Piercefield 1802-1824

DESCRIPTIONS OF PIERCEFIELD BY TOURISTS TO WALES, 1802-1824

Recording conventions

The majority of published descriptions are available on line through Google books but some editions of guidebooks are not available digitally.

For more see:
Piercefield Introduction
Piercefield Features
Piercefield 1743-1802
Piercefield 1825-1900
List of nearly 500 visitors to the Wye Valley, 1536-1900

pdf file. Click on it to download a copy
Piercefield in 2019 (A 14mb file with fully illustrated descriptions of the site in 2019)

Nathaniel Wells (1779 – 1852) owned the estate 1802-1852

Wells allowed the grounds to be visited on Tuesdays and Fridays

1802

Visited Persfield just purchased by Mr. Wells a Creole. [more?]
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

[Mostly derived from other sources.]
Anon, The Swansea guide : containing Such Information as was deemed useful to the Traveller, through the Counties of Glamorgan and Monmouth: from the Exemplification of ancient and modern Authors.(Swansea : Printed by Z.B. Morris; and sold at Oakey’s and Evans’s libraries 1802), pp. 157-163
Known to be the work of John Oldisworth, assisted by John Lucas, Charles Collins and William Turton.

1802

[Published 1802. This is the only reference to Wells making alterations to, or extending the mansion: other visitors suggest that it was complete. Manby might have visited Piercefield several years before 1802, and just changed the name of the owner (whose initials he recorded incorrectly), just before publication.]
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 perfuming 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

Piercefield is the last place which we shall mention in our desultory excursions; and it is one of the most illustrious that art and nature combined can produce. It lies upward of seventeen miles north from Bristol, and is the object of universal admiration. The magnificence of the surrounding scenery, consisting of stupendous rocks, vast woods, the meandering Wye, the expansive Severn, the town and castle of Chepstow, with various other attractions, present a picture unrivalled. The walks and rides are conducted in the happiest taste; and confer great honour on the late Valentine Morris, esq. under whose auspices, and by whose genius, they were planned. A volume might be filled on the subject of this enchanting place, which may be seen every Tuesday; but no words can convey an adequate impression of what every spectator feels, as he strays amid the romantic scenery.
Piercefield
[Feltham, J.], 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] (1802); (2nd ed. London, 1806), p.126; 1813 edition, pp. 138-139, (and many subsequent editions)

1802, 18th August
Horatio Nelson, visited Piercefield in the company of Sir William Hamilton [the Duke of Bronte] and Lady Hamilton and several of Horatio Nelson’s relatives: The Rev William Nelson (Lord Nelson’s brother), with his wife and son Horatio (who was on holiday from Eaton); Francatello (Sir Williams Neapolitan manservant); Gaetano Spedilo (Nelson’s valet).
17.8.1802
Chepstow
18.8.1802
Chepstow Castle
Piercefield
Monmouth
Heath, Charles, Descriptive account of the Kymin Pavilion, and Beaulieu Grove … also, the naval temple, with new notices of Buckstone…to which is added Lord Nelson’s visit to Monmouth… / by Charles Heath, Monmouth, (Monmouth: printed and sold by him [Charles Heath], 1807), pp. and subsequent editions.
There is no evidence that Nelson visited Tintern.

[1803 or later] 

This is, at least partly, based on Arthur Young, (1768) and Barber (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 are 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 table, 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.
r 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.
Rees, David Llewellyn, 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) [1803] [This has been dated to 1802 but it includes a quotation from Barber, J.T., Tour Throughout South Wales and Monmouthshire, (1803)]
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: [1820?]), pp. 51-56
The section on Piercefield is prefaced with In this village is Piercefield, the delightful residence of the late Valentine Morris. … As a description of this delightful place, the counterpart of the Leasowes, must prove interesting to every reader, we shall extract the following full and ample delineation, from Burlington’s British Traveller.

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 visus” 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 (she 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 … Such as Relate to Wales, by David Llewellyn Rees … (known as Burlington’s British Traveller) [1802 or later], pp. 57-61 and in Fosbroke (1822) and elsewhere

1803

Joseph Farington, an artist and diarist, and his friend, the artist, John Hoppner and two others visited Piercefield.
16th September, Friday
… we entered the grounds belonging to Piercefield and from a very high situation rising abruptly from the River Wye we had a most extensive and striking view. The River here forms almost a circle and the rocks richly wooded an amphitheatre, over which a wide extended country appears spread out including the river Severn beyond which Gloucester, Bristol and the Mouth of King Road. Chepstow situated on a ridge of rocks occupys the Centre of the middle distance in this view, past which the Wye flows to the Severn. The rocks a grey colour.
The view from this point is what is called ‘A Birds eye View’, it is not included in the walks of Piercefield. From hence we descended about three quarters of a mile and entered Piercefield walk which winds along the top of the cliff having beneath the river Wye. We stopped at several openings where there are seats.  The river is sunk far below having a long line of rocks to bound its shore but the eminence of Windcliff Hill whence the ‘Birds eye View’ above described is seen, is conspicuous above all forming a stupendous breast work of perpendicular rock.
Having brought provisions with us we dined at the entrance of a subterranean passage cut through the rock. Not having knives and forks and glasses we sent to Piercefield house and were furnished with them. Here the Gardener joined us, a civil intelligent man. He told us the place was made by Humphrey [sic] Morris Esqr. It then became the property of a Mr Smith who failed and it was sold to Colonel Wood, who also purchased other estates adjoining but having bought the Borough of Gatton in Surrey He sold it to Mr Wells, the present possessor for £95,000. The whole estate contains about 3000 [sic] acres of land. We walked past the house which is a specimen if very bad taste in architecture. The view from the front is beautiful. Our names were taken.
To Chepstow
17th September. [17.9.1803 (Saturday)]
{Hoppner and Evans and his son went to the New Passage}
The Gardener at Piercefield informed us that the public days for seeing the place are Wednesday [sic] and Friday but that if written to He never knew Mr Wells refuse an application on other days. Accordingly I wrote requesting admission.
{Drew the bridge at the Castle at Chepstow} which took me so much time that at three oClock when I had completed my work here I declined going to Piercefield though I had been informed at the Inn that Mr Wells had sent Compliments with permission for me to go.
… The river always appears of a mud colour admitting of no reflection of or any of the beauty of clearness. This is a material defect in the landscape of Chepstow and Piercefield wherever the river Wye forms a part of it.
Tuesday Sept 20 [20.9.1803]
The morning proved very wet so as to prevent my visiting Piercefield … at noon the Weather became fair and I … proceeded to Piercefield to a situation which I had particularly noticed in preference to other points. From the alcove in the Walk at Piercefield there is a complete view of Chepstow Castle and the river Wye with part of the town at Chepstow, and in the distance the river Severn and the Country beyond it forming altogether a most beautiful and picturesque Scene. The Chapel of the Castle here becomes a principal feature in the Landscape of a good forma and beautiful Colour. I began a drawing and was so fortunate as to have the Sun breaking out giving effect and distinction to the parts and all the splendour of light and shade to the whole. After an application of two Hours I quitted this interesting spot and had not proceeded far in the walks before the rain again began to fall which caused me to push towards the lodge at the gate happy in having attained my object. While taking shelter the woman who has care of the [Lodge] gate spoke highly of the charitable and good disposition of Mr and Mrs Wells, and of Miss Wells, His sister. Mr Wells is a Creole of a very deep colour, but Miss Wells is fair.
The woman told me that Mr Wells is very exact about admission to see the grounds. Every person who goes for that purpose is required to write His or Her name and the book is carried to him every Saturday night from which he transcribes all the names into a book which he keeps in his own possession. He does not refuse application for admission on other days but Tuesday or Friday, but should a person be seen in the grounds without leave, He would himself go to the gate and express himself angrily to her.
From the lodge I walked to my Inn [in Chepstow?]
Paid the Gardener at Piercefield, 2 shillings [and paid another one shilling and two pence for something else 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
Newby, E., [Appendix to the Index to] The Diary of Joseph Farington, (Yale, 1998), pp. 1040-1044

1803

23.8.1803
Chepstow bridge
Park Gate where I alighted and by the direction of the porter at the Lodge sent the Carriage round the outside the Park Wall to another Gate on the opposite side on the Road to Tintern.
This is the plan usually recommended and adopted by Tourists, Tintern Abbey being the next, and the grand objects of the Journey from whence it is not distant more than 3 miles.
Having written my name in a book kept at the lodge for the purpose, I followed the Road about half a mile thro the park to the House where I was met by the Gardener who conducted me and three other persons round the grounds.
To describe a place that numbers of Tourists had attempted, but in which all have failed, is a Task I shall not undertake, for not the slightest idea can be formed of its beauties from any account I have ever seen.
Piercefield cannot fail to delight the most phlegmatic mind on account of its Romantic situation, the grandeur of its high perpendicular rocks and its extensive hanging woods. The River Wye encompasses the Park on three sides and winding its course among the hills thro places hardly passable afterwards emptying itself into the channel.
The house does not possess much to attract attention – Its a modern structure built of stone by Col. Wood consisting of a centre and wings furnished in a most costly style with silk and gold hangings, more like an eastern Palace than the residence of a private English Gentleman, and contains but few paintings. From particular spots in the grounds are views known by particular names, such as Giants Cave, the Grotto, the Lover’s Leep, the Double View, etc. but of all, the Wynd Cliff is the most extraordinary both from the wildness of its Position and the extent of Prospect from its top.
This is a Hill not immediately in the Park of immense height, overlooking every part of the country, wooded to the bottom and washed by the Wye. Its beauties, I think indescribable, I shall only say that Nature appears to have contended with Art to make this the most delightful spot.
I shall content myself with naming the principal objects seen from it.
At one view I took in Monmouthshire, part of Brecknockshire, Glamorganshire, & the Bristol Channel to a prodigious extent, the greater part of Somersetshire and the County of Gloucester. In the nearer view, the grounds of Piercefield, the town of Chepstow and Castle, & the Wye for many miles.
This is, I think, prospect enough to satisfy the mind of any modern man, though some travellers have insisted on nine different counties being seen from the top of the Wynd Cliff, but which counties these are I leave to those immoderate men to determine.
Watercolour: The Windcliff.
Rewarding the gardener with half a crown with which I was pleased to find him satisfied, we quitted Piercefield and pursued our way to Tintern.
I had almost forgotten to mention that Tuesdays and Fridays are the only days upon which the grounds at Piercefield are shown. On these days there is no difficulty whatever in gaining a sight of them, but on other days, no person upon any pretence is suffered to see them.
Shum, George, ‘Sketches in Monmouthshire, Glamorganshire and Gloucestershire Made during the summer of 1803’ Newport Central Reference Library ms., pp. 28-34

1804 (pre)

Not far from Caerwent, in the neighbourhood of Chepstow, lies Piercefield, whose house and gardens have been the subject of general admiration. The house is a magnificent building of freestone, reared in a romantic situation, and its interior is handsomely decorated. But it is the gardens which have attracted so much attention. Mr. Cox has thus happily described them:— “On entering the grounds at the extremity of the village of St. Arvans, and at the bottom of Wynd Cliff, the walk leads through the 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  Wye, opposite to the peninsula of Lancaut, then crosses the park, runs through groves and thickets, and again joins the banks of the Wye at the 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 are placed, where the spectator may repose and view, at leisure, the senery above, beneath, and around! This
—bow’ry walk
OF covert close, where scarce a speck of day
Falls on
the lengthen’d gloom!
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 Wye is sometimes concealed or half observed 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 opposite side to 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 cf 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.”
This enchanting spot was once the seat of Valentine Morris, Esq. who died August 26, 1789; 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 quit his beloved Piercefield, his departure excited deep regret in the breasts of persons of almost every description. Indeed, to use the words of Mr. Thicknesse, who knew him well,—”he shared his good things, in the day of his fortune, with the friends of his prosperity; and he divided the pittance that remained, in the hour of distress, with the companions of his adversity.”
In the memoirs of the accomplished Miss Smith who once lived at Piercefield, an Ode will be found on the death of Lewellen ap Griffith, the last Prince of Wales, whom the authoress supposes was killed at or 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.
Passage House
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), pp. 290-292

1804

Passing through the ancient town of Chepstow, situated near the efflux of the Wye, and over which it has a curious bridge, we soon reached Piercefield, the creation of Valentine Morris, Esq. but now the property of Colonel Wood. This is one of the most illustrious scenes that art and nature combined can produce. Stupendous rocks, vast woods, the meandering Wye, the expansive Severn, the town and Castle of Chepstow, with various other attractions, present a picture unrivalled. The walk and rides are conducted in the happiest taste, and confer immortal honour on their projector. This place can only be seen on Thursdays; but no person who travels this way, should miss the opportunity of paying it a visit. Though much has been written on the subject, all description must be inadequate to the impression the spectator feels, as he strays amidst its romantic scenery, or enjoys its extensive prospects.
Anon, A tour through England: described in a series of letters, from a young gentleman to his sister. By a Young Gentleman, (1804). (2nd edition, revised, London, 1806), p. 74

1805?

[arrived at Chepstow to see] a most delightful view of [Chepstow and Castle, the grounds belonging to Persefield (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.
We slept at Chepstow that night and on the morning of the 19th went to Persefield –
The house is very indifferent, but the situation delightful; it is at the extremity of a fine Lawn, interspersed with Clumps of Trees, and commanding scenes as charming, as from almost any Part of the Grounds, excepting from the top of Windcliff ; this is an Eminence about a Mile from the House, it is 900 feet above the level of the Wye, which runs close underneath it and this ascent (almost perpendicular) is covered with Trees from the very summit to the Water’s Edge. [note:] {description of the landscape, attributed to W Crespin / Crispin}.
The near Prospect consists of the small elegant Peninsular of Llancot just in front; the several meanders of the Wye; … & to complete the whole, the Union of the Wye with the Severn. The distant View {list of places visible}. [end of note]
The richness of the near Prospect from hence, is almost unequalled; and the distant view is perhaps one of the most pleasing, as well as extensive, in Great Britain. From the Windcliff you gradually descend through some fine Meadows, to the Lover’s Leap; here the walks commence, and are continued on the edge of the rocks, till you enter a Shrubbery, about a stone’s throw from the House; in this Shrubbery alone is Persefield much indebted to Art; Nature conducts you for near 4 Miles along the bold craggy Bank of the Wye, the narrow path is barely smoothed and the Trees and Shrubs which cover the overhanging Steep to the Right are scarce prevented from interrupting the Passage; the Serpentine Course of the River, occasions an almost continual change of Scene. And it is not possible to say where the Views are most beautiful; however at some particularly striking Points, Seats are places and Rails put up that the dread of the tremendous Precipices, close to which the walk passes, may not take away from the Pleasure of surveying the beauty of the Scenes. Upon the whole, although this celebrated place, excited my Admiration, yet the sensation I felt on walking over the Grounds was far from pleasing, nor would I on any consideration become an inhabitant of it, unless I could ensure perpetual Sun-shine, and a constant Flow of cheerful spirits. Mr Morris had such a passion for improving Persfield, that he risked his Life, in order to lop the straggling Branches of a tree (disfiguring the appearance of the Precipice at the Lover’s Leap) a service which all his Workmen refused, although offered a very large Recompense; and which he performed by Means of a Cord fastened round his Waist, and enabling him to descend above 50 Feet, where, had any accident happened, he must inevitably have been dashed to Pieces.
From Persfield we went back to Chepstow.
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 [1805?], NLW ms 6497C, pp. 3; 94-97

1805

PIERCEFIELD,- The HOUSE is to be LET, Ready-furnished, with the walks, gardens, and offices and with or without the Upper and Lower Parks. Apply, post paid to Mr Rice, Piercefield House, Chepstow, Monmouthshire. Applications from principals alone will be answered.
The Times, 1st June, 1805

