view, and cross a road which leads from the park, down a hollow vale, towards the river, and again ascend up to the first Beat from the platform. From this station a new and original view of the town, varying from any of the preceding views, with Ewin’s Rocks, the river near its conflux with the Severn, and a most extensive prospect over Gloucestershire, displays itself in an unusual and peculiar manner. Still ascending, you reach the second seat, where the same scenery continues, but of a more boundless character.

The walk now skirts through a light forest-like wood to the edge of the park, where you catch the first glance of the mansion. Still continuing your ascent to the third seat, you are presented with a very beautiful and pleasing view of the undulating lawn in front of the house. Again entering the embowered walk, proceed by a large and aged elm, with its singularly-spreading arms, pass under some inclining laurel-trees, and arrive at the Grotto. This is a romantic little cave, excavated from the rock, and studded with various kinds of stone and metallic scoria;. The prospect from here is fine and extensive; it passes over a steep wood, with a shelf of rocks in front, and, raising the eye, sweeps over a vast extent of country on the farthest side of the Severn.

The path now leads to the first seat, near the edge of the rocky precipice which fronts Llancaut, and exhibits a most interesting prospect of that peninsula, with a view of the magnificent Wyndcliff frowning upon you in the northern extremity.

The scenery now displays a marked and decisive change of character. Continue your walk along the edge of the rock, and from the second scat again survey the bending of the river round the rich pastures of Llancaut.

These two minor points are preliminary to the succeeding one which now appears, called the Double View, and which commands the sublime and beautiful of Nature in combination. On the left you look down upon the valley, with the Wye sweeping some hundred fathoms perpendicularly and awfully beneath, bounded by the vast amphitheatre of wooded rocks; and to the right, across the park, are the town and castle of Chepstow; beyond it is the wide expanse of the Severn, and an immense prospect bounds the whole.

The walk now declines to the Half-way Seat, placed under a large and aged beech tree. From this place is a short walk which branches to the mansion, and, when that object was publicly shown, formed the visitor’s route. Standing in front of this seat, a most delightful view of the rich enclosures of Llancaut unfolds itself in a very pleasing and luxuriant manner.

Descend from this spot, through a thick, shaded walk, to the Druids’ Temple, so named from a circle of upright stones standing there. A little further onward you arrive at the first seat from the half-way view, where you perceive the lofty Wyndcliff, still rearing its crested head above every other object within the horizon. The upper part of the peninsulated farms before noticed appears in this view.

Proceeding to the second seat, you see the two extremities of Llancaut hamlet, bounded by the darker Wyndcliff on the north, and by its own white cliffs on the south. Another view also may be had from a point of the rock just beyond, and again at the third seat presenting the same objects, but with a very material change of aspect. Nor must we omit, a few yards further on the left, that venerable oak, so often noticed by travellers, growing out of a cleft in the rock, without the least appearance of any other food for its vegetation.

Passing under the edge of some high-wooded rocks, you arrive at the Giant’s Cave, a romantic passage cut through a rock. Over its south-east entrance is a mutilated colossal figure, which once held the fragment of a rock in its uplifted arms, threatening to overwhelm whoever should dare to enter his retreat; but some time since the stone fell, carrying the giant’s arms along with it; he still continues to grin horribly, although deprived of his terrors.

We earnestly recommend the visitor to inspect these walks according to the succession of objects here laid down, in which many of them appear to great advantage. Thus, if you approach from St. Arvan’s, you lose the darksome interest of this cave, for on that side a gleam of light streams through it, but on this all is dark, gloomy, and obscure. This place occupies the centre of the amphitheatre, and displays a most exquisite scene.

Passing through the cavern, the walk leads by an ascent to the first seat, placed under the side of a rock. Pursuing the ascent to the second seat, and from thence, still ascending, you edge the side of the park. These seats afford much of the same scenery as before, though varied and enlarged from the higher ground. You now proceed to another of those stations which we have, for distinction sake at the commencement of the walks, named the Grand Views; it is a seat near two beech-trees, on the edge of a precipice. The view from this seat is very fine.

A beautiful carpet-like mossy path now leads you to the verge of a perpendicular rock, guarded with iron rails, called the Lover’s Leap. This view is particularly grand, wild, and majestic. A fine reach of the river above Llancaut farms, called Prior’s Reach, with Wyndcliff and the Ban-y-gor Rocks, are seen from this point to great advantage. You now bend round a side of the ravine through which runs the stream that supplies the cold bath, and pass along a corner of the park to the last seat, near which formerly stood a small temple. The prospect from this spot is exquisitely fine. It is impossible to give an adequate description of the beauties of this view.

