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Admiral Digby Museum

Picture, Flora

Accession number: 1983.72
Category: Art
Date: circa 1903
Materials: Plant
Measurements: 37 cm L x 41 cm W
Marks/Label: Pasted onto the backing: "Is grace on her 7th Birthday"; Riveaux Abbey from Munro; To Grace on her 7th Birthday; made by Eliza Georgina (Macasky) Marvin
Narrative: This moss and birch bark picture created during the Victorian period was borne out of a Victorian fascination with nature. Scientists were attempting to categorize all living things, a process that the general population became interested in, as well. Animal and plant parts were used in decorative arts; chairs were fashioned out of antlers or moss and birch bark were used as artistic media. Botany was one of the most popular Victorian pursuits; pressing and preserving flowers became a feminine pastime. This creation is an extension of those interests. This particular flora picture is of Tintern Abbey in Gwent County in Wales. The abbey was founded in 1131 by Walter fitz Richard; he was the Anglo-Norman lord of Chepstow and a member of the Clare family. Tintern was the first Cistercian house established in Wales and the second on the British Isles; the first was established in Waverley in 1128 by Bishop William of Winchester, also a member of the Clare family. The abbey was built in the Wye valley and was colonized by French monks from L’Aumone. By 1139, the abbey had grown large enough that it was able to send a colony to Kingswood in Gloucestershire. A second colony was later sent to Tintern Parva in 1189 by William Marshal, earl of Pembroke and lord of Chepstow. The buildings at Tintern indicate the abbey was a fairly large community with twenty monks and fifty lay-brothers. By the late thirteenth century, the lay-brothers had 3000 acres of farm land and over 3200 sheep on pasture land. In 1301, the new lord of Chepstow, Roger Bigod III, earl of Norfolk granted the abbey his estate Acle in Norfolk. Bigod, however, is best remembered for finishing the abbey church; begun in 1269, he provided the funds to finish the church in 1301. Even until the abbey’s dissolution, the monks distributed alms five times annually for Bigod’s soul. The abbey was most prosperous at the start of the thirteenth century. Its remote location helped it avoid any of the effects of Edward II’s wars although Edward did spend two nights at the abbey in 1326 while escaping Roger Mortimer’s army. By the fifteenth century, the abbey was in financial trouble as a result of Owain Glyndwr’s uprising. Offerings from pilgrims to the abbey helped ease the burden; the abbey’s chapel contained a statue of St. Mary the Virgin that was believed to provide miracles and, as a result, was popular with pilgrims. Although Tintern was the wealthiest Welsh abbey in 1535, it was not safe from the first Act of Suppression in 1536 that dissolved houses with an annual income under two hundred pounds. The monks surrendered in September, 1536 and the property was granted to Henry Somerset, earl of Worcester; Somerset promptly stripped the lead roofs of the buildings. The abbey ruins were a popular site with late eighteenth century Romantics; J.M.W. Turner made a number of pencil sketches of the area in 1792 that became studies for later watercolours. William Wordsworth wrote a poem about the abbey: ‘Lines Composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, 13 July 1798’. In 1901, the property was sold to the Crown as a site of historic importance and a restoration programme was begun that finished in 1928. [Sources:]
Description: Made of Birch bark and Moss this is a picture of a building with arched windows and doors. The building is in ruins with no roof; the background sky can be seen through the windows.