1805

I must not forget to inform you of one of the principal ornaments of this part of the country— you will easily suppose that I mean Persefield, once the beautiful and romantic seat of Valentine Morris, Esq. We were told that the grounds were not now in such high order as they used to be in his time, and as our time was limited, we did not stop to see them; but I am sure you will read with greater satisfaction than any description of mine could have afforded you, the following account of them from the pen of Mr. Wheatley [Whately but is actually from Marshall, William, 1745-1818], Planting and Ornamental Gardening, a Practical Treatise, (London, printed for J. Dodsley, 1785), pp. 616-626]:
“Persefield is situated upon the banks of the Wye, which here assumes the form of the letter S somewhat compressed. The grounds are lifted high above the bed of the river; they are shelving towards the south-west, and form the brink of a lofty and steep precipice.
“The lower limb of the letter is filled with Persefield wood, which dips to the water’s edge. The upper limb receives the farms of Llancot: rich and highly cultivated; broken into inclosures, and scattered with groups and single trees; two well looking farm-houses in the centre; and a neat white chapel on one side: altogether a lovely little paradisaical spot. These picturesque farms do not form a low flat bottom, subject to be overflowed by the river, but take the form of a gorget, rising fullest in the middle, and falling gently on every side to the brink of the Wye, except on the east, where the top of the gorget leans in an easy manner against a range of perpendicular rock, as if to shew its disk with advantage to the walks of Persefield. “To the north, at the head of the letter, stands an immense rock, (or rather a pile of immense rocks heaped one above another) called Windcliff; the top of which is elevated as much above the grounds of Persefield, as those are above the fields of Llancot. These several rocks, with the wooded precipices, form a circular inclosure about a mile in diameter, including Perse-wood, Llancot, the Wye, and a small meadow at the foot of Windcliff.
“The grounds are divided into the upper and the lower lawn, by the approach to the house: a small irregular building, standing near the brink of the precipice, but facing down the lower lawn, a beautiful ground, falling precipitately every way into a valley which shelves down in the middle, and is scattered with groups and single trees in an excellent style.
“The view from the house is soft, rich, and beautifully picturesque; the lawn and woods of Persefield, and the opposite banks of the river; the Wye, near its mouth, winding through meadows green as emerald, in a manner peculiarly graceful; the Severn, here very broad, backed by the wooded and highly cultivated hills of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and Somersetshire. Not one rock enters into the composition. The whole view consists of an elegant arrangement of lawn,
wood, and water.
The upper lawn is a less beautiful ground, and the view from it, though it command the cultivated hills and rich vallies of Monmouthshire, bounded by the Severn, and backed by the Mendip hills, is much inferior to that from the house. “To give variety to the views from Persefield, and to set off its more striking features to advantage, walks have been cut through the woods, and on the face of the precipice which border the grounds to the south and the east. These walks are entered at the lower corner of the lower lawn. “The first point of view is marked by an alcove, from which are seen the bridge and town of Chepstow, with its castle, situated on the very brink of a perpendicular rock, washed by the Wye; and beyond these a glimpse of the Severn is caught. “Proceeding a little further, a view opens which a painter might call a complete landscape: the castle, with the serpentine part of the Wye below Chepstow, intermixed in a peculiar manner with the broad waters of the Severn, form the foreground, which is backed by distant hills; the rocks, crowned with wood, lying between the alcove and the castle to the right; and Castle-hill farm, elevated upon the opposite banks of the river, to the left, form the two side screens.
“The grotto, situated at the head of Perse-wood, commands a near view of the opposite rocks, magnificent beyond description . The littleness of human  art was never placed in a more humiliating. point of view; the castle of Chepstow, a noble fortress, is, compared with these natural bulwarks, a mere house of cards.
“The walk now leaves the wood, and opens upon the lower lawn, until, coming near the house, it enters the alarming precipice facing Llancot, winding along the face of it in a manner which does great honour to the artist. Sometimes the fragments of rock which fall in its way are avoided, at other times partially removed, so as to conduct the path along a ledge carved out of the rock; and in one instance, a huge fragment, of a somewhat conical shape, and many yards high, is perforated, the path leading through its base. This is a thought which will hand down to future times the greatness of Mr. Morris’s taste; the design and the execution are equally great; not a mark of a tool to be seen; all appears perfectly natural. The arch-way 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 an allowable deception; a black dark hole on the side next the cliff, which, seen from the entrance, before the perforation is discovered, appears to be the darksome inlet into the body of the cave.
“From this point, that vast inclosure of rocks and precipices which marks the peculiar magnificence of Persefield is seen to advantage. The area, containing, in this point of view, the fields of Llancot and the lower margin of Perse-wood, is broken in a manner peculiarly picturesque by the graceful winding of the Wye; here, washing a low grassy shore, and there sweeping at the feet of the rocks, which rise, in some places, perpendicularly from the water, but, in general, with a wooded off-set at the base three or four hundred feet high, exposing one full face, silvered by age, and bearded with ivy, growing out of the wrinklelike seams and fissures.
“From the perforated rock the walk leads down to the cold-bath, (a complete place), seated about the mid-way of the precipice, in this part less steep; and from the cold-bath, a rough way leads down to the meadow by the side of the Wye, from whence the precipice on the Persefield side is seen with every advantage; the giant fragments, hung with shrubs and ivy, rise in a ghastly manner from among the underwood, and shew themselves in all their native savageness.
“From the cold-bath upward, a very steep and difficult coach-road leads to the top of the cliff, at the upper corner of the upper lawn. From this place a road leads to the top of Windcliff—astonishing sight! the face of nature, probably, affords not a more magnificent scene ! Llancot in all its grandeur, the grounds of Persefield, the castle and town of Chepstow, the graceful windings of the Wye below, and its conflux with the Severn; to the left, the forest of Dean; to the right, the rich marshes and picturesque mountains of South Wales; a broad view of the Severn, opening its sea-like mouth; the conflux of the Avon, with merchant-ships at anchor in King-road, and vessels of different descriptions under sail; Austcliff, and the whole vale of Berkeley, backed by the wooded swells of Gloucestershire; the view terminating in clouds of distant hills, rising one behind another, till the eye becomes unable to distinguish the earth’s billowy surface from the clouds themselves.”
In my last I gave you a sketch of Persfield, near Chepstow. I shall begin this letter with transcribing from “A Tour throughout South Wales and Monmouthshire,” lately published by the ingenious Mr. Barber, a short account of the gentleman in whose possession it acquired all its celebrity. {long quotation, The charms of Persfield were created by Valentine Morris, … and little children sigh while they lisp the sufferings of good Mr. Morris.}
I know nothing of Mr. Morris but from this account; but, considering the usual state of human affairs, one cannot help suspecting that his calamities were, in some degree, attributable to himself.
He most likely indulged his fancy and his feelings to an extent totally inconsistent with his pecuniary means, and, in that case, we must not be deluded by the splendour of thoughtless hospitality, however tasteful and urbane it may be, into unqualified approbation. Justice is a virtue of a high order; indeed I cannot help esteeming it the basis of all other virtues; uncontrolled by its severe but salutary regimen, generosity degenerates into prodigality; taste, into vanity: and a criminal consumption of time and talents, and occasional acts of benevolence, into deliberate injustice. This general maxim cannot be too frequently inculcated; no one has a right to be generous till he has been just.
Butcher, Edmund, Rev., An Excursion from Sidmouth to Chester in the summer of 1803, (1805), pp. 94-99; 131

1805
Richard Owen Cambridge ( – 1804) was so captivated with the beauties of the Wye and the bold and romantic character of Piercefield that he recommended it to Mr Morris and had some share in Making improvements.
Gentleman’s Magazine, (March 1805), p. 236

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, 1805, 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

[Much of this might have been in the first edition of 1801, (copy in the British Library). Most of it is also in the 1813 (and probably subsequent editions). Differences between the 1805 and 1813 editions are marked. Some of this is based on the 3rd (1772) edition of Arthur Young’s A Six Weeks Tour through the Southern Counties of England and Wales.]
PERSFIELD is situated in the parish of Saint Arvon, a very pleasant village, in the direct line of communication between Monmouth, Ragland and Chepstow, distant only two miles from the latter of those places;– and to it we are conducted by one of the finest roads in the county.
The most early proprietors of Persfield estate, of whom we have accurate information, were a family of the name of WALTERS, in whose possession it continued for many generations: when it was sold by them, or their heirs, to – – –  MORRIS, esq. a colonel in the army. At his decease, it descended to his son, the late VALENTINE MORRIS, Esq. whose memory will long be cherished, for to his taste the WALKS owe their present celebrity. Possessing a handsome fortune, with a disposition the most generous and hospitable, the grounds were not more admired for their beauties, then was the public conduct, and attention to Strangers, of their worthy owner.
For many years Mr. Morris held the first rank in society in his neighbourhood; and in 1771 he stood as candidate to represent this county in Parliament, in opposition to John Morgan, esq. of Tredegar. The contest was supported with great spirit on both sides; but though strengthened with a powerful interest, his efforts proved ineffectual.
In the course of the American war, he was appointed to the Government of the Island of St. Vincent, in the West Indies: and though in his zeal for the interest of – his country, he expended a considerable sum out of his own private fortune, in addition to the public money, in order to place the island in the most respectable state’ of defence,—yet (on its unfortunately falling into the hands of the French) though every body there acknowledged the necessity and propriety of his exertions,— the minister of that day, from political motives, disavowed, and his successors, of course, excused them selves from approving them. The magnitude of these engagements, small as they were when compared with the benefit the public at that time received, made it impossible for Mr. Morris’s friends effectually to assist him, so as to release him intirely from those engagements, and (what every feeling mind will read with sorrow,) confinement in the King’s Bench prison was the sad result of these claims on his estate.
A most liberal remark, as well as untrue appeared in an early number of the “ Sporting Magazine.”— reflecting on Mr. Morris’s rich relations, as they are there called, for their conduct to him while in prison;– which I feel a pleasure in contradicting, on the authority of a Member of Parliaments related to the family, who assumed me, “That no person in distress ever received more actual relief; and what was of much more consequence to his delicate feelings and keen sensibility, a kind and tender sympathy and consolation from his friends, as well as the whole circle of his relations.”
On his enlargement, Mr. Morris retired to the house of a relation in London, where the same kind attentions continued to await him he had before received, and under whose roof he soon after ended his days. His remains were interred, with those of his family, in their parish church, in London.
At his decease, Persfield was again brought forward for sale, when it was bought by GEORGE SMITH, ESQ. a gentleman of fortune in the county of Durham, who immediately made it his residence; and, in conjunction with the late John Curre, esq. of Itton Court, in this county, opened a Banking House, at Chepstow, under the name of the Monmouthshire Bank;- but this concern proving fatal to the interests of the Proprietors, the estate was purchased by SIR MARK WOOD, BART. M. P. who resided here for some years but afterwards sold it to NATHANIEL WELLS ESQ. in whose possession it now remains.
[1805 edition] By the kind Permission of Mr. WELLS, these WALKS and MANSION HOUSE are open for Public Inspection EVERY TUESDAY AND FRIDAY.
The Hours for viewing the Mansion are restricted from Eleven o’clock till Four; but the Walks are open from Morning till Night.
[1813 edition] By the kind Permission of Mr. WELLS, these Walks are open for Public Inspection EVERY TUESDAY AND FRIDAY, From Morning till Night.
1805
GENERAL OUTLINE OF PERSFIELD
PERSFIELD is not a large place, — the park contains about three hundred acres, and the house stands in the midst of it. On the side of the approach the inequalities of the ground are gentle and the plantations pretty; but nothing in the upper lawn is great. On the other side, the lower lawn falls precipitately every way into a deep vale, which shelves down the middle. The declivities are diversified with clumps and with groves, and a number of large trees straggle along the bottom. This lawn is encompassed with wood, and to give variety to the views from Persfield,—to disclose the native grandeur which surrounds it,- as well as to set off its most striking features to advantage, WALKS have been cut through the woods, and on the face of the precipice, which border the grounds to the South and East.
The Wye runs immediately below the wood; the banks are high hills; in different places steep, bulging out, or hollow on the sides; rounded, flattened, or irregular at top; and covered with wood, or broken by rocks. They are sometimes seen in front; sometimes in perspective; falling back for the passage, or closing behind the bend of the river; appearing to meet, rising above, or shooting out beyond one another.
The wood which incloses the Lawn crowns an extensive range of these hills, which overlook all those on the opposite shore, with the country, which appears above or between them; and winding themselves as the river winds, their sides, all rich and beautiful, are alternately exhibited; and the point of view in one spot becomes an object to the next.
In many places the principal feature is a continued rock, in length a quarter of a mile, perpendicular, high, and placed upon a height. To resemble ruins is common to rocks; but no ruin of any single structure was ever equal to this enormous pile: it seems to be the remains of a city; and other smaller, heaps scattered about it, appear to be feinter traces of the former extent, and strengthen the similitude.
It stretches along the brow which terminates the forest of Dean; the face of it is composed of immense blocks of stone, but not rugged; the top is bare and uneven, but not craggy; and from the foot of it, a declivity, covered with thicket, slopes gently towards the Wye, but in one part is abruptly broken off by a ledge of less, rocks, of a different hue, and in a different direction. From the grotto it seems to rise immediately over a thick wood, which extends down a hill below the point of view, across the valley through which the Wye flows, and up the opposite banks, hides the river, and continues without interruption to the bottom of the rock; from another seat it is seen by itself without even its base; it faces another, with all its appendages about it; and sometimes the sight of it is partially intercepted by trees, beyond which, at a distance, its long line continues on through all the openings between them.
Most of the hills about Persfield are full of rock ; some are intermixed with hanging woods, and either advance a little before them, or retire within them, and are backed, or overhung, or separated by trees, In the walk to the cave, a long succession of them is frequently seen in perspective, all of a dark colour, and with wood in the intervals between them. In other parts, the rocks are more wild and uncouth; and sometimes they stand on the tops of the highest hills; at other times down as low as the river; they are home objects in one spot; and appear only in the back-ground of another.
The woods concur with the rocks to render the scenes of Persfield romantic; the place every where abounds with them; they cover the tops of the hills; they hang on the steeps ; or they fill the depths of the vallies. In one place they front, in another they rise above, in another they sink below, the point of view: they are seen sometimes retiring beyond each other, and darkening as they recede; and sometimes an opening between two is closed by a a third at a distance beyond them.
Below where a Chinese seat was heretofore placed, the course of the Wye is in the shape of a horse-shoe; it is on one side inclosed by a semicircular hanging wood; the direct steeps of a table-hill shut it in on the other; and the great rock fills the interval between them; in the midst of this rude scene lies the peninsula, formed by the river, a mile at least in length, and in the highest state of cultivation; near the isthmus the ground rises considerably, and thence descends in a broken surface, till it flattens to the water’s edge at the other extremity. The whole is divided into corn-fields and pastures; they are separated by hedge-rows, coppices, and thickets; open clumps and single trees stand out in the meadows: and houses and other buildings, which belong to the farms, are scattered amongst them. Nature so cultivated, surrounded by Nature so wild, compose a most lovely landscape together.
The communications between these several points are generally by close walks; which conduct to an eminence in the upper park, that overlooks on one side some of the romantic views which have been described, and on the other the cultivated hills and rich valleys of Monmouthshire. To the rude and magnificent scenes of Nature now succeeds a pleasant, fertile, and beautiful country, divided into inclosures, not covered with woods, nor broken by rocks and precipices, but only varied by easy swells, and gentle declivities; yet the prospect is not tame; the hills in it are high; and it is bounded by a vast sweep of the Severn, which is here visible for many miles together, and receives in its course the WYE and the AVON.
THE VIEWS, AS THEY SUCCESSIVELY OCCUR IN PERSFIELD,