WYNDCLIFF.

Leaving these grounds through a door in the park-wall, you pass into the Tintern new road near the fish-pond; then turning by the first lime-kiln, you ascend to the summit of Wyndcliff, an eminence much above the rest, and commanding the whole in one view. The Wye runs at the foot of the hill; the peninsula lies j just below; the deep bosom of the semicircular hanging wood is full in sight; over part of it the great rock appears, all its base, all its accompaniments are seen; the country immediately beyond is full of lovely hillocks, and the higher grounds in the counties of Somerset and Gloucester rise in the horizon. The Severn seems to be, as it really is above Chepstow, three or four miles wide; below the town it spreads almost to a sea; the county of Monmouth is the higher shore; and between its beautiful hills appear at a great distance the mountains of Brecknock and Glamorganshire. In extent, in variety and grandeur, few prospects are equal to this. It comprehends all the noble scenes of Piercefield, encompassed by some of the finest country in Britain.

If an opinion must be given concerning the hack question— “Which is the grandest scene on the Wye” the answer must be “The prospect from Wyndcliff.” It is not only magnificent, but it is so novel, that it excites an involuntary start of astonishment, and so sublime that it elevates the mind into instantaneous rapture. Its parts consist in a most uncommon combination of wood, rock, water, sky, and plain; of height and abyss, of rough and smooth, of recess and projection, of fine landscape a-near, and exquisite perspective afar, all melting into each other, and grouping in such capricious lines, that although it may find a counterpart in the tropical climes, it is, as to England, probably unique. It is unlikely that the mouths of two rivers should be so adjacent or so arranged as to form a similar scene, though a thousand views of sea, vale and rock, may be of corresponding character, with only slight differences of surface; but the ground here is singular, and the features not being English the physiogmy is of course, such as cannot be expected elsewhere. It also improves both upon our natural and foreign landscape; upon the former because the scenery is not so fine as the foreign, which Wyndcliff resembles upon the latter; because according to the observation of Humboldt, it has not that “something strange and sad which accompanies aspects of animated nature, in which man is nothing.”

The spectator stands upon the edge of a precipice the depth of which is most awful, and the river winds at his feet. The right side screen is Piercefield ridge, richly wooded; the left, is a belt of rocks, over which appear the Severn, and the fine shores between Thornbury and Bristol, rising behind each other in admirable swells, which unite in most graceful curves. The first fore-ground is, to the eye, a view from the clouds upon earth, and the rich contrast of green meadows to wild forest scenery. The farm of Llancaut clasped in the arms of the winding river, backed by hanging wood and rock. Thus there is a bay of verdure, walled in by natures colossal fences, wood, hill, and rock. The further horn of the Crescent tapers off into a craggy, informal mole, over which the eye passes to the second bay. This terminates in Chepstow Castle, the town, and the rocks beyond, all mellowed down by distance, into that fine hazy indistinctness which makes even deformities combine in harmony with the picture. In the middle distance, the widening sea spreads itself, and from it the shores of Somerset and Monmouthshire steal away into the horizon. Lastly, all this union of large and bold objects, from being comprised within a circumference of a very few miles, unites the landscape and the prospect, together with the forest and the park character, of unimpeded expanse; for the enclosures are few in any part, and by distance are almost diminished into imperceptible streaks. Thus the reproach of mappishness does not attach to this exalted exhibition of the divine taste.

But (says Read [Reed]) might not the proprietor of this imperial domain have built a temple on Wyndcliff, consecrating it to the genius of the place? He might have done so, but in forbearing the attempt he has done better. The precipice itself is a temple, which the “worshippers of nature” will always approach with ” unsandaled foot,” considering the embellishments of art, as a profanation of her sacred grandeur.

From the summit of “Wyndcliff, it is nearly 900 feet above the level of the river, and from it may be viewed some of the most beautiful and extensive prospects in Great Britain, comprehending at one view not only the different scenes in the neigbourhood of Chepstow, which appear sunk in the lines of a map, but a wonderful range over part of nine counties, including the following objects:—

Right beneath, the Moss Cottage, and New Terrace-road to Tintern Abbey, the circuitous “Wye, the pretty hamlet of Llancaut, I and the whole domain of Piercefield; beyond, a little to the left, the town and castle of Berkeley, and the town and castle of Thornbury; before you, the town and castle of Chepstow, the majestic Severn, the union of the sister rivers, Wye and Severn, the Old and New Passages, Durdham Down, Blaise Castle, and Dundry Tower, near Bristol. A little to the right, King-road, and the mouth of the Avon, the Denny Islet, and the Portishead Point; still further to the right, the Holmes, and Penarth Point, near Cardiff; behind you, the Black Mountains; and within the circle of the horizon, parts of the several counties of Monmouth, Gloucester, Wilts, Somerset, Devon, Glamorgan, Brecon, Hereford, and Worcester.

