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The Wye Tour

The Start

The Wye was used as a transport route between the towns and cities on it's banks from early times. Various barges, ships and boats navigated up the river bringing all manner of goods. This inevitably led to pleasure trips on the Wye when the crews noted the scenery on their travels.

The origins of the 'Wye Tour' are thought to have started out in 1745 when the Reverend John Egerton, who was the rector of Ross, started organised boat trips. He was a wealthy man and liked to organise the trips on the river for his family and friends and to impress visitors. This was then developed into a business in around 1760 when James Evans, a basket maker from Ross, started hiring out boats on a commercial basis this lead to the 'Wye Tour'.

The 'Wye Tour'

The Wye Tour
From an engraving of the 'Wye Tour'

Soon many wealthy people heard about the Wye Tour and the amazing scenery that could be seen from the river. Previously, when noblemen had completed their education they took the 'Grand Tour' around Europe to see the scenery and cultures that were there. This Grand Tour would last anything from a few months to 8 years. This meant that only the very wealthy, with the time and means to travel, could participate.

The political scene was highly turbulent in Europe and the Grand Tour was not without risk so the Wye Tour was a safer, shorter and cheaper alternative also boasting marvellous scenery, making it very popular. Some of the more notable people known to have partaken in the tour were George IV, Princess Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary), Thomas Gray, Wordsworth and Nelson and Lady Hamilton.

Guide Books

There was even a guide book to the Wye. It was called "Observations on the River Wye" (London 1782) and it was written by William Gulping. Gulping wrote about the Wye Valley and the scenery. His comments were formed strict rules on what was acceptable in terms of proportion, form and colour. Some of his comments would definitely not meet with approval in the present day. One example is 'Tintern Abbey' which he suggested should be knocked down. Fortunately the ruin appealed to the romantics in the tourists and it became a highly popular attraction.

Since then there have been many guide books, some were released yearly covering the broad area of the 'Wye Valley and Forest of Dean' and some specifically covering the 'Wye Valley'.

The Railway

By 1827 eight boats a day would leave Ross on the two day trip down to Chepstow with boats being designed specifically to have an awning to keep off the rain and a table for the food hampers and meals.

The 'Wye Tour' was initially for the rich but the increasing ease of rail travel allowed the middle classes to escape from the dirty, industrial cities to the clean air of the Wye Valley and feel they had had a similar experience to the Grand Tour. This was further improved up when the railways came to Ross making it easier for even the working class to travel out to see the Wye and surrounding scenery.

The 'Wilton Castle'

The Wilton Castle Paddle Steamer

Collett 14xx class 0-4-2T engine number 1445
A photograph of the 'Wilton Castle' paddle steamer
(Click for a larger image)

At the start of the 20th Century a paddle steamer called the 'Wilton Castle' was launched. This could carry up to one hundred people and took visitors as far as was navigable. Being as moving goods by rail was much quicker and cost effective, the river Wye was being used less and less as a commercial water way and so was becoming silted up limiting the range of the steamer.

This is a postcard view of the 'Wilton Castle' taken by Colman Debenham, Ross-on-Wye.

Since then the river has become even more silted stopping deep vessels navigating the river. So now only row boats and canoes are seen on the river.

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[Page updated: Feb 15 2011 13:31:59]

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