  1. The Alcove.
  2. The Grotto.

III. The Double View.

  1. The Great Beech Tree.
  2. The Pleasant View.
  3. The Giant’s Cave.

VII. Top of the Hill, between the Giant’s Cave and the Lover’s Leap.

VIII. The Lover’s Leap

  1. The Temple.
  2. Windcliff.

PARTICULAR DESCRIPTION OF PERSFIELD
From Chepstow we proceed along the Monmouth turnpike (a fine driving) road, for about a mile, till we arrive at the LODGE. Here company alight; neither carriages nor horses being permitted to pass these gates; and enter the Park, through which a pleasant path leads to a second gate, where a person usually waits to conduct the visitors over these pleasurable regions.
The ground here begins to make an easy fall into the vale, and soon we are led into a neat path, its left side fringed with wood, apparently to screen the neighbouring objects from a premature obtrusion; which, in the course of a short distance, brings us to the first point, called the
ALCOVE,
From whence you look down perpendicular on the river, 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 overspreads the face of the one, twines and clusters among the fragments of the other;- the wood bridge (very grotesque), seems to abut against the ruins at one end, and Tut’s hill rocks at 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, 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 at Lancaut, which are here seen in length, and have a stupendous effect. The littleness of human art was never placed in a more humiliating point of view. The Castle of Chepstow, tho’ a noble fortress, is, compared with these natural bulwarks, a mere House of CARDS. This scene is peculiarly striking, and equal to any view in Persfield.
To this glare of beauty succeeds a walk secluded from every object, -formed, as it were, to compose or attune the mind after such enjoyment, which brings us to:
SEAT I.
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, with cultivated inclosures, which have a cheerful and lively effect. A short distance further, through the same scenery, conducts us to SEAT II.
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 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 real, and not an eye-trap.
A bold point of rock, fronted with iron railing, soon follows, which opens to a hollow of wood, bounded by Nature’s wall, one way, and letting in a view of the town another, in an exquisite taste, nor should the visitor overlook a range of beech and lime trees on the left of the walk, whose stems shoot from the rock in an astonishing manner.
Again we enjoy the pleasing and recluse scenery, so desirable in the season when these walks hold forth their charms, and ascending the hill we arrive at
SEAT III.
Placed under the protection of a fine beech tree, from whence the eye commands the castle and town of Chepstow ; the streams of Severn and Wye, with a distant view of Blaize Castle, and Dundry Tower, the horizon beautifully terminated by the Glocester and Somersetshire HILLs. Pursuing the ascent, we come in view of the House. Here the ground falls down, on the left side, in a fine taste, into the vale, and rising again in the same style, presents to great advantage this elegant and highly finished Mansion.
The path reassumes its refreshing coolness, formed by the intertwining branches of laurel mixed with other shrubs, which may be deemed 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 a hollow of wood, bounded in front by the craggy rocks, which seem to part you from the Severn in breaks; beyond which is seen a large part of Glocestershire, with the town of Thornbury, and Oldbury church; the horizon bounded by the hills around Old Sodbury; forming a landscape as truly picturesque as any in the world.
Among the Seats in these enchanting regions, to the mind of the writer this is most charming of them all. The beauty of the view, the coolness and quietness which pervade the scene, united with its accommodations, must strongly impress the mind of the visitor of its superiority, if he possesses a taste for tranquil pleasures.
Leaving this retirement, a cheerful scene soon presents itself, which has a pleasing effect after such seclusion. Thro’ some natural breaks and openings we obtain views of Laucaut farms and houses, distant hills, and Forest of Dean;–and, in going on, the beginning of those picturesque rocks, called The Twelve Apostles;-a fine woody bank, in which appears the Giant’s Cave; the whole terminated by a rich and highly cultivated country. These openings have a very judicious effect; for they not only divest the walk of its uniformity, but serve also to prepare the mind for some new pleasure.
Continuing our course, we arrive at
THE DOUBLE VIEW:
A scene that language would fail in attempting to delineate in its’ proper colours. 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 appears beneath you, the valley in all its beauty, surrounded by the rocky woods; which might be called (to use another’s expression), a course salvage 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 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, in which Dundry Tower is a striking object: —the horizon bounded by a grand range of the Glocester, 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 here, indeed, be passed with pleasure.
Pursuing the umbrageous path, we arrive at a little sequestred spot, shaded by a fine
BEECH TREE
That commands a landscape too beautiful for pencil to paint. This little spot, over which the Beech Tree spreads, is levelled in the vast rock, which forms the shore of the river Wye, through these grounds. This rock, which is totally covered with a shrubby underwood, is almost perpendicular from the water to the rail that encloses 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 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.
And here let me recommend … the opportunity of inspecting the elegant Mansion; for although it has not to boast of a long list of titled possessors, nor of walls cloathed with pictures, – yet such is the taste, the elegance, and beauty, which pervades the whole of the interior, that let the stranger’s Rank in society be ever so exalted, he will not look with indifference on this residence. Hours of viewing it from eleven till four. [1805 edition only]
As we pass along, rural pictures present themselves, formed by Lancaut farm, with the Windcliff, and distant scenery; and farther on arrive at a spot, called the
DRUID’S TEMPLE,
So named from its analogy to their places of worship.
From a SEAT beyond, – the Windcliff again shew its front, and at another 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 Lancaut, with its towering cliffs; and carrying the eye on to distant objects, meet the hilly terminations of Glocestershire, -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,
That, equally with the preceding, arrests the visitor’s attention, A most beautiful amphitheatre of woody and rocky hill encircles the foreground; underneath flows the Wye,- Lancaut lies beyond; on the left rises Windcliff; on the right, the opinion. cliffs; and carrying the eye through the fine break in the centre of the view, the Glocestershire 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, with the beautiful peninsula; nor should the stranger pass on without observing a remarkable phenomenon, a LARGE OAK, and of great age, growing out of a cleft of the rock, without the least appearance of earth.
Such a circumstance almost astonishes belief, but it is not singular on the sides of these Walks.
After another view of the Apostles rocks and Lancaut, varied by the winding of the river;- we arrive at
THE GIANT’S CAVE; Highly deserving of the NAME:
A most 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 the entrance. The bold point of rock on which we stand rises perpendicular from the edge of the river, that makes another of its fine sweeps, shewing to great advantage, on the right, the whole range of the Apostles rocks,—its left screen rising in grandeur, by presenting the correspondent Windcliff; the Lancaut cliffs and peninsula still maintaining the dignity of the scene; while the opening, before noticed, presents the happy termination of the Glocestershire hills.
This Cave is a thought which will hand down to future times the justness of Mr. Morris’s taste. The design and the execution are equally great-hot a mark of a tool to be seen; all appears perfectly natural. The arch-way 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 an allowable deception,- a black dark hole on the side next the cliff, which seen from the entrance, before the perforation is discovered, appears to be the darksome inlet into the body of the cave.
To awe the passing traveller,- in a cavity on the top of the rock is placed an Herculean figure, who held in his hands an enormous stone, which with full force he was about to hurl on the visitors’ head, as the latter surveyed his throne; but the weather destroyed its arms, so that it now remains a mutilated statue,
The front and sides of the cave are cloathed with ivy, which gives it a picturesque appearance; and on its summit is seen an ancient yew tree, that grows out of the rock, in the same surprising manner as the oak before mentioned.
The pleasure of looking from this charming spot, is increased from its being fronted with a wall, When Mr, Morris resided at Persfield, some swivel guns were here placed, which, when discharged, produced a surprising echo in these rocky regions.
Passing thro’ the cave, a winding walk, on the right, cool, sequestered, and agreeable, leads to
THE COLD BATH
This building (which measures 12 yards long by 7 wide) is excessively neat and well contrived, and the spring that supplies it is plentiful and transparent; but here it must be allowed to hint a want, if any thing can be WANTED, in such a spot as Persfield.
The walk from the Cold Bath is dark, and rather gloomy. Breaks and objects are also scarce in it. The trickling, stream you have just left, puts us in mind of a cascade, which would be here truly 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. [note:] The situation will be understood more correctly, when the reader is informed, that the embowering woods which we overlook from the “Lover’s Leap,” inclose this building. It is placed at the upper end of a spot of ground, the most sequestred the imagination can frame,- around which some fine lime and other trees rear their lofty heads,- with seats for the accommodation of visitors;–forming a sweet retreat in that season of the year, when protection from the sun-beams is most to bet desired. [end of note]
To look backwards aslant upon such an object, would be infinitely picturesque, amidst the brownness of this hanging grove. If water could be brought there, never was there a situation for viewing it to such advantage.
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 Glocester; and soon after, we arrive at
THE HILL; THE SEVENTH VIEW FROM THE WALKS
The foreground, from the river Wye, presents a bold surface of wood, which spreads between Lancaut Cliffs and the Grotto; while beyond it, the Severn increases the beauty of the scene; and carrying the eye to the distance, a rich part of that river’s district, for a sweep of fifty miles, interspersed with towns, churches, gentlemen’s seats, and other objects, forming, altogether, a rich and delightful picture.
Hitherto we have traversed a path, alternately rising and descending with the irregularity of the shore of the Wye;—but here it becomes more even, and leads to the
LOVER’S LEAP
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, one hundred and eighty feet, 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.
From this spot, which seems to be pushed forward from the rock by the bold hands of the Genius of the place, you proceed to where formerly stood
THE TEMPLE
THE HIGHEST PART OF THESE GROUNDS
[note: This building has, within these few years, been taken down.]
And imagination cannot form an idea of any thing more beautiful than, what appears full to the 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 believe it washed them, and that nothing parted you from it but those rocks, which are in reality four or five miles distant. This deception is the most exquisite ever beheld; 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 Glocestershire 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 to 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.
[Note in 1813 edition:] 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 (Welch, The Saxon“: Bridge) near Tintern in this county. He was a fine old man. who lived to be near ninety years of age, and possessed the full enjoyment of his faculties to the very close of life. In my walks from Monmouth to Chepstow. I often refreshed myself at his Saxon residence, and convened with him on the objects he had assisted in creating.
He informed me, Mr Morris devoted a large portion of his time in superintending these monuments of his taste and I feel a pleasure in rendering this tribute of esteem for the aged sire’s memory, that whenever he mentioned his Master (whose hours of labour, he said, were by him always cheered with kindness and liberality), it was with a sensibility and respect, that did honor to his aged heart.  [end of note].
REMARKS ON PERSFIELD
IN point of striking picturesque views in the romantic flood 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, the owner has fixed his benches, &c. in those points of view, which command it in the happiest manner, with the utmost taste.
Nothing can be more truly picturesque than the appearance which the SEVERN takes in many places, of being supported and bounded by the wall of rocks, though four miles distant; this effect is beyond all imagination striking. In regard 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 here mentioned, I believe they stand unrivalled.
Throughout the whole of these walks it is evident that Mr. Morris, as well as successive Proprietors, meant them merely, as an assistance to view the beauties of nature; as a means of seeing what Nature had already done to their hands, and without a strong design of decoration, or ornament. Everything is in a fine taste; but as all the beauties are spoken of, it may be allowed to hint a few circumstances wanting to render it complete.
But it is not to be imagined, in the least, to disapprove the taste of their ingenious owners;–by no means; –for it is not certain that it would be possible to add what will be hereafter remarked; but minuted merely that the stranger’s idea of Persfield may be exact; and that he might not mistake any general exceptions made use of, to imply beauties that are not here.
The river WYE, 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 very bad ; it has not that transparent darkness, that silver-shaded surface, which is, of itself, one of the greatest beauties in Nature, and would give a lustre inexpressibly elegant among these romantic objects.
Cascades are likewise much wanting. In such steeps of wood, and embrowning hollows, that have a pleasing solemnity, nothing has so glorious an effect as breaking unexpectedly upon a cascade, gushing from rocks, and over-hung with wood. There are many spots in the Persfield hollows, which would 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 subline: 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 lands scape, without any intermixture of rocks, distant prospect, or other object that was great or terrible, but on the contrary lively and agreeable, would be a vast improvement here; and the remark is rather ventured, 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 break, which catches the town and steple, is in this taste, but even here some large rocks appear.
Small elegant buildings, in a fight and airy taste, rising from green and gently swelling slopes, with something moving near them, and situated so as the Sun 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, auto 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, thro’ a dark zig-zag narrow walk!
[note in 1805 edition] These Hints are mentioned with great reluctance: for PERSFIELD is a place full of Wonders, and will afford the visitor amazing entertainment.
Persfield, says Mr. Williams, would reject with scorn all the common efforts of decorative art. Temples, columns, statues, would be nuisances; but a finer river, a cascade in a solemn and woody precipice; a solitary URN in an appropriate spot, with only the simple Inscription,
“To the Memory of Valentine Morris”
would complete all to be desired in these ornamental grounds.
{a few notes on the advantages of Chepstow in the 1813 edition}
PIERCEFIELD HOUSE
Is an elegant and modern freestone edifice situate on a gently rise in the centre of the Park and commands a delightful view over the lower part of the pleasure grounds, the river Severn, with the distant hills of Gloucester and Somerset shires, so often mentioned in the course of this work.
A light portico, in the centre of the building, conducts into a SALOON, corresponding with that taste and beauty displayed throughout the whole of the mansion. The floor is laid with black and white marble, obtained from Painswick; which renders it extremely agreeable in the summer season, and causes the room to be preferred by the family in that part of the year. This room is divided by mahogany sliding doors, inlaid with looking glass, which, when united, the whole of the company may discern, at table, every object within view of the house, – with vessels floating on the Severn, to their respective ports.
The Breakfast and Dining PARLOURS display all that elegance can express, in the articles of furniture and decorative ornaments ; while the walls are inriched with fine designs, in relievo; particularly The Aurora, after Guido Reni, whose works are held in such high estimation ;—with Triumphs of Pan? and of Neptune in one part; while in another, the beauty and grace of Titian and Cipriani’s IDEAS arrest our admiration, in viewing the subjects of Cupid tied to a tree, the Graces petting him with flowers; -with its companion, The Amatory God asleep ; Venus, attended by the Graces, tickling his ear with an arrow. In the Billiard Room are equally pleasing subjects; and even the Chimney Pieces , exhibit fanciful efforts of the Painter’s talents. The WINGS respectively lead, the Green Houses, to the Library and Music Room.
The objects that next claim our attention are Four Pieces of Tapestry, from the Gobelin manufactory, at Paris. The subjects are, Collections of Wild Beasts, some in the act of worrying each other; and Representations of Travelling in Eastern Climates. The former of these appear designed from pictures of Snyders, having all the fire and spirit characteristic of that master.
It would exercise a considerable degree of judgment to decide with propriety, which part of the artist’s merit best deserves our applause; for the figures are drawn so correct and free; the colours are so exquisitely bright and clear; added to the taste of design displayed in the different subjects; that even the connoisseur might, at first sight, mistake them for paintings fresh from the painter’s easel. To increase the pleasure, they may be viewed with the utmost ease and convenience; and the strong glare of a sky-light window gives the colours their full force and beauty.
The floors of the rooms are laid with Dutch ok, and the colour of the boards preserved with a liquid, after the manner of that people. Other mansions in Monmouthshire of boast of possessing an equal degree of comfort and accommodation; but in point of taste and elegance displayed in the internal decorations, this certainly takes precedence of all the gentleman’s seats in the county.
No stranger, of sensibility, can leave Persfield, without returning his due thanks to Mr. WELLS for the pleasure resulting from viewing these delightful regions, which the liberality of their owner lays open to the public at large. To the mind of the writer, the scenes have suggested the ideas of romantic fable, rather than such as were to be found in a polished part of our isle.
[The following paragraph is in the 1805 edition but appears as a note in the 1813 edition:] The house was a very indifferent residence for a family of fortune, before Sir Mark Wood purchased the estate; who, on taking possession pulled down the old building and erected on its site (as well as furnished), the present elegant mansion. He also built the handsome Lodges, and enclosed the Park with the high Stone Wall, which, till that time, was encircled only with slight palisades. Most of the late additions to the village of St Arvon, which gives it such an air of cheerfulness and comfort, were made by his directions, who expended many thousand pounds in building, during his residence at Persfield. Let it be further mentioned that the Public were permitted over the Pleasure Grounds TWO days in a week, – an indulgence the liberality and politeness of Mr Wells have thought proper to continue; previous to which, Mr Smith confined the inspection to every Thursday only. Strangers who wish to visit Persfield, should give attention to the days the Walks are open to the Public, viz, every Tuesday and Friday, as no admittance is to be obtained, under any circumstances, at an intervening time. [end of note]
Windcliff
We here take our leave of these walks, and proceed to the Windcliff which commands a view over the whole of those regions, of whose features we have hitherto enjoyed only partial prospects.
On quitting the PARK we proceed along a straight path for some yards, – and passing the dam head of a small pool, make an abrupt turn to the right into a broad road, this we follow, till we arrive at a lime kiln on the RIGHT HAND; from whence a foot path conducts to an eminence crowned with firs, to which our attention was directed.
Astonishing sight!—The face of Nature probably affords not a more magnificent scene! Lancaut in all its grandeur; the grounds of Persfield; the castle and town of Chepstow ; the graceful windings of the Wye below, and its conflux with the Severn; to the left, the forest of Dean; to the right, the rich marshes and picturesque mountains of South Wales; a broad view of the Severn, opening its sea-like mouth; the conflux of the Avon with merchant ships at anchor in King Road, and vessels of different descriptions under sail; Aust Cliff, and the whole vale, of Berkley, backed by the wooded swells of Glocestershire; the view terminating in clouds of distant hills rising one behind another, until the eye becomes unable to distinguish the earth’s billowy surface from the clouds themselves.
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. Collected from original papers and unquestionable authorities. The whole never before published.  By Charles Heath, Printer, Monmouth, Printed and Sold by him, in the Market Place: Sold also by Mr Roberts, Ross, Mrs Kirby, Chepstow; and at all inns in the County. (2nd edition, 1805). [This contains a preface to the first edition dated 1801]

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. [The sentences in square brackets are a direct transcription of the typed copy in Edward Hall’s collection.]

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
The Rev. Henry Thomas Payne (1759-1832, rector of Llanbedr, Brecknockshire in 1759, Vicar of Devynock, Rural Dean of that District of Breconshire and archdeacon of Carmarthen in 1819) wrote this description for his wife’s niece, A.M. Cuyler. He had just acquired a copy of Gilpin’s ‘Observations on the River Wye … (1782) which he almost certainly had with him during the journey. He also quoted from Coxe’s ‘An Historical Tour through Monmouthshire …’ (1801); he comments on Wyndham’s ‘A Gentleman’s Tour through Monmouthshire and Wales …’ (1774) and quotes various poets. The volume is very neatly written with well-planned footnotes.
His knowledge of the history of Piercefield is extensive.
It is very similar to the ‘Recollections’ he wrote for his wife, Mary (below).
A fine sweep [of the Wye, downstream from Tintern] now brought us round beneath the Wind-Cliff a perpendicular mass of Rock covered with thickets which forms a favourite station in the demene of Persfield. – A range of projecting rocks lower down have the whimsical appellation of the Twelve Apostles and St Peter’s Thumb – The scenery in which rock, wood and water are harmoniously blended is indeed delightful, but at the same time it is indescribable.
Lancaut
The Monmouthshire side displayed all the grandeur and beauty of Persfield in a succession of woods, rocks, high Cliffs, and Plantations surpassing my power of description.
Cliffs of Lancaut.
{Brief quotation from Wheatley “To resemble ruins is common to rocks; but no ruin of any single structure was ever equal to this enormous pile;
{The ‘author’ was unwell on the day her party had planned to visit Piercefield so} They kindly deferred seeing Persfield, (which Mr Wells the proprietor, though it was not the regular day for admitting visitors, had politely granted us his permission for) on my account.’
Piercefield
{The author was feeling better}
Before we enter upon the “Magic Scene”, it may not perhaps be uninteresting, to know a little of the history of that celebrated estate.
Persfield, (more correctly I conceive Pierre’s field) in in the parish of St Arvans, two miles from Chepstow.
{Earliest known proprietor – Walters}
1727 sold to Mr Rous whose son sold it to Colonel Morris, father of the well known Valentine Morris to whose discriminating taste, the public are now indebted for the pleasure they enjoy in viewing its delicious scenery. – Till his time Persfield was unknown, its charms were unappreciated. The peculiarities and beauties of the ground, were probably inconveniences to it, as an estate to be cultivated, and farmed; for picturesque circumstances are often times embarrassing, if not injurious to the farmer : – But no sooner was Val. Morris possessed of his estate, than his eager mind was bent upon embellishment – He regarded Nature as a mistress to whom he could not be too liberal – Now began his delight in rural pleasures, – and his ambition of excelling in rural elegance – He carried walks through the thickest of the forest, – 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,” – Possessing a handsome fortune, with a disposition the most generous and hospitable, he thought that he could never do too much – In a word, the grounds were not more admired for their beauties, than was the public conduct and attention to strangers of their liberal minded owner. – His house was the open Caravansera, to which every one who had the semblance of a gentleman, was admitted. But, alas! – an unbounded system of expense too surely reduces the condition even of the most affluent – and poor M – soon found the bad effects of an improvident liberality. – He spent his estate in exhibiting its beauties – and was sensible, when it was too late, that he had attended more to the improvement of its appearance than to the increase of its produce. – To augment his difficulties he now became ambitious of a seat in Parliament; and, presuming upon his popularity, contested the representation of the county with the Wealthy house of Tredegar … but his efforts were unsuccessful, and he was plunged still deeper into the gulph of ruin. – To heal his shattered fortunes he obtained the Government of St Vincent.
{sent to prison for debt; story of his tenants affectionately seeing him off.}
In 1784 Persfield was purchased by George Smith Esq. of Brnhall, Durham – who made it his residence – he took down a part of the old house inhabited by Mr Morris, and began a new edifice, the skeleton of which was nearly completed, when by his failure in a  bank which in conjunction with Mr Curre of Itton Court, he had established at Chepstow, the estate was again brought to the hammer, and sold by the asignees under a commission of Bankruptcy, to Col Mark Wood, formerly chief engineer of Bengall, and then M.P. for Newark. Col. Wood increased the property by different purchases in the vicinity. He entirely removed the old building and considerably extended and improved the plan of Mr Smith – The House as it now stands is of his construction – He also made some alterations in the disposition of the grounds ; how far they may be deemed improvements can best be judged by those who have remembered them in the time of Mr Morris – I am informed that several of the Old Walks are now no more. In 1802 Colonel Wood sold the whole property to Mr Wells, a West Indian Gentleman of Colour, who now possesses it, and by whose liberality the public are still indulged with permission of seeing the grounds twice a week, – on Tuesdays and Fridays – Persfield Park, which is the subject of our present description, occupies a space of about 300 acres situated between the public road to Monmouth, and the River Wye, – and the House, a magnificent building of freestone, is seated nearly in the centre of it – The approach is by a handsome Lodge with Iron Gates, communicating with the high road, and I understand was conducted by Mr Mickle. –
Visitors are here expected to enter their names in a book which is kept by the porter – Neither carriages nor horses belonging to strangers are admitted into the Park. – Upon our first entrance, into this delightful domain, we were struck with a certain neatness of appearance that was extremely gratifying, and bespoke the residence of a gentleman –  the undulations of the ground were easy and the plantations pretty, – but as yet, there is nothing great – The road leading to the house, which is not visible from hence, winds to the left – An old woman, who seemed to be in waiting, pointed out to us a walk in the opposite direction, and disappeared – but we were afterwards accompanied by a little girl – This path, after continuing awhile in obscurity leads us to the first grand station, which is called “The Alcove”. – It is a small building, placed upon a point of one of the more noble eminences which overlook the Wye – and presents us with a magnificent display of landscape, which derives a double portion of effect from the suddenness with which it bursts upon the view. – On the right, the steeply sloping bank is covered with a fine wood extending circuitously to the ruins of Chepstow Castle, which with a part of the town is seen to great advantage – On the left a beautiful intermixture of wood and rock of which Lancout Cliffs are most conspicuous, overhands the winding channel of the river, and discloses all the romantic varieties of a mountain Picture. We ought however to have seen it at high water – The tide was no unfortunately out, and instead of green margins, we were presented with sludgy shores. – This is indeed the only derogation from the Beauties of the Wye. – But we have ourselves alone to blame for the disappointment – We should have paid our visit at seven in the morning instead of waiting till eleven. From the first seat beyond the alcove, we have nearly the same scenery, though with some pretty variations from the winding of the cliff upon which we walk –
A second seat is happily placed to take in, as it were by chance, the Town and Castle of Chepstow, which are seen to good effect – and we again catch them somewhat differently circumstanced, from the point of a rock fronted with iron railing. From a third seat, placed upon an ascent, the prospect is more extensive, commanding not only the Wye with the environs of Chepstow, but taking in also the river Severn, Blaize Castle, Dundry Tower, and the comprehensive sweep of the Somerset and Gloucestershire Hills – A little further on, we have a fine view of the House, seated as I before observed, in the centre of the Park, – 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 rocks that overhang the Wye – commanding a distant and delightful view over the broad Severn and the red cliffs of Aust, backed by the distant hills – opposite appear the white rocks of Lancaut, which here loose their rugged form, and harmonise with the surrounding scenery – Beneath, the castle and Town of Chepstow present themselves: and the Wye sweeps in grand curves among Rocks and Woods, till it forms its junction with the Severn – No expence appears to have been spared, to render the mansion of Persfield suitable to the grandeur and beauty of the surrounding scenery – The interior of it we had not an opportunity of inspecting, as Mr Wells does not allow it to be shewn: – but Mr and Mrs P- who had seen it, while in the possession of Col. Wood assure me that the distribution of apartments is excellent – equally calculated for private comfort, and public splendour.
The next station is called the Grotto – which is a small Cavern, of no great beauty in itself – but its prospect is a pretty variety of the scenery which we have seen before. The spire and town of Thornbury are picturesque objects in the distant ground – a thick mass of wood, extending below us, obscures the channel of the Wye, and places the Lancaut Rocks in a different point of view – As we proceed, some charming peeps are obtained, through occasional openings in the wood; till we come to another station called the Double View, commanding a magnificent view of the right and left – In the composition of this scenery, the meandering Wye, the steep cliffs and fertile peninsular of Lancaut, form striking features. The river having passed between the Wind Cliff, and the Benagor Rocks, forms a wonderful circuit round the Peninsular, under a semi-circular chain of stupendous cliffs – but al length pursuing a straighter course, it flows under the ruins of Chepstow Castle, which forms a fine object in the landscape – Beyond, the Severn stretches in a wider channel, and we have all the beauties of its further banks, till the powers of vision are invelloped in a mist.
The subsequent stations are “The Beech Tree”, – The Druids Temple, – The Pleasant View, – The Giants Cave, which occupies the centre of the amphitheatre, and overlooks Lancaut peninsular. The HillThe Lovers Leap – (a projecting Point of Rock fronted with iron Rails, from whence the Wind Cliff is seen towering above the River, in all its height and beauty – whilst at our feet we look down upon a vast wooded hollow, surrounded by precipices, at the tremendous depth of 180 feet below us -) and The Temple, – which is the highest part of the enclosed ground, and forms the extremity of the walk – the building which gave its name, was taken down by Colonel Wood. –
Of these points I shall only say that they are rich varieties of each other, though each possesses its own peculiar beauties  – a more minute description would only be tautology.
The Wind-Cliff, which time did not permit us to ascend is an eminence towering above the Northern extremity of the Grounds and commanding in one birds-eye view the whole extent of the interesting scenery which we had already passed, – encircled by a sweep of Country, comprehending, as I am informed, a part of no less than nine counties – But such views are rather wonderful than picturesque – The eye lost in the profusion of objects which are thrown before it, runs widely over the vast expanse with rapture and astonishment – but it is impossible for the most skilful painter to reduce it to a Landscape – unbounded extension, though amusing in nature can never make a picture. –
The visitor who is not pleased with Persfield, may with the greatest justice be termed fastidious – It is “a Garden planted by the hand of Nature” – But still, to everything on earth some objection may be made – Our wise parent having furnished everything with an alloy, to stimulate our sensibility, to beauty and enjoyment – The River, which is a leading feature, has none of that fine transparency which softens the harshness or mellows the tints of romantic objects. Its colour is always disagreeable: – the tide rises high on its shores, and leaves behind it disgusting promontories and caves of slime. Mr Morris, having conducted the noted Quin to the summit of Wind-Cliff, directed his attention to the noble rivers of the Wye and Severn, and following in all the majesty of a full spring tide – The cynical humourist affected an astonishment, and demanded where they lay – “Immediately before you” was the reply – “I crave your pardon sire, says Quin, – I see them now – but I profess my eyes deceived me, and I took them for two ploughed fields in an earthquake!”
The observation was certainly very coarse, and uncivil, and could only have been uttered by such a man as Quin, – but the complexion of the water in some degree justifies the idea.
I fully agree with Mr Williams, that Persfield would reject with Scorn all the common efforts of decorative Art. Temples, Columns, Statues, would be a nuisance  – and the successive proprietors have shown their judgement in avoiding them – But yet, a few judicious deviations from the present line of walk might perhaps be advantageous in giving a more full effect to those noble points of view, which every one must allow are well chosen – It now seems to be carried too closely along the brow of the precipice which, notwithstanding the general variety, occasions an uninteresting sameness in many of its parts, the outward screen not being of sufficient thickness to exclude those objects which at the intermediate distances would better have been concealed. – The line, as delineated by Mr Morris, was undoubtedly intended to display to the best advantage, that noble scenery which Nature had intrusted to his command – and indeed scenes so cultivated surrounded scenes so wild are hardly to be met with in any other place – I understand that in his time the walks were more circuitous, and more closely planted – and in consequence, that the Points of View, taken by surprise, were infinitely more glorious.
With these remarks, which I trust will not be deemed invidious I take my leave of Persfield. The gardener let us out at a gate near the Temple seat, into road where we found our carriages in waiting – and we proceeded on our journey towards Raglan.
Payne, H.T., ‘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, Persfield, Raglan etc. by A.M.Cuyler, 1807’ [but written by Payne], NLW add MS 784a, pp. 126-144

