‘A most agreeable and enjoyable day’: The Cardiff Naturalists Society’s Field Trip to Tintern Abbey, June 1873

Any suggestion that the early meetings of the Cardiff Naturalists Society were all conducted behind closed doors in St Mary’s Street, while the society pored over their microscopes and listened to learned speakers, are quickly scotched by the Society’s records held at Glamorgan Archives. From the outset the Society organised a series of Field Trips each year across south Wales. The records contain summaries and plans of a number of such trips. The picture that emerges is of an enjoyable but a very full day for all concerned. The records for 6 June 1873 set out the arrangements for the First Field Meeting of 1873 on 17 June to Tintern Abbey, described as “One of the most romantic ruins in Britain.”

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The Members and Visitors will leave the Cardiff Station of the South Wales Railway by the 9.27am Train, to arrive at Chepstow at 11.17. Here carriages will be in waiting to convey the party to the top of Wyndcliffe.

The view from the summit of Wyndcliffe cannot be surpassed; it is nearly 900 feet above the level of the river, and from it may be viewed some of the most beautiful and extensive prospects in Great Britain, and a wonderful range over portions of nine counties.

The party will then pass down through the wood to the Moss Cottage, which will be thrown open to visitors presenting their tickets, and thence on to the new road, where the carriages will be waiting to convey the party on to the Abbey.

After dinner (at the Beaufort Arms) John Prichard, Esq., of Llandaff, Diocesan Architect, will deliver a Lecture on the Abbey, illustrated by Diagrams and an examination of the building will take place; after which Mr W Adams, the President, will read his paper on the Ancient Iron Works of the District.

The Party will leave Tintern Abbey at about 6.30pm per carriages for Chepstow Station, and arrive at Cardiff at 9.35 [Record of meeting, June 6 1873, DCNS/3/1].

At a cost of 6s 6d plus train fare it was a full day, given that the Society’s usual monthly business had to be dealt with over dinner, including consideration of 5 membership applications. However, such excursions had not always been a great success and the note stated that it was …absolutely necessary that members and their friends should intimate to the Hon Secretary … their intention to be present. The planned field trip to Aberthaw, the previous year in July, had been cancelled due to low take-up, having clashed with a meeting of the Royal Agricultural Society in Cardiff.

In the event it was a most successful trip. In the record for the day it was noted that John Prichard’s lecture had been delivered in the nave of the Abbey to …a large and appreciative audience. It was followed by a tour of the Abbey and …having spent a most agreeable and enjoyable day the party then commenced their return journey to Cardiff.

Details of several of the Society’s field trips in this period, including Tintern Abbey on 17 June 1873 and Llantrisant on 5 July 1870, can be found in the records of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society held at Glamorgan Archives [DCNS/3/1].

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

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