Haunted Newstead Abbey: Lord Byron’s Gothic Home

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Newstead Abbey, Lord Byron’s ancestral home, is a ghostly place where spirits like the Goblin Friar and the White Lady linger, writes RICK HALE

Newstead Abbey

It would not be an untrue statement that the United States invented rock and roll music, but Britain perfected it.

Throughout the history of rock, Great Britain gave us everything from the raw sexuality of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. To the dark, Gothic soundscapes of Bauhaus and The Sisters Of Mercy.

Yes, Britain has given us some of the greats. But even before the British Invasion, England produced rock k stars of the literary world. And none were darker, or more romantic than George Gordon, otherwise known as Lord Byron.

The Scandalous Peer

Before we explore the home that made Lord Byron explore the darker side of romance, Newstead Abbey in Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire, England, we need to take a brief look at the man himself.

To say that Byron was a scoundrel, would be a gross understatement.

Even from a very early age, Byron fell for the beauty of what he considered the fairer sex.

While writing his poetry that the English public adored, Byron had many romantic liaisons.

One in particular shocked the British public and had many clutching their pearls and breathing sighs of unease.

Byron struck up a relationship with the very married Lady Caroline Lamb, a well respected member of society.

At first, she turned the young poet down, but Byron just couldn’t take no for an answer and relentlessly pursued her to gain her affections.

Obviously it worked, but she was once quoted as calling the lovesick, brazen young man, “Mad, Bad, and dangerous to know.” A sentiment many would wholeheartedly agree with.

Eventually adventure and wanderlust would call his name and Byron answered that call by fighting for Greek independence.

Sadly, Byron perished during the fighting but not on the battlefield, but rather a sickness and infection brought the brilliant young poet to his demise.

But what of the home that inspired Byron’s poetry? The very much haunted home that stands to this day.

History Of Newstead Abbey

The building that would one day house the notorious poet was founded by Henry II in 1170 CE and was the home of an Augustinian Priory, not an Abbey as the name suggests.

The building and its Ecclesiastical purpose suffered at the hands of Henry VIII and was shuttered during the dissolution of the monasteries. 

It was then closed down and converted into a country home by Byron’s ancestor, Sir John Byron. 

The house remained in Byron hands for centuries, eventually falling into the hands of the famed scoundrel, George Gordon Byron.

The Haunting Of Newstead Abbey

Even before a young Lord Byron came to live at Newstead Abbey, there was talk of the dead wandering the corridors, melting in and out of the shadows.

Perhaps it was these ghosts that inspired Byron to write his dark lines of poetry. And even indulge in his debauchery.

The Goblin Friar

Typically, I would save the most horrifying for last, you know really build up to it. However, this particular entity is one that terrified Byron and kept the poet from having a restful slumber.

One night as Byron slept in his room, the rook cell, he was awakened by an eerie feeling that he was not alone.

As he peered into the darkness he became aware of an amorphous black shape that sat at the end of his bed. It’s only feature, two red eyes that burned with the dreadful fires of hell.

Byron watched as this dark thing rolled into  the floor and vanished from view.

Byron, had been visited by the dreaded goblin friar, a dark entity that only appears before something terrible happens.

Newstead Abbey

A Scent Of Roses

Phantom smells are one of the most common forms of a haunting, and Newstead Abbey most certainly has that. A Scent of Roses.

Since opening to the public for tours, visitors have reported smelling the unmistakable scent of roses followed by lavender.

Although  no ghost has ever been seen, the staff at Newstead Abbey have dubbed this curious ghost, The Rose Lady. 

Those who have encountered the pleasant perfume say that it only occurs in a passageway that runs along the stairs.

People comment that it’s there one moment and gone the next.

The White Lady

During his time as a rock star poet, Byron did have a great many admirers with a few becoming personal friends. And one of those admirers would become the White Lady of Newstead Abbey.

When Byron left Newstead to look for adventure, he leased Newstead to an old school chum, Tom Wildman and his wife.

Mrs Wildman, learned of a young woman who lived in the nearby village who was basically a groupie of Byron’s. A girl named Sophie Hyatt.

Knowing of her great love for Byron, the Wildmans allowed Sophie to visit at her leisure and wander the grounds.

One day, Mrs. Wildman decided to let the young woman reside at the Abbey, so she dispatched a rider to the village to deliver the good news. Sadly that news would never reach her ears 

When the rider arrived he discovered that Sophie Hyatt was killed in a tragic accident, when she was struck down by a horse drawn cart.

Of course, the Wildmans were devastated by the news, but that did not stop Sophie from making her eternal home at the Abbey.

The apparition of a woman in a white dress, believed to be Sophie Hyatt, has been seen walking among the flowers of her beloved garden.

The area she is seen the most has come to be known as, White Lady Walk. And according to all who see her, her presence is very calming and almost peaceful.

The Black Friar

The image of a friar in a long, black hooded robe makes an occasional appearance on the grounds of Newstead Abbey.

One famous story concerns a doctor on his way to deliver a baby that encountered the ghostly servant of God.

While on his way to his patient’s house, the doctor found himself lost and as he passed Newstead, he asked for directions from a friar, or monk, standing on the property.

The doctor later learned that there hasn’t been a friar or monk seen on the property for centuries.

The Rooks

When Washington Irving, author of the Legend Of Sleepy Hollow visited Newstead Abbey, he learned of the property’s most mysterious legend.

Rooks are commonly seen at Newstead Abbey, and according to local lore, these birds are actually the souls of the monks that once lived at the priory.

They are said to fly freely every other day of the week, except for Sundays, which of course is in observance of the Lord’s day.

And although the rooks can be somewhat of a nuisance, the belief in this legend is so strong, not a single soul bothers these birds.

Lord Byron loved his ancestral home and once lamented, “Thro’ thy battlements, Newstead, the hollow winds whistle; though the hall of my father’s art gone to decay.”

Although Byron is long gone, and has never been seen at his beloved home, his name and work live on for all time at Newstead Abbey.

You can visit Newstead Abbey at Ravenshead, Nottingham NG15 8NA.

Have you had a strange experience at Newstead Abbey? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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