1807

The Rev. Henry Thomas Payne (1759-1832, rector of Llanbedr, Brecknockshire in 1759, Vicar of Devynock, Rural Dean of that District of Breconshire and archdeacon of Carmarthen in 1819) wrote this description for his wife following a trip down the Wye with her, her niece, A.M. Cuyler and others. It is very similar to the ‘Recollections’ he wrote for A.M. Cuyler (above), but it includes a long description of Piercefield written in a letter to Mr Payne’s father, from a friend who had just visited it in 1763.
Text in italics is that in Cuyler’s version.
Having dined at our inn [at Tintern], and satisfied our curiosity on shore, we re-embarked and had an opportunity of viewing the exterior, of the abbey in all its interesting points – From the water it certainly assumes a new, and more important character than it exhibits from the shore does from the villagebut I think its finest exhibition is from the opposite shore, as we experienced in our former Tour.  The Ruins now appear to occupy a gently eminence, impending over the river, without the intervention of a single cottage to obstruct the view. The grand East Window rising above the Shrubby Trees which hide its lower parts, is extremely fine – and through its openings we command the long drawn Ile [aisle], with its ivied pillars, terminating with the delicate tracery of the Western Window – As we drop gently down stream, the prospect varies – and the Southern Transept comes pleasingly in sight, and at length appears like a front partly obscured by some intervening trees – From the winding of the banks, the river above is entirely lost, – so that the edifice appears to be quite embowered in a vast amphitheatre of wood; – and standing upon the borders of a lake – It was with great regret that we saw the interesting object every moment diminishing to the sight. – At length desiring our Boatmen to rest upon their oars, we looked a last farewell.
{the river became muddy}
{views}
A fine sweep now brought us round beneath the Wind-Cliff a perpendicular mass of Rock covered with thickets which forms a favourite station in the demesne of Persfield. – A range of projecting rocks lower down have the whimsical appellation of the Twelve Apostles and St Peter’s Thumb – The scenery in which rock, wood and water are harmoniously blended is indeed delightful, but at the same time it is indescribable.
Lancaut
The Monmouthshire side displayed all the grandeur and beauty of Persfield in a succession of woods, rocks, high Cliffs, and Plantations surpassing my power of description.
Cliffs of Lancaut.
{Brief quotation from Wheatley “To resemble ruins is common to rocks; but no ruin of any single structure was ever equal to this enormous pile;
Chepstow
More on Chepstow town and castle
Piercefield
Before we enter upon the “Magic Scene”, it may not perhaps be uninteresting, to know a little of the history of that celebrated estate.
Persfield, (more correctly I conceive Pierre’s field) in in the parish of St Arvans, two miles from Chepstow.
{Earliest known proprietor – Walters}
1727 sold to Mr Rous whose son sold it to Colonel Morris, father of the well known Valentine Morris to whose discriminating taste, the public are now indebted for the pleasure they enjoy in viewing its delicious scenery. – Till his time Persfield was unknown, its charms were unappreciated. The peculiarities and beauties of the ground, were probably inconveniences to it, as an estate to be cultivated, and farmed; for picturesque circumstances are often times embarrassing, if not injurious to the farmer : – But no sooner was Val. Mr Morris possessed of his estate, than his eager mind was bent upon embellishment – He regarded Nature as a mistress to whom he could not be too liberal – Now began Hence originated his delight in rural pleasures, – and his ambition of excelling in rural elegance – He carried walks through the thickest of the forest, – opened the finest points of view, and afforded an easy progress to the picturesque admirer, through that extensive range of delightful scenery.
“At his command
On hill of plain, new culture clothes the scene …
The Graces reign, – and Nature smiles applause!” (Iago’s Edge Hill)
and with exquisite taste adapted his improvements to the Genius of the place – leaving, “The negligence of Nature wide and wild,” –
Possessing a handsome fortune, with a disposition the most generous and hospitable, he thought that he could never do too much – In a word, the grounds were not more admired for their beauties, than was the public conduct and attention to strangers of their liberal minded owner. – His house was the open Caravansera, to which every one who had the semblance of a gentleman, and had any introduction, was admitted. But, alas! – an unbounded system of expense too surely reduces the condition even of the most affluent – and poor M – soon found the bad effects of an improvident liberality. – A timely attention to the good old maxim of the Poet
He surely thrives who use to pleasure joins
Might equally have saved his fortune, and gratified his taste, but unfortunately, the soul of M- was too expanded to listen to the cool suggestions of economy; and Piercefield, like the Court of Timon, was too much crowded with useless, and expensive guests. In time he spent his estate in exhibiting its beauties – and was sensible, when it was too late, that he had attended more to the improvement of its appearance than to the increase of its produce. All this however, might have been recovered, and he still might have enjoyed a prudent hospitality in the bosom of his beloved Persfield, had not an ill-advised ambition, like the Demon of Destruction, involved him still deeper in the labyrinth of distress To augment his difficulties he now became ambitious of a Surrounded as he already was by difficulties, he imprudently aspired to a seat in Parliament; and, presuming upon his popularity, contested the representation of the county with the Wealthy house of Tredegar … but his efforts were unsuccessful, and he was plunged still deeper into the gulph of ruin. – To heal his shattered fortunes he obtained the Government of St Vincent. {sent to prison for debt; story of his tenants affectionately seeing him off.}
In 1784 Persfield was purchased by George Smith Esq. of Brnhall, Durham – who made it his residence – he took down a part of the old house inhabited by Mr Morris, and began a new edifice, the skeleton of which was nearly completed, when by his failure in a  bank which in conjunction with Mr Curre of Itton Court, he had established at Chepstow, the estate was again brought to the hammer, and sold by the asignees under a commission of Bankruptcy, to Col Mark Wood, formerly chief engineer of Bengall, and then M.P. for Newark. Col. Wood increased the property by different purchases in the vicinity. He entirely removed the old building and considerably extended and improved the plan of Mr Smith – The House as it now stands is of his construction and will be more fully described hereafter – He also made some alterations in the disposition of the grounds ; how far they may be deemed improvements can best be judged by those who have remembered them in the time of Mr Morris – I am informed that several of the Old Walks are now no more.
In 1802 Colonel Wood sold the whole property to Mr Wells, a West Indian Gentleman of Colour, who now possesses it, and by whose liberality the public are still indulged with permission of seeing the grounds twice a week, – on Tuesdays and Fridays –
Persfield Park, which is the subject of our present description, occupies a space of about 300 acres situated between the public road to Monmouth, and the River Wye, – and the House, an elegant mansion a magnificent building of freestone, is seated  standing nearly in the centre of it – The approach is by a handsome Lodge with Iron Gates, communicating with the high road, and I understand was conducted by Mr Mickle. constructed by the late proprietor, who under the direction of Mr Mickle has obviated the reflection of “the broad straight line” which a tourist of that day, had cast upon his predecessor.
Visitors are here expected to enter their names in a book which is kept by the porter – Neither carriages nor horses belonging to strangers are admitted into the Park. – Upon our first entrance, into this delightful domain, we were struck with a certain we observed merely that neatness of appearance that was extremely gratifying, and which usually bespoke bespeaks the residence of a gentleman –  the undulations of the ground were easy and the plantations pretty, – but as yet, there is nothing great or that demands a particular description – The road leading to the house, which is not visible from hence, winds to the left – An old woman, who seemed to be in waiting, pointed out to us a walk in the opposite direction, and disappeared – but we were afterwards accompanied by a little girl  the gardener being gone forward with some other company – This path, after continuing awhile in obscurity leads us stealing through the covert of a wood, and darkened by the overhanging branches, seemed rather to be a prelude to some mossy cell, or deep retirement, than to the magnificent display we were in expectation of beholding, and we followed our conductress wrapped up in sombre meditation as in a few minutes we were introduced by a short tern to the first grand station, which is called “The Alcove”.
The transition was indeed electric – it called to our minds the lovely Mount of Paradise – and for a moment, –
Like “Adam now enforced, we closed our eyes
Sunk down, and all our spirits were entranced”
It is a small building, placed upon a point of one of the more noble eminences The little building in which we sat is planted upon one of the most bold projections which overlook the Wye – and presents us with a magnificent display of landscape, which derives Its prospect is rich and diversified beyond conception and it derives if possible a double portion of effect from the suddenness with which it bursts upon the view. The principal features are, – On the right, the steeply sloping bank is covered with a fine thick wood extending circuitously to the ruins and terminated by the rude cliffs, and ruined walls of Chepstow Castle, which with a part of the town is seen to great advantage – The Wye, here rolling in its deep recess below us, is here traced in all its windings through a charming country to its junction with the Severn – The opposite bank is a hill, richly cultivated  – on the left, a beautiful intermixture of wood and rock of which the Lancaut Cliffs are the most conspicuous, overhands the winding channel of the river, and discloses all the romantic varieties of mountain scenery. In the tout ensemble it composes one of those divine and excellently finished Pictures, which may be seen and must be admired , but of which the most perfect recollection is unable to describe the beauties. On the left a beautiful intermixture of wood and rock of which Lancout Cliffs are most conspicuous, overhands the winding channel of the river, and discloses all the romantic varieties of a mountain Picture. We ought however to have seen it at high water – The tide was no unfortunately out, and instead of green margins, we were presented with sludgy shores. – This is indeed the only derogation from the Beauties of the Wye. – But we have ourselves alone to blame for the disappointment – We should have paid our visit at seven in the morning instead of waiting till eleven.
From the first seat beyond the alcove, we have nearly the same scenery, though with some pretty variations from the winding of the cliff upon which we walk –
A second seat is happily placed to take in, as it were by chance, the Town and Castle of Chepstow, which are seen to good effect – and we again catch them somewhat differently circumstanced, from the point of a rock fronted with iron railing.
From a third seat, placed upon an ascent, under the umbrageous protection of a noble Beech tree, the prospect is more extensive, commanding not only the lovely regions of the Wye with the environs of Chepstow, but taking in also the river Severn, Blaize Castle, Dundry Tower, and the comprehensive and the neighbourhood of Bristol – terminated by the sweeping line of the Somerset and Gloucestershire Hills – A little further on, the woods opening to the left, and a lawn, ample, as fair, sweeping in a fine descent from the foot, and again swelling with a graceful elevation embosomed and grouped by a profusion of noble Timber Trees, displays the well-built Mansion to a very fine advantage.
we have a fine view of the House, seated as I before observed, in the centre of the Park, – 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 rocks that overhang the Wye – commanding a distant and delightful view over the broad Severn and the red cliffs of Aust, backed by the distant hills – opposite appear the white rocks of Lancaut, which here loose their rugged form, and harmonise with the surrounding scenery –
It is indeed a handsome object – and with its environs, not only completes a most elegant scene, but is the finest foreground imaginable, to throw a more polished lustre upon the distant country, though Nature has so richly covered it with her charms – a more lovely situation for a house can scarcely be imagined.
“Along th’ indented Bank, the Forest Tribes
The thin leaved ash, dark oak and glassy beech …
And hastes to join Sabrina’s prouder wave.
(Iago Edge Hill)
Beneath, the castle and Town of Chepstow present themselves: and the Wye sweeps in grand curves among Rocks and Woods, till it forms its junction with the Severn – No expence appears to have been spared, to render the mansion of Persfield suitable to the grandeur and beauty of the surrounding scenery – The interior of it we had not an opportunity of inspecting, as Mr Wells does not allow it to be shewn: – but Mr and Mrs P- who had seen it, while in the possession of Col. Wood assure me that the distribution of apartments is excellent – equally calculated for private comfort, and public splendour.
[much of the following description of the house is identical to William Coxe, An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire, (1801), pp. 392-402 but is not in the Cuyler version.]
In the construction of the fabric, no expense has been spared to render it suitable to the grandeur and beauty of the surrounding scenery. As the present proprietor does not allow it to be shewn to strangers, I must refer to our former visit for a description of its interior. It is built with a well worked freestone, with a handsome Doric portico in front, and 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 apartments is excellent, equally calculated for private comfort and public splendour. 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 that unfortunate Prince Louis the sixteenth of France. 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.
I understand that Colonel Wood did not include these beautiful pieces in his sale to Mr Wells – of course they have been removed from Persfield.
The next station is called the Grotto – which is a small Cavern, of no great beauty in itself – but its prospect is a pretty variety of the scenery which we have seen before. The spire and town of Thornbury are picturesque objects in the distant ground – a thick mass of wood, extending below us, obscures the channel of the Wye, and places the Lancaut Rocks in a different point of view – The spire and town of Thornbury are picturesque objects in the distant ground. As we proceed, some charming peeps are obtained, through occasional openings in the wood; till we come to another station called the Double View, commanding a magnificent view of the right and left – In the composition of this scenery, the meandering Wye, the steep cliffs and fertile peninsular of Lancaut, form striking features. The river having passed between the Wind Cliff, and the Benagor Rocks, forms a wonderful circuit round the Peninsular, under a semi-circular chain of stupendous cliffs rising perpendicularly from the water’s edge– but at length pursuing a straighter course, it flows under the ruins of Chepstow Castle, which forms a fine object in the landscape – Beyond, the Severn stretches in a wider channel, and we have all the beauties of its further banks, till the powers of vision are invelloped in a mist.
The subsequent stations are “The Beech Tree”, – The Druids Temple, – The Pleasant View, – The Giants Cave, which occupies the centre of the amphitheatre, and overlooks Lancaut peninsular. looking down upon the farm of Lancaut – and from whence a winding path leads to the Cold Bath, a sweetly sequestered spot, seated in the deep cover of a wood – through which the small transparent stream that feeds it, murmurs in obscurity. I am compelled to give this description of it from the report of others; our little Guide, through forgetfulness, having omitted to conduct us thither.-
Yet, – sure I heard the Naiad say, …
Whose latent course resembles shine” (Shenstone)
The next station beyond the Giant’s cave, is The Hill from when we proceed to The Lovers Leapwhich is a projecting Point of Rock fronted with iron Rails, from whence the Wind Cliff with its shaggy sides, is seen towering to a vast height above the River, in all its height and beauty – whilst at our feet we look down upon a vast wooded hollow, surrounded by precipices, at the tremendous depth of 180 feet below us -) from this dizzy height it has obtained the distinction anciently conferred upon the Promontory of ‘Leucate’ so fatal to despairing Lovers.-
Then view with caution the dire precipice;
Lest, startled at the giddy height, they sense
Swimming forsake thee, – and thy trembling limbs
Unnerv’d and fault’ring, lead to Sappho’s fate.
Our last station is The Temple, – which is the highest part of the enclosed ground, and forms the extremity of the walk – the building which gave its name, was an octagon and I am informed, erected by Mr Morris and taken down by Colonel Wood. –
A seat is now placed for the accommodation of walkers, who here close their promenade with a brilliant finale, reviewing to excellent effect a considerable portion of that fine scenery, which they had before admired.
Of these points I shall only say that they are rich varieties of each other, though each possesses its own peculiar beauties  – a more minute description would only be tautology.
The Wind-Cliff, which time did not permit us to ascend is an eminence towering above the Northern extremity of the Grounds and commanding in one birds-eye view the whole extent of the interesting scenery which we had already passed, – encircled by a sweep of Country, comprehending, as I am informed, a part of no less than nine counties – But such views are rather wonderful than picturesque – The eye lost in the profusion of objects which are thrown before it, runs widely over the vast expanse with rapture and astonishment – but it is impossible for the most skilful painter to reduce it to a Landscape – unbounded extension, though amusing in nature can never make a picture. –
The visitor who is not pleased with Persfield, may with the greatest justice be termed fastidious – It is “a Garden planted by the hand of Nature” – But still, to everything on earth some objection may be made – Our wise parent having furnished everything with an alloy, to stimulate our sensibility, to beauty and enjoyment – The River, which is a leading feature, has none of that fine transparency which softens the harshness or mellows the tints of romantic objects. Its colour is always disagreeable: – the tide rises high on its shores, and leaves behind it disgusting promontories and caves of slime. Mr Morris, having conducted the noted Quin to the summit of Wind-Cliff, directed his attention to the noble rivers of the Wye and Severn, and following in all the majesty of a full spring tide – The cynical humourist affected an astonishment, and demanded where they lay – “Immediately before you” was the reply – “I crave your pardon sire, says Quin, – I see them now – but I profess my eyes deceived me, and I took them for two ploughed fields in an earthquake!”
The observation was certainly very coarse, and uncivil, and could only have been uttered by such a man as Quin, – but the complexion of the water in some degree justifies the idea.
I fully agree with Mr Williams, that Persfield would reject with Scorn all the common efforts of decorative Art. Temples, Columns, Statues, would be a nuisance  – and the successive proprietors have shown their judgement in avoiding them – But yet, a few judicious deviations from the present line of walk might perhaps be advantageous in giving a more full effect to those noble points of view, which every one must allow are well chosen – It now seems to be carried too closely along the brow of the precipice which, notwithstanding the general variety, occasions an uninteresting sameness in many of its parts, the outward screen not being of sufficient thickness to exclude those objects which at the intermediate distances would better have been concealed. – The line, as delineated by Mr Morris, was undoubtedly intended to display to the best advantage, that noble scenery which Nature had intrusted to his command – and indeed scenes so cultivated surrounded scenes so wild are hardly to be met with in any other place – I understand that in his time the walks were more circuitous, and more closely planted – and in consequence, that the Points of View, taken by surprise, were infinitely more glorious.
With these remarks, which I trust will not be deemed invidious I take my leave of Persfield. The gardener let us out at a gate near the Temple seat, into road where we found our carriages in waiting – and we proceeded on our journey towards Raglan.
The gardener now waits to receive his fee – and conducts us into a lane, leading to St Arvans, where the visitors usually order their carriages or horses to be waiting, – as we were in a hurry to get on to Raglan, we had not time, during this visit, to ascend the Wind Cliff, I must therefore refer to my former Note book, for a description of that Noble promontory and from the same source the whole of our subsequent routine is taken.
[note:] Upon the promontory of Leucate, a small Island in the Ionian Sea, now known by the name of Cape St Mauro, was a temple dedicated to Apollo, in which it was usual for despairing lovers to pay their vows in secret and then precipitate themselves into the sea from the summit of the rock …[end of note]
Having quitted the enclosed ground, we were directed to a straight path, which brought us to the head of a small pool, where making an abrupt turn to the right, we entered into a broad road – which we pursued till we came to a lime kiln on the right hand – Here, crossing a gate, we proceeded along the side of a hedge that divides the fields , – and in a short time gained the eminence of the Wind Cliff – a lofty point towering above the northern extremity of the park – and commanding in one bird’s eye view the whole extent of that interesting scenery which had already passed.
Heavens! – what a goodly prospect spreads around, …
The stretching landscape into smoke decoys! (Thompson’s Summer, L. 1426)
A boundless extent of country is indeed seen from this commanding height – On the one side, we trace the noble streams of the Wye and Severn, till their united waters spread into an Estuary, and are lost between the distant shores of Wales and Devonshire – on the other, the eye is carried in a sweeping range across a wide expanse of inland Country,
To where the broken Landscape by degrees
Ascending, roughens into rigid hills;
Oe’r which the Cambrian mountains, like far clouds
That skirt the blue horizon, dusky rise (Thomson’s Spring. L, 955)
In short, nature, from this noble promontory, appears so great, that she spurns the poor minutia of description – “She affords those glories, which not only fascinate the eye, but fill the mind with the most awful impressions of the majesty and inconceivable greatness, of that power from whence she herself proceeds” [Adam Smith] – such are the principal points of the celebrated Persfield and Severn, and following in all the majesty of a full spring tide –
The visitor who is not pleased with Persfield, may with the greatest justice be termed fastidious and the visitor must be indeed fastidious, who will not be delighted with a scene so charming. – It is truly “a garden planted by the hand of nature” – But still, – But still, to everything on earth some objection may be made – Our wise parent having furnished everything with an alloy, to stimulate our sensibility, to beauty and enjoyment as the most perfect picture is not free from blemishes, – so it must be confessed, that even Persfield has it spots, – and it is the province of candid criticism, to descant freely. – The fair critic, like the faithful Juror, is not only required to speak the truth, but the whole truth – “Nothing extenuate, nor set down ought in malice.” Hitherto we have revelled in a blaze of beauty, uncontrolled, – and it must be allowed, that we have enjoyed her charms with exquisite delight – we are now come to the less grateful task, of noticing those few defects, which operate to its disadvantage – The River, which is a leading feature, has none of that fine transparency which softens the harshness or mellows the tints of romantic objects. Its colour is always disagreeable: – the tide rises high on its shores, and leaves behind it disgusting promontories and caves of slime. The water, which is certainly an essential feature in every perfect landscape, is here turbid and discoloured – influenced by a rapid tide, it wants that shaded transparency which softens the harshness, or mellows the tints of romantic objects and upon the Ebb, it leaves a disgusting shore of mud which nauseates the view. The following anecdote is in point –Mr Morris, having conducted the noted Quin to the summit of Wind-Cliff, directed his attention to the noble rivers of the Wye and the Severn then flowing upwards in all the majesty of a full spring tide – The cynical humourist affected an astonishment, and demanded where they lay ?– “Immediately before you” was the reply – “I crave your pardon sire, says Quin, – I see them now – but I profess my eyes deceived me, and I took them for two ploughed fields in an earthquake!”
The observation was certainly very coarse, and uncivil, and could only have been uttered by such a man as Quin, – but it must be confessed that the complexion of the water in some degree justifies the idea.
Of the grandeur and beauty of the surrounding views, I have already born an ample testimony – and gratefully acknowledge, that they still live in my recollection – But yet, if we regard them with a Painters eye, I must agree with Mr Gilpin, that  for the greater part, they are rather astonishing than picturesque. Vision lost in the profusion of objects which are thrown before it, runs wildly over the vast expanse with rapture, and amazement, but it is impossible for the most skilful artist to reduce it to a Landscape. – Even the Panoramic Barker, must be foiled in the great attempt. Unbounded extension, however amusing in Nature, can never make a picture –
This, however, cannot be regarded as a defect – it only supplies a proof, (if proof is requisite,) that the utmost efforts of human ingenuity are unequal to express that infinite variety of perfection which is discoverable in the works of Nature –
In vain they pencil Claudio, or Poussin
Or thine Salvator Rosa would essay
Such skill to imitate – it is the hand
Of God himself – for God himself is there! – (Smart)
With respect to the scientific disposition of the grounds, I fully agree coincide in opinion with Mr Williams, that Persfield would reject with Scorn all the common efforts of decorative Art. Temples, Columns, Statues, would be a nuisance  – and the successive proprietors have shown their judgement in avoiding them – But yet, a few judicious deviations from the present line of walk might perhaps be advantageous in giving a more full effect to those noble points of view, which every one must allow are well chosen – It now seems to be carried too closely along the brow of the precipice which, notwithstanding the general variety, occasions an uninteresting sameness in many of its parts, the outward screen not being of sufficient thickness to exclude those objects which at the intermediate distances would better have been concealed. The line, as delineated by Mr Morris, was undoubtedly intended to display to the best advantage, that noble scenery which Nature had intrusted to his command – and indeed scenes so cultivated surrounded scenes so wild are hardly to be met with in any other place – I understand that in his time the walks were more circuitous, and more closely planted – and in consequence, that the Points of View, taken by surprise, were infinitely more glorious. prevent the wandering eye from anticipating those leading objects which ought to be reserved for the astonishment of a sudden burst, the novelty evaporates, and a considerable portion of the effect is consequently lost. – With these remarks, which I trust will not be  Such are  the few remarks which a slight review of Persfield has suggested to me – and I trust that they will not be deemed invidiously obtruded. I take my leave of Persfield. The gardener let us out at a gate near the Temple seat, into road where we found our carriages in waiting – and we proceeded on our journey towards Raglan.
It was my intention here to take my leave, and made my courtesy: – but, as Mr P [Payne] has presented me with a description of the place, as it appeared in the year 1763, when it was under the immediate patronage of Mr Morris, I cannot resist the pleasure of subjoining it: as we shall thereby have an opportunity of making a comparison between the taste of the original Designer, and the alterations which have subsequently taken place. – It is the substance of a letter to Mr P-s father, from a friend who had just visited it. – [see entry for 1763]
From the foregoing description, which is very minute, and I have no doubt accurate, it appears that in the disposition of these grounds, the style adopted by Mr Morris, was vastly more diffusive, and more varied than that in which it is now seen. It must however be admitted that in some parts of it he indulged in prettinesses, which were by no means consonant to the dignity of his subject. – Grass-plats, shrubberies, and
Green-house plants, are embellishments too trifling for the majesty of Persfield.-
“For nature there
Wantons as in her prime, and plays at will
Her Virgin fancies – wild above rule, or art (Milton)
This unlucky foible of our otherwise correct designer did not escape the scrutinizing eye of Gilpin who severely reprehends it. – As the critique of so great a master of the picturesque, I shall make no apology for introducing at length, his observations on the subject. –
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. (Horat)
i.e. “Perhaps you may introduce some trifling plant, – but does this compensate for a want of unity and simplicity in a whole?”
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. A bed of violets or lilies may enamel the ground with propriety at the root of an oak; but if you introduce them artificially in a border, you introduce a trifling formality, and disgrace the, noble object you wish to adorn.”
Since the death of Mr Morris, these little Fripperies have been corrected, – and so far the alterations have undoubtedly been for the better – The general plan however has been considerably contracted – the whole walk being now reduced to a single verge along the margin of the rock – the  inconveniences of which have already been pointed out – Genio Loci, should be the motto of every chaste designer.
To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
To rear the column, or the arch to bend;
To swell the terrace, or to sink the grot,
In all, let nature never be forgot.
But treat the Goddess like a modest fair,
Nor over-dress, nor leave her wholly bare;
Let not each beauty ev’ry where be spy’d,
Where half the skill is decently to hide.
He gains all points, who pleasingly confounds,
Surprises, varies, and conceals the Bounds.
Consult the Genius of the Place in all;
That tells the Waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps the ambitious Hill the Heav’ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the Vale;
Calls in the Country, catches op’ning Glades,
Joins willing Woods, and varies Shades from Shades;
Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending Lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.
Still follow Sense, of ev’ry art the soul,
Parts answ’ring parts shall slide into a whole,
Spontaneous beauties all around advance,
Start ev’n from Difficulty, strike from Chance;
Nature shall join you; Time shall make it grow
A Work to wonder at ——— [‘perhaps a Stow’ is in the published version]
(Pope, Epist IV [Moral Essays, Of the Use of Riches]. L 47 etc).
Farewell Persfield! –
End of Volume I
Payne, Henry Thomas, ‘Recollections of Two Excursions from Llanbedr to Ross, with the Navigation of the River Wye to Chepstow, and a Walk to Persfield. Returning by Newport, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Merthyr-Tidvael and Brecknock, by Mary Payne, 1807, Vol. 1’. (In hand-writing of and almost certainly written by H T Payne for his wife Mary), Powys Archives, Llandrindod, A104/1/2(1), pp. 77-101

