Newstead Abbey - Nottinghamshire



A very potted history

Henry II founded Newstead Abbey for the Augustinian monks as a priory in the 12th century and a small community remained there until it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. In 1540 Sir John Byron of Colewyke purchased the property from Henry VIII for £810 and it was converted into a house for his family. The property remained in the Byron’s family until it was sold by the poet Lord Byron to Col. Thomas Wildman in 1817. In 1860 the Abbey was sold to William Frederick Webb before being sold to Sir Julian Cahn in 1930 who gave it to the Corporation of Nottingham for use as a city park and museum.

The Newstead Abbey Ghosts

During the occupancy of the Byron’s it is said that The Black Friar or Goblin Friar would appear to the Head of the household prior to an unhappy event. The poet, Lord Byron is said to have witnessed the apparition just before his disastrous marriage to Annabella Milbanke, which only lasted for 1 year. Byron’s encounter with the apparition is recalled in his poem Don Juan (Canto XV1).

Byron is also said to have encountered the paranormal in his bedchamber an area which was adjacent to the west façade of the priory church and known as the Rook Cell. Byron is said to have been awoken by an entity jumping on the bed, which he described as a black mass with two glowing red eyes. The apparition then rolled off the bed and disappeared. He also describes a column of white mist rising from the floor before once again disappearing.

The Legends of Newstead Abbey

It is said that the rooks that inhabit the grounds of Newstead Abbey are the reincarnation of the very monks that used to live there. The rooks are said to leave the abbey every day in search of food, returning to their nests in the evening. However on Sunday they appear to observe the Sabbath and never leave the abbey grounds.

Whilst digging the gardens of the abbey, Byron’s gardener came across a skull, perfectly preserved, thought by Byron to be that of a monk. Since the skull was of a large size, Byron sent it to London to be cut, set and mounted as a drinking cup. On its return, Byron wrote these words:


“Start not - nor deem my spirit fled
In me behold the only skull,
From which unlike a living head,
Whatever flows is never dull.

“I lived, I loved, I quaffed like thee
I died ; let earth my bones resign
Fill up - thou canst not injure me ;
The worm has fouler lips than thine.

“Better to hold the sparkling grape,
Than nurse the earth - worm's slimy brood
And circle in the goblet's shape
The drink of Gods, than reptile's food.

“Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
In aid of others let me shine ;
And when, alas ! our brains are gone,
What nobler substitute than wine ? “

“Quaff while thou canst: another race,
When thou and thine, like me are sped
May rescue thee from earth’s embrace,
And rhyme and revel with the dead”

“Why not? Since through life’s little day
Our heads such sad effects produce;
Redeem’d from worms and wasting clay,
This chance is theirs, to be of use.

Is it any wonder that with such desecration that Newstead Abbey is Haunted?

Read about PICOUK's visit to Newstead Abbey