The Abbey – which is today in ruins, some of which have been restored – was founded in 1203 by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, as the result of a vow he had made when his boat was caught in a storm nearby. Once established, the abbey was colonised by monks from the Cistercian abbey at Tintern in Monmouthshire, Wales, of which Marshal was also patron. To distinguish the two, the mother house in Wales was sometimes known as 'Tintern Major' and its daughter abbey in Ireland as 'Tintern de Voto' (Tintern of the vow).
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the abbey and its grounds were granted to firstly to Sir James Croft, and then in 1575 to Anthony Colclough of Staffordshire, a soldier of Henry VIII. His descendants became the Colclough Baronets. The final member of the Colclough family to reside at Tintern was Lucey Marie Biddulph Colclough who donated the abbey to the nation. Considerable research and restoration has since taken place.