Descending from the cliff, you pass through a large cavern in the rock, nearly ninety feet in length, whose dark recesses, aided by the flirtings of the bats which inhabit it, give strong impressions that you are approaching the environs of the Plutonian states. In your progress from this rocky precipice to the new road, you pass down about 360 steps and over a rustic bridge to the Moss Cottage, three miles from Chepstow, where pic-nic parties may receive suitable accomodation. This is a singular building, thatched, and lined with moss, with Gothic windows and stained glass.

In conclusion, it may be observed that the delightful regions of the Wye may be seen and admired, but cannot be adequately described; and Piercefield and Wyndcliff are amongst its chief ornaments.

TINTERN ABBEY …

Taylor’s Illustrated guide to the banks of the Wye, including Chepstow, Piercefield, Wyndcliff, Tintern Abbey, Raglan Castle, Goodrich Castle and other parts of the Welsh Borders with Historical and Topographical Remarks, illustrated with Five Steel Engravings and a Copious Map.  (Chepstow: Robert Taylor; London, Simpkin, Marshall, and Co. 1854), pp. 31-37

(also 1853 and subsequent editions,1858, 186, 1863, 1870)

 1856

the carriage which had been ordered from Chepstow came to take us a drive. Went first to Piercefield where we called the place now belongs to a Mr. Russell. We saw his wife & she shewed us over the house which is handsomely furnished & some very fine old chimney pieces. Then we went to Tintern abbey.

Hibbert, Mary Ann, Gloucestershire Record Office D1799 F337, 28th September, 1856

 1861

purchased by Henry Clay

1861

The beautiful seat—Piercefield—now belongs to a new owner, a gentleman who, within a comparatively recent date, acquired it by purchase. It has had many masters since it was formed, “an earthly paradise,” nearly a hundred years ago, by its then lord, Valentine Morris. Let the reader imagine a continuous “range” of walks, of more than three miles in extent, laid out with consummate skill, with breaks at convenient and judiciously planned openings among dense foliage, here and there carefully trimmed and highly cultivated, where Art has been studious, wise, and successful; while every now and then trees, shrubs, and underwood, are permitted to grow and wander at their own will,—

“The negligence of Nature, wide and wild,’

—and he will have some, though but limited, idea of the natural or trained diversity of this beautiful demesne. Let him add the grandeur derived from stupendous and picturesque rocks, and the value of the auxiliary river that runs rapidly, now here now there, continually “winding;” the dense foliage, the dark or graceful trees, the gigantic ferns, and the thousand charms of park and forest scenery, in harmonious union,—and he will be at no loss to understand the fame that Piercefield has obtained—and retained—as the fairest bit of the Wye scenery, and, consequently, among the most delicious landscape graces of England. It is, indeed, and has ever been, a paradise; and surely he, who brought so judiciously and so happily Art to the aid of Nature, was a man to be envied by his generation, and to be remembered by posterity, as one to whom Fortune had been lavish of her bounties, and whose destiny was that which tens of thousands would covet—in vain. Alas! it was not so; the story is a sad one, and supplies additional evidence of ” the Vanity of Human Wishes!”

[note:] A memoir of Valentine Morris, Esq., was printed in 1801 by Archdeacon Coxe, in his “History of Monmouthshire.” He succeeded his father somewhere about the year 1752, and thus inherited Piercefield. Before that period it was unknown and unfrequented, the grounds being employed solely for agricultural purposes, or covered with inaccessible forests. These he converted, at vast expense, into the ” wonder” it has ever since been. “He lived in a style of princely, rather than private, magnificence.” Every chance visitor was entertained; large was his bounty to all who needed ; his open hand was lavish of gifts ; and to the poor he was ever a generous benefactor. But the mine was exhausted; he became embarrassed, and was driven forth from the paradise he had created, to a comparatively miserable shelter upon his depressed property in Antigua. His departure from Chepstow was an event long remembered. The carriage was surrounded by sorrowful and sympathising crowds; and, as he passed the bridge that crossed the Wye, ” his ear was struck with the mournful peal of bells, muffled, as is usual on the loss of departed friends. Deeply affected with this mark of esteem and regret, he could no longer control his emotions, but burst into tears.” He ultimately obtained the governorship of St. Vincent, and there 11 laboured with so much zeal and activity in promoting the cultivation of the island, that he almost made of it another Piercefield.” The island, however, was taken by the French, and Morris was again a ruined man. His claims on the Government, though admitted, were never liquidated: his wrongs remained unredressed. During seven years he was a prisoner for debt in the King’s Bench; “his books, and all his movables, were sold: his wife sunk under the heavy load of sorrow and privation, and became insane; and ho died, in poverty, of grief! [end of note]

