Newstead Abbey

I’ve been very neglectful of this blog – I could say I’ve been too busy to update it, and that is partially true… but we all know that a big part of it is laziness and distraction!

Newstead Abbey

Back in August I took a day and went to Newstead Abbey, the ancestral home of Lord Byron. It’s a historic house that was originally built as an Augustinian monastery in the 12th century. Most of the monastery was destroyed after it was disbanded by Henry VIII. Along with a medieval cloisters, the most recognizable part of the abbey is the beautiful West Front of the church. I wandered around the gardens and lake for awhile and had a picnic lunch. I wandered through the Japanese and Rose gardens and visited The Byron Oak – an ivy-covered tree stump which is the only remainder of an oak tree planted by the Lord Byron (the poet) when he was ten years old. He had just inherited the estate at the time and when, a decade later, Byron discovered the tree was dying, he wrote the poem To an Oak. I also visited Botswain’s monument – the tomb Byron erected for his faithful dog. Botswain was an apparently enormous Newfoundland dog and Byron dedicated the tomb (also intended for Byron himself) with these words: ‘possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of Man without his Vices’.

The Western Facade of the Church

Interior of Newstead Abbey

 

The Byrons were certainly characters though – during the tour through the house I learned all about the famous family and the eccentry lords. Byron the poet certainly had a reputation as the Casanova of his day and I stood in his bedroom of debachery. (It really looked quite normal) Byron was famous for having kept a bear as a pet which he let roam the house at night (to protect him from the angry husbands who’s wives Byron was bedding!) He got the bear during his years at Cambridge when he wanted a pet but found that dogs were banned. Apparently the university hadn’t thought of bears as a ‘pet’ animal…

Botswain’s Tomb

It was the poet’s father, however, who was the really nutty one! He had a naval career in his youth and upon his inheritance he built a lake and staged full scale naval battles with ships manned by his servants while he shot cannons at them. Apparently it wasn’t a popular job, go figure! He also threw his wife in the lake at one point after a quarrel, knowing full well that she couldn’t swim. Luckily she was rescued before she drowned, or her husband’s murder count would have been three! (He murdered the other two with impunity knowing his weath and title would get him off)  Needless to say he died alone and miserable, talking to the crickets.

The Lake built for naval battles… boom?

While the Abbey and Gardens were beautiful and the tour was informative, what I really learned was that the rich and eccentric get to have all the fun! Not fair…

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