First built in the 12th century, Newstead Abbey was originally built as an Augustinian priory and was a monastery until the dissolution during the reformation in the 16th century when Henry VIII wanted shot of his wife but still wanted to go to heaven. With the monks unceremoniously booted out and their chapel destroyed, Henry sold the abbey to a royalist for the bargain price of a couple of hundred pounds. This lucky royalist was John Byron, a very distant ancestor of the Lord Byron.
But how did it come to be publicly owned, which bits are original, when did the lavvies get put in, and why did Lord Byron flog his ancestral home that had been in his family for three centuries? Newstead Abbey is not only beautiful to look at, its walls hum with the layers of history that resonate within. We popped down for Byron’s birthday in January to be shown around and were honoured to get a special peek in his bedroom as well as be told the fascinating history of the building, its evolution and its occupants. We can’t spill every detail that we learnt that night as it would ruin the fun, but we can tell you that we are now feel a lot wiser even if we don’t know exactly why Bryon slept with a loaded pistol by his bed every night.
A mere twenty minutes from Nottingham city centre, it’s easily accessible by bus and car, if you’ve not yet managed to visit Newstead Abbey then you should make some time for it this year. The grounds are open all year round from 9am to 4pm and there are tours of the house every Sunday at 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm. More excitingly though, there are special tours that run throughout the year.
Events coming up include Festival of Words hosting a day of literary events on Saturday 9 February that includes an evening two hour performance storytelling show as well as poetry events throughout the day. And for those who like to indulge in the ethereal and macabre there’s A Victorian Ghost Evening on Friday 22 February at 6.30pm and 8.30pm; get taken around the many rooms of the house and hear about the strange happenings, spectral beings and numerous hauntings that Newstead has amassed over the last nine centuries.
The Festival of Words comes to Newstead Abbey on Saturday 9 Feb.