Yes! the scenery here is indeed beautiful; Piercefield is, of a truth, entitled to all the praise it receives—and that is large, free, and full; and he who writes of it to-day, cannot do better than quote the words the eloquent historian of the county applied to it half a century ago: “The Wye, which is everywhere seen from a great elevation, passes under Wynd Cliff and the Banaghor Rocks, winds round the peninsula of Lancaut, under a semicircular chain of stupendous cliffs, is lost in its sinuous course, again appears in a straighter line at the foot of the Lancaut rocks, and flows under the majestic ruins of Chepstow Castle, towards the Severn. The rocks are broken into an infinite variety of fantastic shapes, and scattered at different heights and in different positions; they start abruptly from the river, swell into gentle acclivities, or hang on the summits of the walls; here they form a perpendicular rampart, there jut into enormous projections, and impend over the water. But their dizzy heights and abrupt precipices are softened by the woods, which form a no less conspicuous feature in the romantic scenery; they are not meagre plantations placed by Art, but a tract of forests scattered by the hand of Nature. In one place they expand into open groves of large oak, elm, and beech; in another, form a shade of timber trees, copses, and underwood, hiding all external objects, and wholly impervious to the rays of the sun; they start from the crevices of the rocks, feather their edges, crown their summits, clothe their sides, and fill the intermediate hollows with a luxuriant mass of foliage, bringing to recollection Hilton’s description of the border

“Of Eden, where delicious Paradise,

Now Dearer, crowns with her enclosure green,
As with a rural mound, the champain head
Of a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides
With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild,
Access deny’d, and overhead upgrew
Insuperable height of loftiest shade.


A sylvan scene, and as the ranks ascend
Shade above shade, a woody theatre
Of stateliest view.'”

All writers, indeed, are eloquent in praise of this most lovely scene; none more so than the antiquary, Fosbroke, who lived and died not far from the place he dearly loved. He thus writes :—”What a cathedral is among churches, the Wynd Cliff is among prospects. Like Snowdon, it ought to be visited at sunrise, or seen through a sunrise-glass, called a Claude, which affords a sunrise view at mid-day, without the obscuration of the morning mist. This cliff is the last grand scene of the Piercefield drama. It is not only magnificent, but so novel, that it excites an involuntary start of astonishment; and so sublime, that it elevates the mind into instantaneous rapture. The parts consist of a most uncommon combination of wood, rock, water, sky, and plain—of height and abyss— of rough and smooth—of recess and projection—of fine landscapes near, and excellent prospective afar,—all melting into each other, and grouping into such capricious lines, that, although it may find a counterpart in tropic climes, it is, in regard to England, probably unique. The spectator stands upon the edge of a precipice, the depth of which is awful to contemplate, with the river winding at his feet. The right screen is Piercefield ridge, richly wooded; the left is a belt of rocks, over which, northward, appears the Severn, with the fine shores between Thornbury and Bristol rising behind each other in admirable swells, which unite in most graceful curves. The first foreground appears to the eye like a view from the clouds to the earth, and the rich contrast of green meadows to wild forest scenery,—the farm of Lancaut, clasped in the arms of the winding river, backed by hanging wood and rock. The further horn of the crescent tapers off into a craggy informal mole, over which the eye passes to a second bay; this terminates in Chepstow Castle, the town and rocks beyond all mellowed down by distance, into that fine hazy indistinctness which makes even deformities combine into harmony with the picture.

The reader must not, however, imagine that Piercefield is the only place of beauty that, in this vicinage, borders “Sylvan Wye:” ascend any of the heights, and the view is glorious; while the way is ever full of charms such as those we have been describing. Chiefest among all such heights—the fair rivals of its fair neighbour—is the far-famed Wynd Cliff, which the antiquary so eloquently describes. Let us mount this hill, while the cool shadows of evening are over us; for it is a labour when the sun is up, and half its beauty will be lost in the glare of mid-day. Coleridge, in his verses on this sublime scene, with its

“Dim coasts, And cloud-like hills, and shoreless ocean,”

exclaims—

“It seem’d like Omnipresence !—God, methought,
Had built him here a temple ; the whole world
Seemed imaged in its vast circumference.”

