Have a go at… uncovering a Literary Legend
Originally a Monastery, the Abbey seems to vibrate with its rich, and often fantastic, 900 year history. From ‘wicked’ Lord Byron the 5th, to the ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ romantic poet Lord Byron the 6th, Newstead has seen its fair share of characters over the centuries.
We visited recently to take part in the tours held every Sunday of the house itself. The extensive grounds are open every day for visitors, but the fragile nature of the Abbey and its contents mean that visitors can only step inside on one of the scheduled tours held weekly.
The stair well is lined with paintings associated with these owners, including one of Colonel Thomas Wildman, who bought the house from Lord Byron for the princely sum of £94,000 (and outbid Queen Victoria to do so!), and W.B. Webb, who was a rich mine-owner and avid hunter.
The inside of Newstead Abbey is impressive to say the least. Grand rooms decorated with Victorian timberwork and luxurious drapes, special art collections and original furniture. Many of the pieces in the Abbey were valued at exorbitant amounts by the Antiques Roadshow team from the BBC when they visited in June this year. The shows they filmed will air in early 2013, and promise to reveal to a national audience some of Newstead Abbey’s many secrets.
Looking through large windows towards the picturesque lake outside the house, we listened to tales of the ‘wicked’ Lord Byron the 5th, who used the lake to create maritime battle scenes, firing upon his servants in boats with live canons to make the re-enactments suitably realistic.
From there, it was on to the romantic poet Lord Byron himself. Said to have been one of the first true celebrities, Byron was renowned around the world for his aristocratic excesses and scandalous liaisons.
The Abbey is home to a remarkable number of his possessions, and a highlight of the tour is a visit to his bedroom, which has been preserved intact containing many of his belongings and his original bed. Our guide did a fantastic job of bringing the renowned Romantic Lord to life, so that we almost imagined Byron himself could have appeared at any moment.
Each room within the Abbey has to be seen to be believed. From centuries old wallpaper featuring splendid prints and creatures, to lion skin rugs brought back by Webb and the original toilet fittings from Lord Byron’s time. You could spend many hours looking in wonder at the amazing items on display.
If you can’t make it on a Sunday for the tours, a visit at any time of the week is highly recommended. You can easily spend a day exploring the grounds and gardens – be sure to visit the hidden Japanese Garden, and the beautiful walled Rose Garden, and soak up the history and grandeur of one of Nottinghamshire’s great legends.