A Visit to Newstead Abbey

Newstead Abbey is a beautiful historic house in Nottinghamshire, UK:

Location of Newstead Abbey within Nottinghamshire

Set in over 300 acres of fabulous parkland and gardens, it was founded in 1170 by Henry 11 and, despite it’s name, it was never an abbey at all but an Augustinian priory called St. Mary of Newstead. The stonework of parts of of the old priory can still be seen today and a useful model helps visitors to visualise what it looked like:

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The cloister of the old priory is the home for several beautiful peacocks. The photos were taken through rather hazy glass:

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, the priory was given to Sir John Byron of Colwick by Henry V111 and it was Sir John who started converting it into a house.

Between 1808 and 1814 Newstead was the home of the poet, Lord Byron. Byron was a colourful and flamboyant character, probably best known as much for his wild lifestyle and ill-fated marriage as his writing. Visitors to Newstead can learn a lot about both man and poet at this lovely house, as well as the history of the house itself.

Below are three portraits of Byron from around the house. The middle one shows him wearing Albanian dress, which he acquired while on a Grand Tour of the Mediterranean in 1809. (For anyone interested in Lord Byron’s life but can’t get to Newstead, there is plenty of information online).

Byron’s private apartments can be visited today, including his bedroom which is at the top of a narrow spiral staircase. For financial reasons, Byron only furnished his own private parts of the house, leaving the rest in the sad state of repair it had been when he inherited it. He used some of those rooms for his numerous sporting activities, including pistol shooting practice, fencing and wrestling in the Great Hall, which he hadn’t decorated and furnished. (The first picture below shows how it looks today). But there is much more to Byron than wild living and writing, which can be learned on a tour of the various rooms. He was a supporter of many causes, some of them abroad.

Restoration of the rest of the house was undertaken by future owners, starting with Thomas Wildman, an old university friend of Byron’s, who bought the property in 1818 when Byron was forced to sell for financial reasons. Most of the house today is of a Victorian setting.

The gardens are lovely and include a couple of lakes, one very rectangular one and the other a more natural shape with lots of water lilies. There is a small walled garden and a number of differently themed gardens, such as the Japanese Garden (my favourite) the Spanish Garden, American Garden, Subtropical Garden and so on. There are some interesting statues here and there, too – I loved the one of Pan, and there’s also one of ‘Mrs Pan’. Butterflies flutter and bumble bees buzz in the herbaceous borders and gardens, and close to the house, peacocks appear now and then to delight the visitors. These are just a few of the many photos we took around grounds and gardens last year.

We had a second visit to Newstead Abbey last year in December. The house was beautifully decorated for Christmas, though whether it will be again this year, I don’t know. This year has been dreadful for all of us, and many of our favourite sites (like Creswell Crags, which I posted about a couple of weeks ago) are suffering great financial loss and struggling to survive.

I may well share the Christmas photos sometime in December but, until then, here is just the one from outside:

8 thoughts on “A Visit to Newstead Abbey

    1. We’d never been to Newstead until last year, Peter, despite having lived in Nottinghamshire since 1982. As you know, it’s well worth a visit and the gardens are lovely for strolling around. I’m hoping the site will be open again next year.

  1. What a grand house! Exactly the kind of place I would love to browse for hours and look at every little detail, trying to imagine what it was like to live there, that this is just your everyday life, my goodness! Thank you so much for posting all these photos, of the house and also of the beautiful gardens. Between my months of eye surgery/recovery issues and now COVID shutdowns, this is definitely turning out to be the year of no travel. So I am especially appreciative of this virtual tour!

  2. I’m sorry to hear of your eye surgery, Joy, I had no idea. I hope you’ve recovered from it now and your eyesight is better for it. We usually go out on Sundays, as well has having a number of short breaks in various parts of the country, and we’ve really missed it this year (but we’re all in the same boat with that, aren’t we?). So any travel/history posts I do will be from past years, Fortunately, because I haven’t been on my blog for so long, I’ve got lots for writing up. I hope you’re still writing your book, and your flash fiction – but I’ll find that out when I visit your site. Have a great weekend.

  3. Thank you, Lina. I’ve got plenty of photos to use for posts from places we’ve visited over the last couple of years when I wasn’t on my blog. They’ll keep me going for the rest of the year. Lol 😀

  4. Times are hard, Peggy. With no entrance fees and the the ongoing costs for the upkeep of these places, many will be seriously struggling. The Christmas events will probably be cancelled, too, which always bring in a lot of money. I daren’t think how places like zoos are coping, with all the animals to feed and the sites to be maintained. I’m sure they rely a lot on entrance fees. It’s a sad year all round.

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