Adjoining the road, and nearly midway between Tintern and Chepstow, the carriage stops at “the Moss House,” a rustic cottage, prettily built, in which resides the care-taker of the hill, who will accompany you if you please; but his companionship is not needed, for on its summit, where the “views” are, you will find an old soldier stationed—to direct

your notice to such places as have names. [note:] Each visitor is requested to pay sixpence, and no more. The hill belongs to his grace the Duke of Beaufort. The fee is designed to effect what it does effect—a barrier to prevent the intrusion of mere Idlers from the town, who would disturb the tranquillity of the scene. [end of note]

You climb up a steep for a mile or more, by a narrow zigzag footway made through underwood at the foot of forest trees: every now and then a nimble squirrel leaps from branch to branch, or springs across your path, while birds of various kinds are singing from thick foliage. You may pause occasionally to obtain views of delicious bits; and, to aid you, judicious openings have been made in. many places. …

[Quotes Roscoe, Thomas, Wanderings and Excursions in South Wales with the Scenery of the River Wye, (London, 1854), p. 154 on views from Wyndcliff]

Hall, S.C., Mr and Mrs, The Book of South Wales, the Wye, and the Coast, (1861), pp. 131-135

30.6.1867

Walk or drive 3 miles, to Piercefield Park, with fine views.

Sargent, Henry Winthrop, (of Fishkill-on-Hudson, [Pennsylvania]), Skeleton Tours through England, Ireland, and Scotland [and Wales], (New York, 1871), third tour, p. 66

1870

The first paragraph in this edition of Taylor’s Illustrated guide to the banks of the Wye is different from that of 1854, but the remainder might be the same.

THE tourist will hardly do himself justice if he fails to visit the deservedly-famed scenery of Piercefield Park, with its beautiful walks. Visitors may obtain admission during the spring and summer months, until the end of October, on any Tuesday, from nine o’clock in the morning until seven in the evening, by permission of Henry Clay, Esq., the proprietor. Visitors are only admitted on foot, at the Lions’ Lodge, about half-a-mile from the town, on the road to Tintern, vehicles being ordered to await parties at the farther end of the park, near the village of Saint Arvans, where refreshments may be obtained at the Piercefield Inn.

In the year 1620, was in the possession of John Walter, son of Thomas Walter, by Elizabeth, his wife, the daughter of Thomas Thomas, Esq. of Aylburton, Gloucestershire. This John Walter, was the twelfth in descent of that family, who were possessed of this estate, and their heraldic device is over the fireplace in the hall. In 1736, Colonel Morris, of the island of St. Vincent, purchased Piercefield, and it was by his son, Valentine Morris, Esq., that these delightful walks were ordered to be constructed. He was a man of extremely benevolent disposition, and hospitable beyond prudence; and this, combined with an unsuccessful attempt to supplant the Morgan family, of Tredegar, in the representation of the County, in Parliament, was the cause of his being obliged to break up his establishment here. When his embarassed position compelled him to sell the estate and leave this neighbourhood, his departure excited universal regret among rich and poor, so much beloved was he by all. The poor assembled in the churchyard to receive a last token of remembrance, and he was accompanied by a train of carriages of the gentry, as far as the Old Passage—the bells of Chepstow ringing a muffled peal when he passed through. Why he endured this severe trial of his feelings may be questioned, but his general popularity overruled every other consideration, and he would not repel these demonstrations of public esteem.

The following anecdote of this gentleman, will illustrate the wretched state of the roads and highways of this district at the time of his residence at Piercefield. On an inquiry before a select Committee appointed by the House of Commons, in reference to a local Turnpike Act, Mr. Morris was asked the question:— “What roads are there in Monmouthshire?” to which he replied, “None.” “How then do you travel ?” “In ditches.” The excellent roads of this locality may, therefore, be partly ascribed to his exertions in this inquiry.

In 1784, Piercefield was sold to Mr. Smith, of Burn-Hall, in the County of Durham, whose daughter published “An Ode on the Death of Llewellyn,” the last Celtic prince of Wales, whom the writer imagines to have been slain in this neighbourhood. Without referring to this point, the poetry is decidedly creditable to the amiable Miss Smith, especially when it is mentioned that she was only 15 years old at the time it was composed.