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 diminished; but, if possible, increased in beauty. The Severn’s mouth; the Holmes, in its channel; the shipping at King-road, and all the country from below Bristol upwards until Gloucester was lost in mist, is completely under the eye. It is here called the second view in England, and by Lord North was preferred 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
http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/wye/HTML/people.html

1807
Robert Bloomfield recorded his feelings about his trip down the Wye in a poem.
In the summer of 1807, a party of my good friends in Gloucestershire proposed to themselves a short excursion down the Wye, and through part of South Wales.
… Book 2
Amidst the bright expanding day,
Solemnly deep, dark shadows lay,
Of that rich foliage, tow’ring o’er
Where princely abbots dwelt of yore.
The mind, with instantaneous glance,
Beholds his barge of state advance,
Borne proudly down the ebbing tide,
She turns the waving boughs aside;
She winds with flowing pendants drest,
And as the current turns south-west,
She strikes her oars, where full in view,
Stupendous WIND-CLIFF greets his crew.
But, Fancy, let thy day-dreams cease,
With fallen greatness be at peace;
Enough; for WIND-CLIFF still was found
To hail us as we doubled round.

Bold in primeval strength he stood;
His rocky brow, all shagg’d with wood,
O’er-look’d his base, where, doubling strong,
The inward torrent pours along;
Then ebbing turns, and turns again,
To meet the Severn and the Main,
Beneath the dark shade sweeping round,
Of beetling PERSFIELD’S fairy ground,
By buttresses of rock upborne,
The rude APOSTLES all unshorn.

Long be the slaught’ring axe defy’d;
Long may they bear their waving pride;
Tree over tree, bower over bower,
In uncurb’d nature’s wildest power;
Till WYE forgets to wind below,
And genial spring to bid them grow.

And shall we e’er forget the day,
When our last chorus died away?
When first we hail’d, then moor’d beside
Rock-founded CHEPSTOW’S mouldering pride?

Not so when ev’ning’s purpling hours,
Hied us away to Persfield bowers:
Here no such danger waits the lay,
Sing on, and truth shall lead the way;
Here sight may range, and hearts may glow,
Yet shrink from the abyss below;
Here echoing precipices roar,
As youthful ardour shouts before;
Here a sweet paradise shall rise
At once to greet poetic eyes.
Then why does he dispel, unkind,
The sweet illusion from the mind,
That giant, with the goggling eye,
Who strides in mock sublimity?
Giants, identified, may frown,
Nature and taste would knock them down:
Blocks that usurp some noble station,
As if to curb imagination,
That, smiling at the chissel’s pow’r,
Makes better monsters erery hour.

Beneath impenetrable green,
Down ‘midst the hazel stems was seen
The turbid stream, with all that past;
The lime-white deck, the gliding mast;
Or skiff with gazers darting by,
Who rais’d their hands in extasy.
Impending cliffs hung overhead;
The rock-path sounded to the tread,
Where twisted roots, in many a fold,
Through moss, disputed room for hold.

The stranger thus who steals one hour
To trace thy walks from bower to bower,
Thy noble cliffs, thy wildwood joys,
Nature’s own work that never cloys,
Who, while reflection bids him roam,
Exclaims not, “PERSFIELD is my _home_”
Can ne’er, with dull unconscious eye,
Leave them behind without a sigh.
Thy tale of truth then, Sorrow, tell,
Of one who bade _this home_ farewell;
MORRIS of PERSFIELD.–Hark, the strains!
Hark! ’tis some Monmouth bard complains!
The deeds, the worth, he knew so well,
The force of nature bids him tell.

MORRIS OF PERSFIELD
Who was lord of yon beautiful seat;
Yon woods which are tow’ring so high?
Who spread the rich board for the great,
Yet listen’d to pity’s soft sigh?
Who gave alms with a spirit so free?
Who succour’d distress at his door?
Our Morris of Persfield was he,
Who dwelt in the hearts of the poor?

But who e’en of wealth shall make sure,
Since wealth to misfortune has bow’d?
Long cherish’d untainted and pure,
The stream of his charity flow’d.
But all his resources gave way,
O what could his feelings controul?
What shall curb, in the prosperous day,
Th’ excess of a generous soul?

He bade an adieu to the town,
O, can I forget the sad day?
When I saw the poor widows kneel down,
To bless him, to weep, and to pray.
Though sorrow was mark’d in his eye,
This trial he manfully bore;
Then pass’d o’er the bridge of the WYE,
To return to his PERSFIELD no more.

Yet surely another may feel,
And poverty still may be fed;
I was one who rung out the dumb peal,
For to us noble MORRIS was dead.
He had not lost sight of his home,
Yon domain that so lovely appears,
When he heard it, and sunk overcome;
He could feel, and he burst into tears.

The lessons of prudence have charms,
And slighted, may lead to distress;
But the man whom benevolence warms,
Is an angel who lives but to bless.
If ever man merited fame,
If ever man’s failings went free,
Forgot at the sound of his name,
Our Morris of Persfield was he.[1].
[Footnote 1: The author is equally indebted to Mr. Coxe’s County History
for this anecdote, as for the greater part of the notes subjoined throughout the Journal.]
Robert Bloomfield, The Banks of the Wye : A Poem. In Four Books. (London: 1811; 2nd edition, corrected, 1813; 3rd edition, 1823)

1808

 Piercefield, which combines with all the beauties of nature the most tasteful embellishments of art to render its scenery enchanting, was formerly the property of Valentine Morris, Esq., a gentleman whose character lives in the hearts of the old inhabitants of Chepstow with respectful love and veneration. He was a man of so philanthropic a mind as to unite with every social virtue a benevolence and charity the most unbounded; his table was spread with munificence, whilst his purse was ever open to the wants of the poor, who were either supported by easy labour, or assisted by the bounty of his hand if disabled by sickness or age. Unfortunate in a contested election, he accepted an appointment as governor of St. Vincent’s, and quitted Piercefield followed by hundreds of mourners. The rich lost a pleasant companion—a valuable friend—but the poor were deprived of their generous, their noble benefactor, and they thronged round his gates in multitudes, with weeping and bitter lamentation, accompanying him in all the anguish of grief for miles out of the town, whilst, to publicly express their sorrow, the church bells were muffled, and a mournful peal testified a loss they knew to be irreparable!
“Ah, that the friendly e’er should want a friend!”
Mr. Valentine Morris expended the remainder of his fortune “in advancing the cultivation of the colony, and raising works of defence (says an author, speaking of him), when the island fell into the hands of the French.” Government failed to reimburse him; he returned unrequited, disappointed, poor, and broken-hearted. His home was the King’s Bench! And he, alas! who had been the soother of the afflicted, the cherisher of the distressed, died, without the cheering consolation of a single friend to close his eyes! His lady, whose mind was unequal to such extreme calamity, sunk under it, and became deranged!
Well may we say, “The ways of heaven are dark and intricate!” They are beyond our ken: but he who afflicts, surely knows what is best for us!
Spence, Elizabeth, (1768-1832) Summer Excursions through Parts of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire and South Wales (2nd edition, Longman, Hurst, Reese and Orme, 1809), vol. 2, pp. 185-188

