As already mentioned, we feel privileged to hold the first Well Being Event at Newstead Abbey. I have chosen to write two short articles about the Abbey before the event. After discussion with Community Members, all see the advantage of promoting the building, its history and its famous Poet alongside the Well Being Show. It makes sense to attract as many visitors to the show as possible. Therefore enjoying a tour of the house must be an attraction to the weekend’s event.
Newstead Abbey – Part Two
Newstead enjoyed a fruitful and excellent reputation under the custodianship of the first four Barons. And the foundations they laid for its future should have continued for many generations. The 5th baron set back the future of the Abbey for many years to come.
The 5th baron is known as ‘the Wicked Lord” he became eccentric, cruel and ruined the hard work of his predecessors. What was the main reason for his malicious acts and determined path of ruination?
Well, the 5th baron had amounted massive debts and had jeopardised the future of the estate. His son William seemed to be the answer to his problems. To alleviate the finantial difficulties the 5th baron had decided his son would have to marry into a wealthy family. His hopes were dashed when William eloped with his cousin Juliana Byron.
The 5th Baron believed intermarriage would produce insane children, and he hated the union. Now his hopes of paying off the massive debts through marriage were finished, he chose to take revenge by ruining son William’s inheritance. The 5th baron was determined to leave his son nothing but debt, so he laid waste to the building, cut down the profitable woodlands and killed the hunting stock of 2000 deer.
The plan failed: his son died during 1776: The 5th baron also out-lived his grandson who was killed as a soldier in Corsica. The Wicked Lord died penniless in 1798. Because of the vengeful acts of “the Wicked Lord” and premature death his son and grandson the title and Abbey were inherited by his great-great-nephew: George Gordon Byron, the Poet. Who became the 6th Baron Newstead.
In truth, the inheritance would be a hopeless millstone for the Baron Poet. The estate could now only produce an income of 800 pounds per year. The Baron Poet Byron had no business understanding, and the property was leased to Henry Yelverton for five years, this filled in the years before the Poet Lord became of age. When Byron returned to Newstead, he redecorated the building, and although the facade returned the Abbey to a semblance of its former glory, Byron had misspent the money. He’d have been better to have made good and repaired the leaky and ill-repaired structure. The elements soon ruined the decorations and Newstead returned to a sorry state.
Byron attempted to sell the building on many occasions. The fact was the poor state of repair made his asking price too high. He had inherited a building he loved, without the ability to put the estate back in order. The Poet borrowed heavily against the property to fund his living and upkeep of the building. This method of economics would spell long term disaster. His old school friend Thomas Widman finally purchased the building in 1818 for £95,500 this eased the Poet’s financial difficulties.
In 1861 Willian Webb purchased the Abbey from Wildman’s widow. On Webb’s death, his grandchildren presented the estate to the present owner ‘Nottingham City Council’
This article concludes a brief history of Newstead Abbey. Visitors to The Well Being Event will learn more about the history and building while attending the show. The story of the rise and fall of the ‘Barons Newstead’ dynasty would make an incredible film. With the sub-plot of George Gordon Byron who as a boy was already being lead into a disasterous life by a drunken mother. Seduced by a maid at thirteen and abused by an uncle: his destiny would be far from ‘normal’.
See You There