Piercefield, in 1794, was purchased by Colonel Wood, afterwards Sir Mark Wood, baronet, of Gatton, Surrey, who finished the present edifice, which had been begun by Mr. Smith. Subsequently the estate was sold to Nathaniel Wells, Esq., at whose decease it was let, and was occupied by several tenants. The property has recently been purchased by Mr. Clay.

The mansion is an elegant structure, with a noble portico, standing on a picturesque eminence at the rear of the park, and commanding the most exquisite prospect imaginable—second only in extent to the view from the far-famed Windcliff. The Walks (about two miles in extent) wind through sylvan scenes the most romantic and diversified. The principal objects of interest are the following:—The Alcove—The Platform—The Grotto—The Double View—The Half-way Seat—The Giant’s Cave—A Seat near Two Beech-Trees—The Lover’s Leap—and View of the Windcliff.

Entering the park at the Lion’s Lodge, the visitor is conducted, by way of the carriage-drive to the mansion, to a second gate, shaded by a bordering of wood, whence he diverges, by a walk turning to the right, towards the first point of view—The Alcove. Here a fine view of the Wye presents itself, to the right and left. On the right stands the noble ruins of Chepstow Castle, surmounting lofty cliffs, beneath which the river winds its course in a majestic curve, and below is seen the Cast-iron Bridge, the Railway Bridge, and a portion of the town. In front rises the pretty eminence called Tutshill, with a number of charming residences, and forming an attractive suburb of the town. To the left is a fine reach of the river, called Long Hope, terminating with the stupendous cliffs of Llancaut, rising to a height of 300 feet. Passing with regret from this delightful spot, through a shady path, the first seat is next reached, where an opening in the wood discloses some beautiful scenery. From here the walk becomes somewhat lighter, and you now and then catch an obscured peep of Long Hope.

The second seat now presents itself. Here the same objects appear, but with different faces.

Proceeding from this place, a light view of the park on the left, and a thickly-shaded wood on the right, lead to the third seat.

Still continuing the walk to the fourth seat, a pretty view of the castle, town, and church unfolds itself.

From the fifth seat, the castle, with the ‘#’ of the town, and the very summit of the church tower, still continue in view, but with apparent variety.

You now arrive at the Platform, a dark point of view enclosed with iron railings. Here you have a semi-transparent prospect of the town and castle of Chepstow on the right, and of the white cliffs of Llancaut glistening through the thick wood on the left, in a most beautiful and inexpressible manner.

Descend from this second grand view, and cross a road which leads from the park, down a hollow vale, towards the river, and again ascend up to the first seat from the platform. From this station a new and original view of the town, varying from any of :he preceding views, with Ewin’s Rocks, the river near its conflux with the Severn, and a most extensive prospect over Gloucestershire, displays itself in an unusual and peculiar manner. Still ascending, you reach the second seat, where the same scenery continues, but of a more boundless character.

The walk now skirts through a light forest-like wood to the

e of the park, where you catch the first glance of the mansion. Still continuing your ascent to the third seat, you are presented with a very beautiful and pleasing view of the undulating lawn in front of the house. Again entering the embowered walk, proceed by a large and aged elm, with its singularly-spreading arms, pass under some inclining laurel-trees, and arrive at the Grotto. This is a romantic little cave, excavated from the rock, and studded with various kinds of stone and metallic scorize. The prospect from here is fine and extensive; it passes over a steep wood, with a shelf of rocks in front, and, raising the eye, sweeps over a vast extent of country on the farthest side of the Severn.

The path now leads to the first seat, near the edge of the rocky precipice which fronts Llancaut, and exhibits a most interesting prospect of that peninsula, with a view of the magnificent Wyndcliff frowning upon you in the northern extremity.

  The scenery now displays a marked and decisive change of character. Continue your walk along the edge of the rock, and from the second seat again survey the bending of the river round the rich pastures of Llancaut.

These two minor points are preliminary to the succeeding one which now appears, called the Double View, and which commands the sublime and beautiful of Nature in combination. On the left you look down upon the valley, with the Wye sweeping some hundred fathoms perpendicularly and awfully beneath, bounded by the vast amphitheatre of wooded rocks; and to the right, across the park, are the town and castle of Chepstow; beyond it is the wide expanse of the Severn, and an immense prospect bounds the whole.

The walk now declines to the Half-way Seat, placed under a large and aged beech tree. From this place is a short walk which branches to the mansion, and, when that object was publicly shown, formed the visitor’s route. Standing in front of £ seat, a most delightful view of the rich enclosures of Llancaut unfolds itself in a very pleasing and luxuriant manner.