1808 1st June, Wednesday

Millicent Bant travelled with Lady Wilson of Charlton House, Kent on some very long tours of England and Wales. Possibly because of Lady Wilson’s status, they had access to houses which other people did not see. Not only did they get into the house at Piercefield, they were allowed to view it and the grounds on a Wednesday.
In the evening went to the celebrated walks of Piercefield three miles in length; we went only half way to the point which they call the double view. On one side you have a fine prospect of a Bend in the Wye, with a ridge of rocks called the Twelve Apostles. On the other side, the view of Chepstow Town and Castle, with the Wye, and Severn to the sea, and counties of Gloucester and Somerset. Had the good fortune to get a peep at the House; outside and in, a handsome modern structure, well situated for view : a portico with six stone pillars, and two wings, which were joined to the house by two conservatories, on the top of each wing stand three stone figures, as large as life; just under the roof are six historical entablatures in stucco. In the hall are ten handsome scagliola pillars; the rest of the apartments handsomely furnished. On the staircase are four pieces of fine tapestry.
Bant, Millicent, [tour] Essex Record Office D/DFr f4, pp. 13-14

1808

Column 495
PIERCEFIELD, near Chepstow, in Monmouthshire, 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 it’s improvements. In 1784 it was disposed of to George Smith, esq., of Burnhall, in the county of Durham; 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 it was sold to the present proprietor Nathaniel Wells, Esq. Among the specimens of art which embellish this mansion, are 4 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. When Mr. Barber applied for admittance at the lodge, he was informed that the grounds were shewn on Tuesdays and Fridays only; and the mansion from 11 to 4. It unfortunately was Saturday. To wait till Tuesday would be a tax indeed; and to proceed without seeing Piercefield would be a vile omission. The following means therefore were essayed. “We rode,” says Mr. Barber, “up an embowered lane to the village of St. Arvans, and leaving our horses at the blacksmith’s, entered Piercefield grounds at a back gate. Here commencing a walk 3 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 it’s lofty summit, and shelves down it’s sides to the river Wye, which urges it’s sinuous course at the bottom of the glen. In one place, the river, gently curving, appears in all the breadth of it’s channel; in another, projecting rocks and intervening, foliage conceal it’s course, or sparingly exhibit it’s darkened surface. Following the bend of the river on it’s marginal height, a range of naked perpendicular cliffs (the Banagor rocks) appear above the wooded hills which prevail through the scenery; of so regular a figure, that one can scarcely help imagining it the fortification of a town, with curtains, bastions, and demibastions. But a very leading feature is, the peninsula of Llancaust; the hills of Piercefield here receding into a semicircular bend, watered by the river 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 side descends a fertile expanse, 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 flourishing hedge rows; while numerous trees diversify the tract, and imbower 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, altho’ 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 whoever dared 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. Deserting for a while, the course of the river, we
ascend a superior eminence called the Double View, whence, the different scenes which 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 it’s interesting accompaniments, passes from beneath us, through a richly variegated country to it’s junction with the Severn, beyond which silvery expanse the grand swelling shores of Somersetshire, form, the distance. A curious deceptip visus occurring here must not be passed 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, altho’ it is many miles distant. The subject of the prospect from this spot is seen much 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 which one would wish added or removed, till we reach the Grotto, when a picture is presented 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 it’s course; and with a variety of sailing vessels, are reflected from the liquid mirror, with an effect I cannot attempt to describe, and at which the magic pencil of a Claude would faulter. The distant Severn and it’s remote shores form an excellent termination, and complete the picture. 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 added to it by Colonel Wood. Altho’ not extensive, it has an elegant external appearance; and as we arc informed, is fitted up internally with a taste and splendour little inferior to the first rate houses in England. Remounting our horses at the village of St. Arvans, a steep ascent led over some outgrounds of Piercefield to the summit of Wyndcliff, where a prodigious extent of prospect bursts open; comprehending at one view not only the different scenes in the neighbourhood of Chepstow, which appeared sunk into the lines of a map, but a wonderful range over 9 counties.”
As one of the leading features in this scenery is the Wye, which passes round the fertile peninsula of Llancaut, under a semicircular chain of stupendous cliffs, it is advisable to visit the place at high tide. It is always preferable to ‘pass through the village of St. Arvans, to the upper part of the grounds, and descend from the Lover’s Leap to the Alcove; by taking this direction the visitant will enjoy the entire scenery in proper succession, and to the greatest advantage. Mr. Cox entered the grounds at the extremity of the village of St. Arvans, and at the bottom of Wynd Cliff, the walk leads through plantations as before described by Mr. Barber, commanding on the right a distant view of the Severn and the surrounding country. Mr. Cox remarks that the “walks, 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 are placed where the spectator may repose and view at leisure the scenery above, beneath and around. [These views are 1, the Lower’s Leap; 2, a Seat near two beaches, on the edge of the precipice; 3, the Giant’s Cave; 4, the Half-way Seat, under a large Beach tree; 5, the Double View; 6, above Pierce Wood; 7, the Grotto; 8, the Platform; 9, the Alcove.] This bowery walk” adds he, “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 Wye is sometimes concealed or half obscured by overhanging foliage, at others. wholly expanding to 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 to 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 vatied accompaniments; hence the majic 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.”
The charms of Piercefield, if not created, were disclosed by Valentine Morsis, esq., about the year 1753, who engrafted the blandishments of art upon the majestic wildness of Nature, without distorting it’s original character. Philantrophic, 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 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 to 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 recitall 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 it’s defence, when the island fell into the hands of the French. Government failing to reimburse his expences, on his return to England he was thrown into the King’s bench prison by his creditors. He here experienced all the rigour of penury during a confinement of 7 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 miece 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 closed his checquered 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 demanded, but no portion of gotitude has bestowed even this slender tribute!
To Tintern Abbey, 3 miles, Barber.
Back to Chepstow, 2 miles, Skrine.
The Cambrian Traveller’s Guide, and Pocket Companion [by G. Nicholson], (1st edition, 1808), columns 495-500

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

1809
The following is based on the Rev. John Evans’ Letters written during a tour through south Wales in the year 1798 and at other times … (1800) and Coxe, William, An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire, (1801)
Piercefield, about two miles to the west of Chepstow, a seat of much celebrity, and a just theme for descriptive encomium with tourists and topographers, is now the property of Nathaniel Wells, esq. who purchased it of Colonel Wood, about six years ago [in 1802]. The grounds are extensive, and embrace much diversified scenery of wood, lawn, rock, and river. Stretching along the irriguous banks of the Wye, from the castle at Chepstow to a lofty perpendicular rock, called the Wynd-cliff, is a walk of about three miles in length; in the course of which a variety of grand, diversified, and extensive prospects are obtained. The principal of these are called, 1. The Lover’s Leap; 2. Paradise Seat, on the edge of a precipice; 3. The Giant’s Cave; 4. The Half-Way Seat; 5. The Double View; 6. Prospect above Pierce-Wood; 7 The Grotto; 8. The Platform; and, 9. The Alcove. Though, on the present occasion, it will be impracticable to particularize and define each of these spots and views separately; yet some idea of the whole will be furnished, by the following extract from Mr. Coxe’s Historical Tour:
“On entering the grounds at the extremity of the village of St. Arvans, 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 woody abyss. It waves almost imperceptibly in a grand outline, on the brow of the majestic amphitheatre of cliffs, impending on the Wye, opposite to the peninsula of Lancaut, then crosses the park, runs through groves and thickets, and again joins the Wye at that reach of the river, which stretches from Laucaut 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. This bowery walk 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 Wye 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 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 transitions 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.
“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 Wye, sweeping in the true outline of beauty, from the Banagor crags to its junction with the Severn, which spreads into an aestuary, and is lost in the distant ocean. A boundless extent of country is seen in everv 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 Mountain. [Coxe’s Historical Tour, p. 402]
where the broken landscape, by degrees
Ascending, roughens into rigid hills;
O’er which the Cambrian Mountains, like far clouds
That skirt tlie blue horizon, dusky rise.”
Thomson’s Spring.
The house erected on this estate is a magnificent pile of building of free-stone, 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. Piercefield was long the property of the Waters’ family, till the year 1736, when it was sold to Colonel Morris, father of Valentine Morris, esq. who afterwards possessed it; and to whose taste and liberality it is indebted for its chief artificial beauties and its long-established celebrity. In 1784, it was bought by George Smith, esq.; who again sold it, in 1794, to Colonel Wood, formerly chief engineer at Bengal. The latter gentleman made many additions and improvements to the house and grounds: among which may be specified the two wings, which he added to the former.
Evans, John, Rev., and Britton, John, The Beauties of England and Wales, Or, Delineations, Topographical, Historical and Descriptive of each County, vol, 11, (1810), pp. 182-184

1810

By special arrangement, William Joseph Bruce was allowed to see Piercefield on a Thursday but not until the afternoon so he went see Tintern in the morning.
Of all the objects in this charming neighbourhood – that which travellers seek with the most eager avidity, is Piercefield – the seat of Nathaniel Wells Esq.
Not Persian Cyrus on Ionia’s shore
E’er saw such silvan scenes; such various art
By genius fir’d, such ardent genius tam’d
By cool judicious art; that in the strife,
All beauteous Nature fears to be outdone.
Thompson [The Seasons, Autumn]
Having learnt that the public were admitted to Piercefield only on Tuesdays and Fridays – I addressed the following letter to the proprietor – as soon as I descended to breakfast.
Beaufort Arms, Chepstow
Thursday 23rd August 1810
Sir
Having obtained a short respite from my official duties in the Adjutant General’s Office – the recorded beauties of “Piercefield” attracted me to its vicinity, – but as I understood on a day when the public are not allowed an inspection of your residence. – The very limited period of my leave of absence – prompts me therefore, humbly to entreat your permission to view Piercefield.
I have the honour to remain – with great respect – Sir, your most obedient humble servant
W.J. Bruce.
The answer to this appeal politely acquainted me that a servant should be in readiness to attend me over the grounds in the afternoon.
{went to Tintern Abbey}
On my arrival at Piercefield Lodge – I found my promised conductor in attendance – and we immediately proceeded on the tour of the gardens, comprising three miles.
“Here woods – grots – temples – lawns – promiscuous rose,
And nature vied with art to deck the scene” (Hamilton)
In this second Tempe [note:] Tempe was the beautiful and celebrated resort of the Gods – in the valley of Thessaly (see Heathen Mythology) [end of note] nature has indeed left little else for improvement – than to open walks and views through the woods – to the various objects around them. – all this has been done with considerable judgement, – and the proprietor has exhibited his rocks, his groves and precipices under various forms – and to every advantage. – Sometimes a broad face of rock is presented stretching along like the walls of a Citadel: – sometimes it is broken by intervening trees: – here its fragments rise above the woods; – a little further – they sink below them: – at other points one series of precipice is observed towering above another: – and although many of these objects are repeatedly seen – yet are they seen with new accompaniments – they appear ever new. – The winding of the precipice is the magical secret by which all these enchanting scenes are produced. –
From the charmingly situated Alcove – a fine view is obtained of Chepstow – and the embattled walls and towers of its noble castle. – The river Wye meanders beneath – while the Severn and the Bristol channel appear in the distance. –
Numerous vistas afford the most varied prospects of the surrounding country. – The “Giant’s Castle” is well chosen in situation and is surmounted by an emblematical figure of colossal form placed on the turrets of the building. –
A bold eminence of prodigious height – called the “Lover’s Leap” is happily contrasted with the opposite mountain of “Wind-cliff”, – from which it is separated only by the stream below. Mr Morris – the original projector of these much frequented walks – fell partly down this terrific “leap” – but fortunately without receiving any serious injury. – From this grand eminence a prospect of unparalleled beauty and extent is commanded. – Here we behold the union of the sister Rivers Wye and Severn.
“Pleas’d Vaga echoes thro’ its winding bounds,
And Rapid Severn hoarse applause resounds.” (Pope)
[note:] Vaga was the ancient name of the Wye. [end of note]
Here likewise we see the placid Wye sometimes concealed or half obscured by overhanging foliage: at others – wholly expanding to view, sweeping beneath, in a broad and circuitous channel: – while the Severn seems to spread itself in the midst of boundless expanse. –
These walks are consonant to the genius of Piercefield: – their bowery mazes imperceptibly convey the spectator from one part of the fairy region to another, without discovering the gradations. It is delightful
“To roam – to muse among such fragrant glades,
To sooth one’s spirit in embowering shades;
On banks of solitary streams they stray,
Veil’d by the peaceful gloom of parting day.” (Pope)
Piercefield owes its present celebrity to its former proprietor – Colonel Morris: – a benevolent but eccentric man, whose profuse generosity and unfortunate propensity to gaming, compelled him to retire to his estates in the West Indies – and to offer Piercefield for sale.
{story of Col. Morris’s departure from Piercefield}
Piercefield afterwards descended to Colonel, now Sir Mark Wood – and lastly became the property of Nathaniel Wells Esq. – the present owner.
The mansion of Piercefield is a noble building of free-stone – with a much admired entrance – and – stands at the back of the park, next [sic] the woodlands that approach the Wye.-
“How beauteous midst the gay surrounding mead
Does yon proud mansion rear its ample head!
Whose polished towers with trembling radiance gleam.
As the broad sun obliquely darts his beam.” (Maurice)
This residence well accords with the grandeur and beauty of the surrounding scenery. – Elegance has spread her softening hand around, – and in the apartments we see harmony of proportion united with costliness of decorations. Among the specimens of art which embellish this mansion are four exquisite pieces of Gobelin tapestry lately belonging to Louis the 16th of the Royal house of Bournon. – They represent the Natural History of Africa, and exhibit every production of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, – grouped with admirable taste and science, and blending correctness of design with richness of colouring. – [note:] Strangers are not permitted to inspect the whole of the house – as the numerous family of Mr Wells occupy almost every apartment. [end of note]
Such is Piercefield – and such are its attractions. – they will deservedly arrest – and amply reward the Traveller in quest of those scenes, where natural and artificial charms are disclosed to a perfection almost unrivalled.
{to Tintern Village}
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, ms 19405 C, pp. 42, 46

1810

One mile from Chepstow is Piercefield so deservedly admired for its walks and enchanting scenery. These walks are, by the liberality of the proprietor, open for the inspection of the public on Tuesdays and Fridays, from nine o’clock in the morning until five in the afternoon. The tourist is therefore recommended to arrange his excursion accordingly, in order to visit Piercefield on its Public days.
Piercefield, long the property of the family of Waters, was sold, in 1736, to Colonel Morris, of St Vincent, father of Valentine Morris, to whom it owes its celebrity. This benevolent but eccentric man, whose profuse generosity, and unfortunate propensity to gaming compelled him to retire to his estates in the West Indies, and to offer Piercefield for sale …
[the biography of Valentine Morris is based on Anon,  A Picture of Monmouthshire: Or, an Abridgement of Mr. Coxe’s Historical Tour by a Lady, (London, 1802), pp. 162-168]
In 1784, Piercefield was sold to George Smith, Esq. of Burnhall, Durham, and in 1794 to Colonel Wood, (now Sir Mark Wood, Bart.) formerly chief engineer at Bengal, who considerably improved the place, and completed the present house, which was begun by Mr Smith. It is now the property of Nathaniel Wells, Esq. by purchase.
The mansion is a magnificent building of freestone, and stands in the back part of the park, next the woodland that approach the Wye: it is in no respect inferior to the grandeur and beauty of the surrounding scenery; the apartments unite harmony of proportion with costliness of decoration, and Piercefield scarcely yields to any house in this kingdom in taste and splendor. 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 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 grounds stretch from Wynd-Cliff to the Castle of Chepstow, and the principal walk is not less than three miles in length. [note:] From this grand eminence {views}
Willett, Mark, An Excursion from the Source of the Wye, [1810] 1st edition, pp. 86 – 101

1810 (or a little earlier)
‘Just before you reach [Chepstow] in approaching the bridge a beautiful house to the right arrests your attention; which is situated in the centre of a spacious domain interestingly obscured by the luxuriant foliage of the surrounding trees [Piercefield] and presenting you at different angles of the Road, with its rich and varied beauties.
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.
The double view is the finest in the Estate: on one side a precipice of considerable depth beyond a valley; consisting of cultivated inclosures, some comfortable farming houses, and impenetrable woods, which cluster about the hills. The other presents you with a soft  velvet lawn, beautifully varies by large umbrageous trees, the river Wye in its serpentine course, and the distant hills of Gloucestershire; the toute ensemble affording no inelegant picture – The vine [sic] cliff, celebrated for the extent of its prospect in its neighbourhood, an excavated rock of great dimension called the Giants cave; designed by Colonel Wood, the late proprietor, appears. An immense stone figure impends over the mouth of the cavern holding in his hand a huge stone; which with a menacing aspect he appears to lift against the presumptuous intruder. I enquired with eagerness for the spot which contained a tessellated Roman pavement and heard with much regret that time and curiosity, had not left a vestige.
Anon, Narrative of a Tour through Wales by an anonymous English Gentleman, NLW ms 18943, ff. 1r, 3r-4r

1810

10th July 1810
Piercefield, a spot noted by all travellers, is near it;—we went there, and are just returned. A walk is carried for three miles along the very brink of an abrupt terrace of rocks, 150 or 200 feet perpendicular, not m a straight line, but either sweeping round, or projecting and retiring in deep angles. The precipice is generally masked by overhanging bushes and trees, and only now and then, and in the most favourable points, the prospect is thrown open to the view, with only a gardefous for your security, and a seat for your repose. There you see trees and coppice far below your feet; then the Wye, twisting about like a snake, or a narrow ribbon of liquid mud, deeply cased in banks of solid mud; for the tide was low, and there is about 50 feet perpendicular between high and low! On the other side of this deep slimy bed is a knoll of head-land, unfortunately of very rich soil, as it causes it to be nicely divided in square patches, carefully ploughed and dug up, and every thing going on in the way of husbandry, picturesque or not, all under your eye. Beyond that, again, is another abrupt terrace of rocks, higher than the one you stand upon, calcareous, and breaking in better forms than the primitive class of rocks. Now and then you catch a glimpse of the Severn at a distance. Such a prospect has of course many great beauties, and great faults, and did not appear to me, on the whole, equal to its reputation. At one place, the body of a large intercepting rock has been pierced through for the walk, the length of perhaps 20 yards. Within this rampart of rocks and precipices is a lawn of more than a hundred acres, in soft swells and undulating lines, with a distant crest of dark wood, serving as a back-ground to the mansion, which seems, at a distance, something like the house at Stourhead. The fine green carpet, extending over 100 acres, is shorn by 500 sheep; and clumps of glorious oaks and elms are scattered about in careless profusion. This is all beautiful. The prospect from the house, which stands high, must be excellent; but it is not shewn. This house, and 3000 acres of land, not all good, cost the present owner £90,000 sterling.
Simond, Louis, Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain, During the Years 1810 and 1811 by a French traveller : with Remarks of the Country, its Arts, Literature, and Politics, and on the Manners and Customs of its Inhabitants (1815), p. 209; 2nd edition (1817), 267-269

1811

{view from the bridge}
From the winding of the river the beautiful walks of Piercefield appear before you; in their background the romantic Wynd Cliff, rising above eight hundred feet from the bed of the river, and crowned to the top with timber and shrubs:
This [Wednesday] not being the day, on which Piercefield is open for public inspection, after dinner proceeded on my walk to Tintern, my route passing by the walls of Piercefield, which is beautified with fine timber; the elms on each side of the road, I remarked, were shredded up, with peculiar neatness. On your way, you can pass over Wyndcliff, which discloses a most beautiful view of the rivers Severn and Wye. The prospect was much enhanced, by its being the time of high-water; the view of the country from this cliff, resembled a map of a large garden stretched out before you; and is finely embellished with timber to the very top.
Webb, Daniel Carless, Observations and Remarks During Four Excursions Made to the Various Parts of Great Britain in the Years 1810 and 1811, performed by land, by sea, by various modes of conveyance and partly in the pedestrian style. (London, 1812), pp. 308, 313

