Fryer's Wharf

This historic wharf and slipway is situated at the northern end of Tintern.

Fryer’s Wharf and slipway at Tintern Parva
This historic wharf and slipway is situated at the northern end of Tintern near St Michael’s church. It is known as ‘Fryer’s Wharf’ after the Fryer family who lived in Tintern and does not refer to friars from the Abbey. There is a considerable body of documentary evidence pertaining to its history. Here is some of it:

The earliest reference is in the ‘Book of Llandaff’ (Liber Landevensis):
“……  Tewdrig, King of Gwent gave up his kingdom to his son Meurig, he retired to Tintern where he lived the life of a hermit. While he resided here the Saxons, who were then pagans, began to invade the district, when an angel appeared to Tewdrig, telling him he was to shew himself in the battle and their enemies would be put to flight, though he himself would receive a mortal wound.  This so happened; the enemy fled, and Tewdrig, standing on the banks of the Wye near the ford of Tintern received a wound from a lance…………..”

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales refers to the ‘Tintern Ford, site of alleged Battle’, and it is also mentioned in ‘The Island Chapel of St Twrog’ by J G Wood: ‘Another Roman road crossed the Wye at Tintern Ford. This was guarded by a large camp on Madgett’s farm’.
English Heritage describes the ‘Saxon Camp’ at Madgetts (also known as Modiete or Modesgate). There is a clear track shown on the 1830 map from Madgetts down to the ford visible on the Gloucestershire side of the Wye opposite St Michaels Church, Tintern. A recent quarry near the river has intercepted the track and is now barely visible between the quarry and the river. This is adjacent to the slipway and wharf on the Tintern side. The OS 1890-91, 1902 &1903 1:25,000 maps show a ‘Roman Camp’ at Madgetts

Fedw Villages by Raymond Howell in the section on the Romans sexplain that:
“…………The roads in the region were originally constructed for military use but they soon came to have an important role in expanding trade and spreading the new cultural synthesis…………….Even more important in the local context, however, is the road from Gloucester which crossed the Wye by a ford at Tintern in the early Roman Period and by bridge near Chepstow later……………..There were undoubtedly minor roads in the area and it is likely that the road from the Tintern ford continued as a minor route, probably following the line of the Stony road today.”
The Customs Accounts Particulars for Bristol in the National Archives talk of the ship called The Marie Tintern, master Stephen Gogh, possibly owned by the Abbot of Tintern Abbey (He was a member of the Bristol Staple – i.e. merchants exporting wool etc. through Bristol), which sailed from Bristol to Bridgewater on 1 July 1461 with a large cargo of Welsh cloth and rough undyed cloth belonging to over twenty different merchants (including Chepstow merchants). At that time Sir William Herbert of Raglan Castle had assembled an army at Bridgewater to attack Lancastrian strongholds including Dunster Castle in Somerset, and a number of other places in Hereford and Wales. It seems possible that the cloth was used for equipping his troops.
Although this reference does not relate to Tintern itself,  there is evidence to indicate that goods such as wool must have been sent from Trellech via Tintern by ships on the Wye, and other goods from elsewhere, including wine, must have been brought to the quay at Tintern.  Tintern was a stopping place for ships trading between Monmouth and Chepstow, goods possibly being transferred to smaller boats for the journey upriver.

The owners of the Tintern Parva Estate had large ships by the names of ‘the James and Francis during the 16th and 17th centuries that presumably used the wharf.

The Gwent & Glamorgan Archaeological Trust acknowledge the significance of the wharf in more recent times:
‘It is likely that the wharf at Tintern Parva was an important communication feature prior to the construction of the Turnpike road in 1829 and would have been a disembarkation point for travellers undertaking the Wye Valley Tour in the 18th and 19th centuries.’

Documentation from the 19th century refers to the structure as a public quay and in 1844 the tithe map shows the ‘Old wharf ‘owned by the Duke of Beaufort. The 1881 and 1886 maps show ‘the wharf’ marked and the 1901 map marks ‘the slip’.

The wharf and slipway were still in use in the early 20th century, particularly in the timber trade as witnessed by some of the old photos, but the slipway fell into disuse in the mid-20th century and was covered over and built on.

The time is now right to reveal and restore this important historical feature for all to see. In recent years a group of local history enthusiasts has formed a sub-committee of the Wye Valley Building Preservation Trust in order to investigate the archaeological remains on the site, and they are engaged in fund-raising in order to restore the slipway for future use of the public.