Descend from this spot, through a thick, shaded walk, to the Druids’ Temple, so named from a circle of upright stones standing there. A little further onward you arrive at the first seat from the half-way view, where you perceive the lofty Wyndcliff, still rearing its crested head above every other object within the horizon. The upper part of the peninsulated farms before noticed appears in this view.

Proceeding to the second seat, you see the two extremities of Llancaut hamlet, bounded by the darker Wyndcliff on the north, and by its own white cliffs on the south. … Another view also may be had from a point of the rock just beyond, and again at the third seat presenting the same objects, but with a very material change of aspect. Nor must we omit, a few yards further on the left, that venerable oak, so often noticed by travellers, out of a cleft in the rock, without the least appearance of any other food for its vegetation.

Passing under the edge of some high-wooded rocks, you arrive at the Giant’s Cave, a romantic passage cut through a rock, Over its south-east entrance is a mutilated colossal figure, which once held the fragment of a rock in its uplifted arms, threatening to overwhelm whoever should dare to enter his retreat; but sometime since the stone fell, carrying the giant’s arms along with it; he still continues to grin horribly, although deprived of his terrors.

We earnestly recommend the visitor to inspect these walks according to the succession of objects here laid down, in which many of them appear to great advantage. Thus, if you approach from St. Arvan’s, you lose the darksome interest of this cave, for on that side a gleam of light streams through it, but on this all is dark, gloomy, and obscure. This place occupies the centre of the amphitheatre, and displays a most exquisite scene.

Passing through the cavern, the walk leads by an ascent to the first seat, placed under the side of a rock. Pursuing the ascent to the second seat, and from thence, still ascending, you edge the side of the park. These seats afford much of the same scenery as before, though varied and enlarged from the higher ground. You now proceed to another of those stations which we have, for distinction sake at the commencement of the walks, named the Grand Views; it is a seat near two beech-trees, on the edge of a precipice. The view from this seat is very fine.

A beautiful carpet-like mossy path now leads you to the verge of a perpendicular rock, guarded with iron rails, called the Lover’s Leap. This view is particularly grand, wild, and majestic. A fine reach of the river above Llancaut farms, called Prior’s Reach, with Wyndcliff and the Ban-y-gor Rocks, are seen from this point to great advantage. You now bend round a side of the ravine through which runs the stream that supplies the cold bath, and pass along a corner of the park to the last seat, near which formerly stood a small temple. The prospect from this spot is exquisitely fine. It is impossible to give an adequate description of the beauties of this view.

WYNDCLIFF

Leaving these grounds through a door in the park-wall, you pass into the Tintern new road near the fish-pond; then turning y the first lime-kiln, you ascend to the summit of Wyndcliff, an eminence much above the rest, and commanding the whole in one view. The Wye runs at the foot of the hill; the peninsula lies just below; the deep bosom of the semicircular hanging wood is full in sight; over part of it the great rock appears, all its base, all its accompaniments are seen; the country immediately beyond 5 full of lovely hillocks, and the higher grounds in the counties of Somerset and Gloucester rise in the horizon. The Severn seems to be, as it really is above Chepstow, three or four miles wide; below the town it spreads almost to a sea; the county of Monmouth is the higher shore; and between its beautiful hills appear at a £ distance the mountains of Brecknock and Glamorganshire. n extent, in variety and grandeur, few prospects are equal to this. It comprehends all the noble scenes of Piercefield, encompassed by some of the finest country in Britain.

If an opinion must be given concerning the hack question— “Which is the grandest scene on the Wye” the answer must be “The prospect from Wyndcliff.” It is not only magnificent, but it is so novel, that it excites an involuntary start of astonishment, and so sublime that it elevates the mind into instantaneous rapture. Its parts consist in a most uncommon combination of wood, rock, water, sky, and plain; of height and abyss, of rough and smooth, of recess and projection, of fine landscape a-near, and exquisite perspective afar, all melting into each other, and grouping in such capricious lines, that although it may find a counterpart in the tropical climes, it is, as England, unique. It is unlikely that the mouths of two rivers should be so adjacent or so arranged as to form a similar scene, though a thousand views of sea, vale and rock, may be of corresponding character, with only slight differences of surface; but the ground here is singular, and the features not being English the physiogmy is of course, such as cannot be expected elsewhere. It also improves both upon our natural and foreign landscape; upon the former because the scenery is not so fine as the foreign, which Wyndcliff resembles upon the latter; because according to the observation of Humboldt, it has not that “something strange and sad which accompanies aspects of animated nature, in which man is nothing.”