1811 (after)

Part of a poem by Anne Elfe of Chepstow.
Where art and nature now combine to please,
Longinus dwelt and there he first found ease:
Piercefield he called it, there conviction first
Subdued his pride and on his reason burst.
[Longinus is said to the the Roman soldier who pierced Christ’s side. Longine is the name of one of the towers at Chepstow, but Elfe transposed the name to Piercefield.]
Waters, Ivor, Chepstow Miscellany, (Chepstow Society, 1958), p. 75

1812 Friday 17th July

We ordered dinner at nine intending in the mean while to survey the beauties of Piercefield and Chepstow Castle. The former is a very ?abtrated seat belonging to Mr Wells a mulattoe [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 safer best views imaginable.
Hammond, William Osmund, Journal of a Tour in Wales and Ireland, NLW MS 24023A, f. 43, 17th July 1812

1812 (about)

…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 about

About two miles from Chepstow, is the pleasant village of St Arvans, in which is situate that charming spot called Piercefield.
Piercefield, long the property of the family of Waters, was sold in 1736 to Colonel Morris.
{History of the Morris family}
In 1784, Piercefield was sold to G. Smith, exq. Of Burhall, and in 1794 to colonel Wood … who considerably improved the place, and completed the present house which was begun by Mr Smith. It is now the property of N. Wells, esq.
{The rest is a direct quotation from Coxe}
These walks are, by the liberality of the proprietor, open for the inspection of the public on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 9 am to 5 pm …
Anon, The Beauties of Monmouthshire: compiled from the most authentic documents
(Chepstow: W Lambert, [1812]), pp. 257-264

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

1813

31.8.1813 Tuesday
Walk over the ruins of Chepstow Castle commanding fine views of the Wye and woody steeps and rocks of Piercefield [but did not visit it]
Duncan, John Shute, (1768-1844), Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (1823-1829). An illustrated tour through Wales and the Lakes by John Shute Duncan, P. B. Duncan and P. A. Shuttleworth, 1813, NLW ms 16715A, [pp. 1-2]

1813

Letter from Hester Piozzi to Alexander Leak, 23.6.1813, Mendip Lodge (Wednesday)
We [Hester Piozzi and her nephew John Salusbury Piozzi Salusbury (1793-1858)] meant to set out tomorrow, and feel impatient now to arrive at home: though it would be silly to forbear all the Beauties that present themselves in our way thither, and I do half expect being detained a Day by pretty Mrs Wells of Piercefield.
Letter from Hester Piozzi to Alexander Leak, 25.6.1813, Chepstow, to Alexander Leak
After seeing Mendip and Piercefield and the fine prospects from Wind Cliff Hill {and hope to be home on Friday or Saturday} I shall have spent exactly three months in Rambling.
The Piozzi Letters: Correspondence of Hester Lynch Piozzi, 1784-1821, edited by Edward A Bloom and Lillian D Bloom, vol. 5 (1999), pp. 205-206

1813

ORIGINAL AND SELECTED RECOLLECTIVE THOUGHTS, CONNECTED WITH SCENERY ON THE WYE
-ego laudo ruris amoeni
Rivos, et musco circumlita saxa, nemusque.
Hor. Epist. L. 1. E. 10
WHY gaze we yet on pictured joys, deceived
By Hope betraying still, and still believed?
Come Recollection !—when my soul surveys
The mellow’d prospect of departed days,
Thou, hovering o’er the scene, well know’st to bring
A treasured something on thy vivid wing,
From flowers that Heaven has taught my path to bear,
Or thorns, not less in kindness, scatter’d there.
But lo! with thee, what sweets may thought supply
From those which lured me to the banks of Wye!
Then lend thy plumes, and lend the wafting gale!
How swift!—once more, ye shades of PIERCEFIELD hail!
And thou, wild stream, whose devious path displays,
Charms that unfold with each unfolding maze;
Ah, lift no murmuring wave to chide my song!
Tho’ well might other verse to thee belong;
Such as was heard, when Thames went flowing by,
To sounds of Pope’s melodious eulogy:
Why should thy wooded rocks less worthy seem
Than domes reflected in his ampler stream ?—
Let Hampton tell her Wolsey’s humbling tale;
Nor boast o’er Tintern’s venerable aisle:—
Ask not the prince of Albion’s streams, to spare
Gems for thy sedgy coronet to wear:—
Be his the crowd where wealth and want combine—
The tranquil walks of contemplation thine:
Him, Art adorns, but Nature smiles on thee ;
Splendour be his,—be thine sublimity.
Vaunts he of science ?—nor art thou unblest,—
Else whose those footsteps on yon’paths imprest?
Witness, ye listeners to the notes of song ;
And ye, more blest, to whom those notes belong—
Or ye who fondly turn the glowing page,
Mark’d by the pen of poet or of sage ;
If e’er you wander’d with exploring eye,
Mid native shades of lore or harmony;
Shades whence some child of Genius lov’d to soar,
Whose wing has spread to light on earth no more,
How heaved your bosoms as ye gazed around!
While Fancy deem’d she trod on holy ground:—
How awful!—how sublime! those scenes to trace,
Whence Newton’s thought survey’d the fields of space:
Who, would unmoved, to Twickenham’s grot repair ?
Alas !—the tuneful minstrel is not there!—
Who would not join with Ouse’s lilied tide,
The thought of Cowper, musing by its side:
Where Piercefield too, on Wye looks downwards o’er
The sloping umbrage of his lofty shore;
As there the enthusiast stranger looks around,
From some retired, tho’ elevated ground;
Or pausing, thoughtful, near yon bower’s retreat,
Now eyes its prospect—now its vacant seat;
Why, with such transport, blends the soft alloy
Of sadness, dearer than the burst of joy?—
Why plucks the rambler, where yon wreaths have grown
An ivy leaflet from Llewellyn’s stone ?*—
Why bears an infant sprig away to rear—
To watch its growth some home-retirement near—
To show the favorite plant, and tell anew
in fond memorial where the relic grew?

No lost companion claims these honours ;—no !
Nor rose that sigh from sever’d Friendship’s woe ;
‘Twas for Eliza !—peace! ye hearts of stone
That rank with Folly grief for one unknown;
The child of Feeling, where the Virtues sleep,
Laments a friend, and claims a right to weep.
Said I unknown ?—both known and lov’d be said,
Thanks to the page Affection’s hand has spread,
See there portray’d, those features mildly fair,
And fairer still, the mental portrait there.
How oft has sorrow’s dirge been heard to mourn
Some tender plant, from Life’s warm border torn ;
Around whose bud the gales of sweetness blew,
And Science shed from heaven the morning dew;

While fondness hung enamour’d o*er its bloom,
‘Till the pluck’d blossoms strew’d an early tomb.
Such was the song that Wilkinson has pour’d,—
So died Eliza’s flower, that song deplored.
Yet, be not hers an undistinguished lot,
With youth admired, regretted, and forgot;
Ah no, if Piety with Genius shed
Sweets that embalm the memory of the dead—
If sculptured-marble, o’er the great, may own
A worth superior to its kindred stone;
Let names like hers, a virtuous pride impart,
Grav’d on the conscious tablet of the heart.

How sweet it were, at morn or closing day,
With such as her, ‘mid scenes like these to stray,
To mark what brightness every view acquired,
Observed with judgment, and with taste admired—
To see her pencil trace yon varied shore,
The wooded steep, the rock with lichen hoar—
Or on their tops the fleeting tints arrest,
Caught from the fading glories of the west;
On changing clouds in moonlight pomp array’d,
The pearly lustre, and the darkening shade.
With her, where Snowdon’s heights with morning glow (2)
To watch the rolling vapours far below—
To taste with her what bee-like Genius brings
From fields of learning, or poetic springs—
To list the native warblings Cambria loves— (3)
To hear her—but how far my fancy rotes!
Forgive, ye pictured joys of rainbow hue!
The chiding note, so lately touch’d for you
Ah, did I proudly spurn your kind controul ?
Stay yet, oh slay, ye visions of my soul!

One parting look—Piercefield farewell awhile !
How far, far on, yon paths inviting smile!
Then let them lead where evening’s lustre falls,
In sunset gleams, through Tintern’s mouldering walls.-
Peace to this shade, and to that gentle tide,
Where Wye steals onward past yon meadow’s side!
All hail, ye relics of an earlier day!
Ye shadowy arches, and ye pillars grey!
Here let me enter, yet with reverence tread,
As best beseems in converse with the dead;
Till night display, when these slant beams are flown.
Her soften’d lines, and shading of her own.

Look down thou Moon, (no turgid vapour nigh)
And bless this fair seclusion from on high;
Let but the clearest of the clouds of night
On downy wings float softly ‘mid the light;
So shall no lurking beams abruptly start,
To chase the forms that circle round the heart;
Nor flying, snatch the enchantment from my sigh
Like dreams of heaven dissolving into night.
Ye solemn spirits of the nightly gale,
But gently wave this oriel’s ivy veil;
So may the fervours of the soul aspire,
Not rudely fan’d, and with no fluttering fire.

Fancy, stretch forth thy hand, in power sublime!
Replace each stone!—restore the thefts of time!
Rear at a word, the fretted roof again,
And give each window back its sainted pane:—
Then waft the sound along the cloisters dim
Of midnight chorus, or of vespers hymn.-
Hark to that swell!—how flies the exploring mind!
Nor stay’d by mountains, nor by seas confind;
With footsteps half irresolute, intrudes
Amid La Trappe’s dread, silent, solitudes:
Passes, (where frowns Chartreuse’s awful height,) (4)
Pine-darken’d wilds, and torrents plung’d in night—
Where round the path o’erpowering horrors dwell,
Scarce dares to turn, to bid the world farewell—
Thence gladly seeks the sweet Iberian vale,
The care-worn Charles’s calm retreat to hail (5)
“Ah what,” she cries, “are wreaths by conquest given
Each friend, but God, and every wish, but heaven ?”
Yet, heard I not the bigot coldly say?
“Cast, cast (hose flowers of Romish growth away!
“Let Superstition’s ruin’d altars lie
“Unbless’d with song, upmark’d by Rapture’s eye.”

Hold !—nor w ilst wrathful that their mental light
Beneath the bed or sloth, lay hid from sight,
Place o’er thy own, not less ignobly blind,
The inverted measure of a narrow mind.(6)
Come bind thy sandals—in their school be taught;
Make for that crime the pilgrimage of thought;—
Fields of the past before thy march are laid,
With many a track that holy feet have made :—
Go, sit with Luther, in his hermit-cell, (7)
Ere yet his light o’er darken’d Europe fell—
His altar kindled with the flame of heaven :—
So came Elijah’s fire on Carmel given,

When hosts in Baal’s name the mountain trod?
The prophet he alone, of Israel and of God.
Then pause awhile, with meet devotion fired,
Within the convent where Guyon retired ;
Or where Louise (8) could royal pomp despise,
And scorn an humbler palace than the skies :
Or wheresoe’er the forms of papal night
Hold forth a lesson to the sons of light.
From Fenelon a Christian’s meekness learn,
Then, rich in relics, wondering, homeward turn;
Taught, virtue’s meed on virtue to bestow,
Though found amid the armies of a foe.

How sits that church !—no more the nations’ dread,
The proud tiara falling from her head.—
See History holding with averted sight,
Annals her pen was dip’d in blood to write :—
Yet names, and lives, that awe the indignant soul,
Illume the records of the unhallowed scroll.
How then such mingled deeds shall candour rate!
Part, Reformation’s self might emulate;
Part, prompt the sigh of pity half-supprcss’d;
And heaven preserve my country from the rest!

But whither do my wild ideas fly?
Alas ! how far from TINTERN, and from WYE!
Come, friendly oar and spurn the curling tide
Beneath the rocks that rise along its side;
These mix’d with wood—these vast, abrupt, and bare: –
Here might Lorraine have gazed—Salfator there

Could Nature here give utterance to my tongue,
As thongh a Thomson o»a Cowper sung;
Teach me, like Scott, to grace with feudal power
Yon steep’s high battlements and ruined tower; (9)
And, far away, while friendship heard the strain,
Tell of these woodlands, and these shores again:
Then as the charm were breathed on the ear,
Might Fancy’s spell convey the listener here :
Then might that strain remember’d joy renew ;
Who love the scene might love the music too.
When first such paths the stranger’s footsteps tread,
From shade to shade, by eager transport led;
And when he turns, to leave them and to sigh,
With joy and sorrow mingling in his eye;
What different feelings bid his pulses beat!
Like memory, these,—and those, like Hope, are sweet:
Then glow’d the view in pleasure’s opening day,-
Now, tinged all mildly With her evening ray.
Then Memory still thy thrilling notes prolong,
And wave, O smiling Hope! thy pinions to her song.
S.M.W
(1) We amused ourselves by supposing that Llewellyn’s death must have happened in our grove, where two large stones were erected (as we chose to imagine) to commemorate that event. See Appendix to Fragments by  Eliz. Smith, p. 229.
(2) See her account of an excursion, to the highest peak of Snowdon
(3) Amongst other elegant accomplishments is mentioned, her skilful performance on the Welch harp
(4) The famous monastery called “La Grande Chartreuse,” the retirement of St. Bruno.
(5) The monastery of St. Justus, situated in a delightful valley, some miles from Plazencia in Estremadura, was fixed on by the Emperor Charles V. as the scene of his extraordinary retirement.
(6) Mark iv.21.” “Is a candle brought to be put under abushel or under a bed?”
(7) Luther had entered into the order of Augustinian Hermits at Erfurth.
(8) The Princess Louise, daughter of Louis XV. She became a Carmelite nun. See her Life
(9) The beautiful ruins of Chepstow castle on a steep rock ererlooking the Wye.
W., S.M., The Cambrian visitor: a monthly miscellany for the principality of Wales and the adjoining Counties, Vol. I (Swansea, May 1813), pp. 267-274

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

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

Arriving once more at Chepstow, I amused myself in the afternoon by walking so far as Piercefield, the seat of Colonel Wood. The house itself is characterised more by an elegant simplicity than by princely magnificence. It is built with a light freestone. 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 stile 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. The woods also, and the walks, are disposed in the most fascinating manner; the latter extend several miles, overlooking the Wye and the Severn, with all their diversified scenery.
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 transcendent 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.
Evans, John, 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), pp. 112-113

1815

Presumed to be part of a journal by Lieut John Evans, R.N., (1786-1854) of a tour through Wales, the remainder of which is missing.
At half-past one we passed through the upper part of Chepstow, which lies on a very steep pitch, and continued our route towards the village of St. Arvan’s, designing to pass through a part of Piercefield grounds, to Windcliff, and on to Tintern, which place we calculated on being able to reach an hour before sunset. On reaching St. Aryan’s, which is two miles from Chepstow, we were instructed to turn down a small lane contiguous to the blacksmith’s shop, which would bring us into the arable grounds of Mr. Wells, and by keeping the path until we came to an old kiln, we should then find ourselves immediately beneath the grove of pine trees that crowns the summit of the mighty cliff. These instructions we followed, and found them perfectly correct. Before ascending, we rested under the shade of a venerable oak beside a fine sheet of water, and partook of the fare with which we had lined our baskets, and I assure you it was not the least unpalatable from the humble style in which it was served up. Thankful that we had it in our power to refresh ourselves, even in this simple manner, we arose satisfied, and after a short ascent, reached the brow of the celebrated rock. From this grand eminence a series of the most extensive and beautiful prospects successively arrest the eye of the visitor; it is impossible to give you an idea of the beauty and sublimity of the scenes which stretch around— description falls very far short of the reality—you must behold to admire, and to be impressed with a just sense of their richness, grandeur and variety. Immediately below us we see the Wye forcing its way through a serpentine channel, on every side bounded by stupendous cliffs of flaky white, whimsically called the Twelve Apostles; the murmuring of its current reverberating from rock to rock, adds a peculiar character to the scene, the effect of which is elegantly expressed by Pope:—
“Pleas’d Vaga echoes thro’ her winding bounds,
And rapid Severn hoarse applause resounds.”
The grounds of Piercefield reach from this spot to Chepstow Castle, of which there is a very interesting view, and of the Wye to its junction with the Severn below Beachley. This place is indebted for its celebrity to Valentine Morris, Esq., a gentleman who was universally esteemed for his genuine benevolence and unparalleled generosity.
{notes on Valentine Morris}
Piercefield was sold to Colonel Wood in 1794, and is now the property of Mr. Wells, a West Indian. The mansion is of freestone, and situated in the interior of the park, near the woodlands that border on the Wye side; it commands an extensive view of the country to the eastward; on the other side the prospect is hid by an assemblage of lofty trees.
Descending from the pine grove towards the old kiln, we were again delighted with an admirable view of the Bristol Channel, bounded on the north and north-west by the dark blue mountains of Glamorgan, and on the opposite side by the hilly coast of Somerset and Devon; in the distance we could just distinguish the Steep and Flat Holmes, beyond which all was blended in the blue expanse. The scene was admirably heightened by the appearance of a fleet of ships under a press of sail, steering towards their long-looked-for port. At the sight of these familiar objects, the mirror reflecting past scenes rose instantaneously before us, and we, who had so often felt the various sensations which warm around the heart when approaching towards a favourite place after a long absence, could easily picture to ourselves the joy that attended the happy sailor who beheld once more his peaceful and endeared home: it was but the return of an absent friend, and we enjoyed the effects by sympathy.
Those charming lines of Bowles’ strike me as being so expressive of the scene before us, that I offer no apology for giving them here, feeling grateful and happy in meeting so good a friend to help me on:—
“How beautiful, how still, how clear,
The scenes that stretch around! the rocks that rear
Their shapes, in rich fantastic colours drest;
The hill-tops, where the softest shadows rest:
The long retiring bay, the level sand,
The fading sea-line, and the farthest land,
That seems, as e’er it lessens from the eye,
To steal away beneath the cloudless sky.”—W. L. B.
Filled with romantic enthusiasm, we rested awhile to feast our willing eyes on this enrapturing and expansive prospect—a subject fit for the pencil of a Salvator Rosa, or a Paul Veronese.
Evans, John, Three Days Excursion from Bristol to Llandogo in August 29-31, 1815
Cambrian Journal, vol. 10, (1863), 290 – 318

1816

Piercefield is a superb villa, with a very extensive park; it has frequently changed its owners in the course of a few years, and 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. Its situation is uncommonly well chosen, being built on a gentle ascent, with a large lawn in front, to which there is an entrance by a magnificent gate, with two large stone lions on its pillars. There is another gate, ornamented with vases, on the same line nearer to the abbey. We enter the park through a side gate (visitors not being allowed to drive up to the great entrance-gate), and proceed along a walk which runs round it, and which enables us to view the most beautiful part of it. The park is bounded by a steep declivity, along which we proceed, and we then have an extensive view over the surrounding country, through which the Wye winds. This view would, however, have appeared infinitely more beautiful than it actually did to us, if the Wye had not then been unusually shallow in consequence of the ebb, so that the whole picture lost its keeping. The view of the Bangor rocks, which tower up from the opposite side of the river like a wall, and at the foot of which the stream winds along, passing in its course several neat villages picturesquely scattered between it and the rocks, produced, however, a striking effect. Returning through the park, we perceive Wynd-Cliff; a low hill, completely covered with firs rising between the bare rocky steeps, as we approach, an over-hanging cliff, whence we look down into a tremendous abyss, at sight of which the head turns giddy. The view of this precipice sufficiently explains why it has been called the Lover’s Leap, from a resemblance to celebrated places of antiquity. The Giant’s Cave has a very picturesque appearance from a colossal figure of Polyphemus placed over the entrance, which reminds us of the Odyssey. The double prospect we here enjoy, namely, that of the Ravine, and of Chepstow, at the same time, is peculiarly striking, especially from the high cultivation of the vicinity of Chepstow. We found the grotto full of gay ladies and gentlemen, and could not therefore examine its interior. The Druid’s Temple is not a successful imitation, as the blocks of granite, intended to convey the resemblance, are disposed too regularly on both sides of the place. The opposite town of Chepstow, and particularly the castle, with its half-ruined towers, has a very good appearance from the alcoves. The park upon the whole seems to be neglected by its present proprietor; the walks are in various places choked up with weeds and bushes, and every where covered with large stones; so that when passing along them we seem as on a bad country road. The outer and inner park contain together 214 English acres. 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

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 open days for viewing Piersfield grounds are Tuesdays and Fridays. A Ciceroni attends and points out the views. The double view is most admired.

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] Evans, John, 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), pp. 112-113
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) [it was not Windcliff but the path from the river to the house] 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. A bed of violets or lilies may enamel the ground with propriety at the root of an oak; but if you introduce them artificially in a border, 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. ii, 104-108

[1818]
Mark Willett’s ‘entirely rewritten’ edition of his An Excursion from the Source of the Wye, about 1818, is one of the most detailed descriptions of the park and its features. Although much of it is based on earlier publications, he mentions more seats than any other guidebook editor or tourist.
The traveller at Chepstow will not do justice to himself or to the deservedly admired scenery of Piercefield Walks, should he omit to pay the latter a visit; he should therefore arrange his excursion in order to visit Piercefield on the public days, which are Tuesdays and Fridays only. The house is not now shewn to strangers.
The principal Lodge is about half a mile from Chepstow, on the Monmouth road, where the party will alight and order their vehicle to meet them at the village of St Arvan, one mile and a half further, near the upper extremity of the walks, where there is a decent village inn called the Squirrel.
At this lodge the Gardener resides, who will attend the party through the walks.
In the year 1620, we find this estate in the possession of John Walter, son of Thomas Walter, by Elizabeth his wife, daughter of Thomas Thomas, of Aylburton in the county of Gloucester, Esq. This John Walter was the twelfth in descent of the family of Walter, who were possessed of Piercefield, according to a pedigree now before the author. Their heraldic bearings are over the fire-place in the hall, at Piercefield. In 1736, Colonel Morris, of the island of St. Vincent, and father to Valentine Morris, Esq. purchased the estate. This latter gentleman, the eccentric, unfortunate, Valentine Morris, in consequence of a disastrous train of events, was under the necessity of retiring to the West-Indies, and leaving Piercefield for sale. Previously to his departure from England, he bestowed a last farewell on the enchanting scenery which had been so much indebted to his creative taste. He beheld Piercefield vanishing from his sight, but he met the calamity with the philosophic magnanimity of a great mind.
The indigent of his neighbourhood, who had often been the sharers of his beneficence, now crowded around him, offering up prayers for his safety and welfare. He met their kind and disinterested wishes, when he had nothing left to exchange for them, with manly fortitude; but proceeding in a chaise on the road to London, on ascending Tutshill, his attention was arrested by a mournful peal of muffled bells, which reiterated in the Cliffs. This grateful and unexpected tribute of esteem overpowered a heart already swoln with emotion: it completely unmanned him, and he burst into a flood of tears.
He was appointed governor of the island of St. Vincent; but his evil genius still pursued him. The island being taken by the French, the governor was reduced to extreme distress, and finally immured within the walls of the King’s Bench Prison, where he remained for seven years. Such a vast accumulation of griefs deprived his amiable wife of her reason. He was at length released, but died in a few years afterward, on the 26th of August 1789, at the house of his brother-in-law, Mr. Wilmot, nephew to the Earl of Peterborough, in Bloomsbury-square:
We conclude our account of this benevolent but ill-fated man, with the following pertinent extract from a contemporary writer.
“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 raptured 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 state.”
In 1784, Piercefield was sold to Mr. Smith, of Burnhall, Durham; and in 1794, to Colonel Wood, now Sir Mark Wood, Bart, of Gatton, Surry, formerly chief engineer at Bengal, who completed the present house, which was begun by Mr. Smith. It is now the property of Nathaniel Wells, Esq. by purchase.
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 the Castle of Chepstow to Wynd-Cliff.
The grand Views are the following; but 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, under a large beech-tree
  6. The Giant’s Cave
  7. A Seat near two beech trees on the edge of the precipice
  8. The Lover’s Leap
  9. Wynd-Cliff.

Leaving the Lodge, you cross through the park and arrive at a second gate; from whence you descend along the road which leads towards the mansion: then verging to the right, you enter a bordering 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 rock, and the Town, appear full in 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 wood, of some beautiful scenery.
From hence the walk becomes somewhat lighter, and you now and then catch an obscured peep of Long Hope.
Seat the Second 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 Seat 3rd.
Still continuing the walk to Seat 4th, where a pretty view of the Castle, Town, and Church, unfolds itself.
From Seat 5th, the Castle, with the upper part of the town, and the very summit of the Church-Tower, still continue in view, but with most apparent variety.
You now arrive at the Platform, a dark point of view enclosed with iron railing. 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 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 Seat the 2nd, 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 continue your ascent to Seat the 3rd, which presents 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 stones and metallic scoriae. The prospect from hence 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 farther side of the Severn.
The path now leads to Seat the 1st, 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 Wynd-Cliff, frowning upon you in the northern extremity.
The scenery now materially displays a marked and decisive change of character. Continue your walk along the edge of the rock, and from Seat 2nd, 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 Severn’s wide expanse, and an immense prospect bounds the whole.
The walk now declines to the Halfway Seat, placed under a large and aged beech-tree. From this place is a short walk which branches to the house, and when that object was publicly shewn, 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 Druid’s Temple, so named from a circle of upright stones standing there. A little farther onward you arrive at Seat the 1st from the Half-Way View, where you perceive the lofty Wynd-Cliff still rearing its crested head above every other object within the horizon. The upper part of the penjnsulated farms before noticed also appears in this view.
Proceeding to Seat 2nd, you see the two extremities of Llancaut Hamlet, bounded by the darker Wynd-Cliff on the north, and by Us own white cliffs on the south.
Another view also may be had from a point of the rook just beyond; and again at Seat the 3rd, presenting the same objects but with a very material change of aspect. Nor must we omit, a few yards farther on the left, that venerable Oak, so often noticed by other 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 S. E. entrance is a mutilated colossal figure, which once held the fragment of a rock in his uplifted arms, threatening to overwhelm whoever should dare to enter his retreat; but some time ago 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 greater 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, a path descends through the Martridge Wood to the Cold Bath, about a quarter of a mile distant. Return from thence up to the cave, and resume the walk which leads by an ascent to Seat the 1st, placed under the side of a rock. Pursuing the ascent to Seat the 2nd, 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 Wynd-Cliff 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 exquisitively fine. It is impossible to give an adequate description of the beauties of this view.
Leaving these grounds through a door in the park-wall, you pass down a road to the Fishpond; then turning through a gate on the right, and walking up three fields, you arrive at the summit of Wynd Cliff. From this lofty eminence, commanding some of the most beautiful and extensive prospects in the island, may be seen the following objects.
Right beneath, 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, Blaize Castle, and Dundry Tower near Bristol; a little to the right, Kingroad, and the mouth of the Avon, the Denny Islet, and Portishead Point; still farther 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.
In conclusion, the delightful regions of the Wye may be seen and admired, but cannot be adequately described; and Piercefield and Wynd-Cliff are among its chiefest ornaments.
Return again to the Fishpond, and a few yards farther is St. Arvan’s, where you join the Monmouth road, two miles from Chepstow.
Willett, Mark, An Excursion from the Source of the Wye, A New Edition / Second edition. (John Evans and Co., Bristol, [1818?])

1819

Sale catalogue for Piercefield
The principal part of the old house, formerly inhabited by the celebrated Valentine Morris, forms the offices, and consists of house keepers room, butler’s pantry, a servants’ hall, kitchen, larder, brewhouse etc.
Waters, Ivor, Piercefield on the banks of the Wye, (Chepstow: F.G. Comber 1975), p. 23

1819

William Sandys and his companion[s] visited Tintern in October.
We were disappointed of seeing the grounds of Piercefield as it was not one of the public days, which are Tuesday and Friday; we therefore proceeded to the top of Wind Cliff, one of the most striking features of the River Wye: a clump of trees on the top of a hill, about three miles from Chepstow, was our landmark; on reaching them we found ourselves on the summit of a noble precipice, descending perpendicularly to the flat ground forming the immediate bank of the river, which winds here in a most fantastic manner, nearly in the shape of a horse shoe; and its whole serpentine course can be traced from its mouth, with the bold rocky banks.
Chepstow seems almost at the foot of the Cliff, although 3 miles distant; it appears to great advantage, the grey tint of its ruined castle with the airy lightness of its elegant bridge, giving a striking effect to this panoramic landscape; beyond is the mighty Severn rolling its waves like an ocean of mud, which the sight can reach for many miles with the accompanying coast.
{more on the view which was spoiled by light rain} ‘which compelled us to use those very unpicturesque things, umbrellas. 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.] The state of the weather caused us to regret the less that we could not see Piercefield, the Eden of this part of the country. The fate of the original  beautifier of this place, Mr Valentine Morris, affords an affecting instance of the uncertainty of all our prospects here: he was a man of excessive liberality, and generosity, which qualities he exercised beyond his means, and became at length so embarrassed as to be obliged to sell his property, the earthly paradise of his own creating. He bore his misfortune with firmness and continued unmoved when he took his final leave of it. {account of his departure, and the reactions of the poor.}
Sandys, William, (1792-1874), Sandys, Sampson, (1797-1880) (brothers) ‘Walk through South Wales in October, 1819’ NLW Cwrt Mawr MS393 C, pp. 7-9

1819

We next proceeded to view the celebrated grounds of Piercefield, near Chepstow, which combines with all the beauties of nature the most tasteful embellishments of art, to render its scenery enchanting; these contain many points of view scarcely to be entailed for beauty and variety. At one point both above and below, as far as the eye can reach, rolls in majestic windings the river Wye; at another, the Severn hastening to meet its sister river, is discovered, till at last they are both lost in the Bristol Channel; at another, these scenes are concealed, and thick woods, apparently coeval with time itself, and a long range of rock, burst upon the astonished gazer with irresistible beauty and attraction. The occasional occurrence also of the rude beach, overshadowed by some umbrageous tree, and concealed from the sharp precipice below by thick, underwood, allow only glimpses of the surrounding scenery. The park and grounds are extensive, covering a considerable eminence, and forming several distinct lawns between open groves; in the centre of one of which, the stately mansion is placed on a fine elevated grand. It commands an extensive prospect over the Bristol Channel to the distant hills of Somersetshire: while directly opposite, the shipping in King’s Road appear before the mouth of the Avon, and on the left the finely variegated shore of Gloucestershire exhibits the parks and villas which decorate the environs of Bristol from Kingsweston to Thornbury.- In the nearer view, the Wye, descending through its rocky channel, pours its rapid stream into the Severn, and the castle with the bridge of Chepstow adorn its exit from the hills with considerable majesty. This fine display of distant objects is charmingly contrasted by the views commanded from the walks conducted above the Wye, where stupendous rocks, clothed profusely with wood, impend over the winding channel of that noble river, and disclose the romantic varieties of a mountainous landscape.
These extensive walks were formed upon the rocks by the late Valentine Morris, Esq. a gentleman whose character lives in the hearts of the old inhabitants of Chepstow with respect and veneration, united with pity for the misfortunes which attended his close of life. He was the original designer of this noble place; since which, Colonel Wood has made great improvements in the house and grounds. The present proprietor is Nathaniel Wells, Esq.
Stringer, Thomas, Welsh Excursions … The European magazine, and London review; containing the literature, history, politics, arts, manners and amusements of the age. vol. 77, (London, January to June, 1820), pp. 26-27
Much of Stringer’s account is based on previously published works.

1819

About two miles north of Chepstow is Piercefield, a seat of much celebrity, and a just theme of a descriptive encomium with the tourists and topographers of Monmouthshire. The grounds are extensive, and embrace much diversified scenery of wood, lawn, rock, and river. Stretching along the irriguous banks of the Wy, from the castle at Chepstow, to a lofty perpendicular rock called the Wyndcliff, is a walk of about three miles in length: the prospects from which, and its accompanying scenery, are described in the following terms by Mr. Coxe. “On entering the grounds at the extremity of the village of St. Arvans, 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 woody abyss. It waves almost imperceptibly in a grand outline, on the brow of the majestic amphitheatre of cliffs impending on the Wy opposite to the peninsula of Laneaut, then crosses the park, runs through groves and thickets, and again joins the Wy, at that reach of the river which stretches from Laneaut to the castle of Chepstow. From the Lover’s Leap the wall 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 bow’ry walk 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 opposite side to the Wy; at another, both rivers appear on the same fide, 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 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 sceenery.”
The house erected on this estate is a magnificent pile of building, of freestone, and stands nearly in the centre of the park. Piercefield was long the property of the Waters family, till the year 1736, when it was sold to colonel Morris, father of Valentine Morris, Esq. who afterwards posessed it, and to whose taste and liberality it is indebted for its chief artificial beauties, and its long established celebrity. In 1784 it was bought by George Smith, Esq. who again fold it in 1794 to Colonel Wood, formerly chief engineer at Bengal. This gentleman has recently disposed of Piercefield to Wells, Esq. For the most recent account of this seat, of Chepstow, and this county, see Coxe’s “Historical Tour in Monmouthshire.” 2 vols. 4to.
Rees, Abraham, The Cyclopaedia or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature, vol 7, (London, 1819), ‘Chepstow’

1819

Stanza 200
But he who would bestir him from the gaze
Of terror, and heap’t chaos of the earth,
This dream of headlong horror may erase,
With a more wooing, placid, and sweet birth
Of thoughts, where cinctured in their craggy girth,
Piercefield’s bowers an Eden’s beauty rear,
Amid all of beauty’s apparent dearth;
As if enchanted footsteps bade them wear
The signs of semblance of unearthly visits there.
Stanza 201
O Piercefield’s pious, soul-illumined maid! *
He, to whom tales resembling thine are balm,
Speaks, “Rest to thy manes, bliss to thy shade!”
Thy simple history breathes a very calm
O’er suffering spirits, chasing the qualm
By showing woe so meekly borne: the charm
Of pure devotion meting out the palm
With genius: together twined, tame, yet warm,
The fabled serpant came to thee without his harm.
* Miss Smith, see Remains of.  The acquirements of this young lady were superior to her invention. Her mind was delightfully cultivated, but its season of bearing had not arrived. Her simplicity, genuine piety, and humility of mind, were characteristic of native superiority of intellect, and genuine, pure, religious feeling. Living at Piercefield, she naturally enough made Ossian the favourite of her imagination. She rushed to the top of Snowdon to see the sun rise. One moment she talks of a hundred cataracts in her letters, and the next moment passes a familiar compliment to a friend. She is said to have spoken rather vainly of her facility of learning languages. Mr. L., of Bristol, travelled to seek a relic of her, and at last procured a shoe.
This Poem was written in 1819, during a summer’s excursion to the Wye, in the glow of early imagination. The Author having, ever since, been engaged in very different pursuits, only a few alterations have been added. The Wye was formerly the resort of hermits and solitaries; from this circumstance, and the gloomy fascination of the poetry of the day, the Author made the chief character a Weft. Speaking of Salvator Rosa, it has been said that the love of wild inanimate nature is generally associated with misanthropic ideas of the world. Sombre sentiments, however, are not necessary to good poetry, and if the Author ever returned to that delightful pursuit they would not be had recourse to. This Poem was not meant for publication; but it has appeared on the strength of some opinions founded on the descriptive parts. The Author has endeavoured to give the colors of life and reality to the great objects of the “very rose and perfection,” of English scenery; viz. the Wye. Fuller illustrations of particular scenes, than are contained in the Notes, may be found in Fosbroke’s Edition of Gilpin’s Wye Tour.
St. John, Arthur, The Weft of the Wye: A Poem, Descriptive of the Scenery of that River, (London, 1826), 126 pp. plus 13 pp. notes), pp. 102-103, 139-140

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

1821

29.7.1821
walked through the celebrated grounds of Piercefield; the scenery of which is romantic, and the prospects extensive [This is all she says about the site]
Selwyn, Elizabeth, Mrs, Journal of Excursions through the most interesting parts of England, Wales and Scotland, during the Summers and Autumns of 1819, 1820, 1821, 1822 and 1823, (London, 1824), p. 111

1822

print, distant view of the House
Fielding, T. H., (1781-1851) and Fielding, 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 of Fosbroke, T.D., The Wye Tour, or Gilpin on the Wye, 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] [Evans, John, 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), pp. 112-113]
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’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) [it was not Windcliff but the path from the river to the house] 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, by a 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, although it 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, threatening 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 Bath, 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 [sic] 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-
TO HIM BE HONOUR, TO GOD 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, Goodrich Castle, Monmouth, etc. (New Edition, much enlarged, 1822), pp. 71-88; (5th edition, 1837)
Some of this is from Evans, John, 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), pp. 112-113

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

[Chepstow] The day proved favourable, as far as sunshine and blue sky could make it for our visit to Tintern Abbey. In the road to it we passed the beautiful grounds of Piercefield and ascended the Windcliff, a beautiful hill up which the Duke of Beaufort has made an agreeable walk adorned with seats &c. The view from the summit is exquisite indeed, and rather improved by the rich autumnal tint which the foliage wore. Having descended we kept by the banks of the Wye as far as the village of Tintern and the beautiful views of its far famed abbey.
Anon, A Journal of a tour in South Wales and the adjoining counties of Hereford and Monmouthshire. NLW Glynne Of Hawarden 57, ff. 81
The content of this journal is chiefly confined to detailed descriptions of church architecture.

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:] Elizabeth Smith the learned translator of the book of Job. See the very interesting account of this extraordinary young woman in Miss Bowdler’s Memoirs of her life. [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. [note:] Remains of William Reed, &c. p. 113. [end of note]
“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 transcendent beauty and magnificence opened before me, as cast a sort of shade on every 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 canvas: 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.”
The traveller is recommended to embark on the Wye to return to Chepstow; which will not only procure variety, but greatly heighten by its scenery the pleasure derived from the excursion. It must also be remarked that Piercefield can be seen only on Tuesdays and Fridays.
[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. 2. (1822-1824), p. 162. [end of note]
Evans, John, 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), pp. 6-8

See also
Piercefield 1743-1802
Piercefield 1825-1900