The spectator stands upon the edge of a precipice the depth of which is most awful, and the river winds at his feet. The right side screen is Piercefield ridge, richly wooded; the left, is a belt of rocks, over which appear the Severn, and the fine shores between Thornbury and Bristol, rising behind each other in admirable swells, which unite in most graceful curves. The first fore-ground is, to the eye, a view from the clouds upon earth, and the rich contrast of green meadows to wild forest scenery. The farm of Llancaut clasped in the arms of the winding river, backed by hanging wood and rock. Thus there is a bay of verdure, walled in by natures colossal fences, wood, hill, and rock. The further horn of the Crescent tapers off into a £ informal mole, over which the eye passes to the second bay. This terminates in Chepstow Castle, the town, and the rocks beyond, all mellowed down by distance, into that fine hazy indistinctness which makes even deformities combine in harmony with the picture. In the middle distance, the widening sea spreads itself, and from it the shores of Somerset and Monmouthshire steal away into the horizon. Lastly, all this union of large and bold objects, from being comprised within a circumferance of a very few miles, unites the landscape and the prospect, together with the forest and the park character, of unimpeded expanse; for the enclosures are few in any part, and by distance are almost diminished into imperceptible streaks.

But (says Read [Reed]) might not the proprietor of this imperial domain have built a tem # on Wyndcliff, consecrating it to the genius of the place? He might have done so, but in forbearing the attempt he has done better. The precipice itself is a temple, which the “worshippers of nature” will £ approach with “unsandaled foot,” considering the embellishments of art, as a profanation of her sacred grandeur.

From the summit of Wyndcliff, it is nearly 900 feet above the level of the river, and from it may be viewed some of the most beautiful and extensive prospects in Great Britain, comprehending at one view not only the different scenes in the neigbourhood of Chepstow, which appear sunk in the lines of a map, but a wonderful range over part of nine counties, including the following objects.

Right beneath, the Moss Cottage, and New Terrace-road to Tintern Abbey, the circuitous Wye, the pretty hamlet of Llancaut, and the whole domain of Piercefield; beyond, a little to the left, the town and castle of Berkeley, and the town and castle of Thornbury; before you, the town and castle of Chepstow, the majestic Severn, the union of the sister rivers, Wye and Severn, the Old and New Passages, Durdham Down, Blaise Castle, and Dundry Tower, near Bristol. A little to the right, King-road, and the mouth of the Avon, the Denny Islet, and the Portishead Point; still further to the right, the Holmes, and Penarth Point, near Cardiff; behind you, the Black Mountains; and within the circle of the horizon, of the several counties of Monmouth, Gloucester, Wilts, Somerset, Devon, Glamorgan, Brecon, Hereford, and Worcester.

Descending from the cliff, you pass through a large cavern in the rock, nearly ninety feet in length, whose dark recesses, aided by the flittings of the bats which inhabit it, give strong impressions that you are approaching the environs of the Plutonian states. In £ progress from this rocky precipice to the new road, you pass down about 360 steps and over a rustic bridge to the Moss Cottage, three miles from Chepstow, where pic-nic parties may receive suitable accommodation. This is a singular building, thatched, and lined with moss, with Gothic windows and stained glass.

In conclusion, it may be observed that the delightful regions of the Wye may be seen and admired, but cannot adequately described; and Piercefield and Wyndcliff are amongst its chief ornaments.

Taylor’s Illustrated guide to the banks of the Wye, including Chepstow, Piercefield, Wyndcliff, the Magnificent Ruins of Tintern Abbey, Monmouth, Ross, Raglan & Goodrich castles and other parts of the Welsh Borders (Chepstow: R Taylor, Beaufort Square. Sold at the Castle, the Moss Cottage, and Tintern Abbey), [1870], pp. 31-37

 

1878

Hillman’s illustrated historical handbook for tourists to Chepstow … and other places of interest on and about the Wye [signed S.H.].

 

 

RECENT WORKS

Waters, Ivor, Piercefield on the banks of the Wye, (1975)

Whittle, E., ‘All these Inchanting Scenes’ Piercefield in the Wye Valley, Garden History Journal, 24:1

Maguire, Mark John, The Wye Valley Tour and the development of the Picturesque Movement in painting and Theory, c. 1770-1800, MA Thesis, (Swansea, 1990)

Harden, Bettina, The Most Glorious Prospect: Garden Visiting in Wales, 1639-1900 (2017), pp. 161-171

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