Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Ghosts and Legends of Newstead Abbey

A virtual bevy of ghosts’ haunt Newstead Abbey located in Nottinghamshire, England. 

The Abbey was first used as a priory in the 1700s for the canons of the Order of St. Augustine or as they were known the Black Canons

In 1440 Sir John Bryon acquired the property and turned it into a mansion. For 300 years the Byron Family lived at Newstead. According to an old superstition, people become cursed and have bad luck if a religious home is then used for a personal or private residence.

Several generations of the Byron Family who lived at Newstead did experience bad luck and declining fortunes. 

By the time the last Lord Byron, the famous Romantic poet, lived at Newstead Abbey it was in bad shape. When he inherited the estate, his mother was too poor to live on the property and his father who was known as “Devil Byron” was forced to live in the mansion’s scullery--it being the only room in the home that had a roof that didn’t leak.

In 1818 Lord Byron sold the property to a friend, Thomas Wildman. The curse continued because the Wildman family experienced bad luck while living at Newstead. 

Several more families that owned the property after this were also plagued by bad luck. Besides the curse, it appears Newstead is haunted as well.

One of the ghosts seen on the grounds over the years is the “White Lady.” It is stated that this lady, Sophia Hyett was a fan of Byron’s poetry and that she lived nearby the Abbey. When the Wildmans’ discovered this, they gave her permission to roam their gardens whenever she liked. 

She is called the White Lady because she is always seen wearing a white dress. While alive, Sophia was timid. When strangers approached her, she would dive into nearby bushes. Her ghost is seen in Newstead’s expansive gardens--witnesses have reported that they have heard her sigh and state, “ Alas, my Lord Byran.” 

Newstead Abbey’s most talked about ghost is that of a tall, dark monk called the “Goblin Friar.” This spirit is considered a harbinger. It would only appear to heads of the Byron family just before something terrible or unhappy happened. 

This ghost appeared to Lord Byron the poet just before he married Anne Milbanke. This marriage was a disaster that lasted for only one year. Lord Byron wrote about his encounter with the Goblin Friar in a poem he wrote entitled, Don Juan.

Byron spotted yet another ghost in one of the Abbey’s bedchambers. He was sleeping in a room called the Rook Cell when he was startled out of a sound sleep by the sensation that something had entered the bed with him. 

As he sat up, he spotted a featureless, dark mass that had glowing red eyes. He watched as this form rolled off his bed and disappeared as it hit the floor. 

Yet on another occasion he saw a mysterious white vapor rising from the floor, which vanished without a trace.

Byron’s pet dog, a Newfoundland by the name of Boatswain also haunts Newstead. One of Lord Byron’s last wishes was to be buried with his beloved pet near the altar in the Abbey. 

Boatswain was buried there, but when Byron died in 1824, his last wish was ignored because he was not buried in the Abbey. It is stated that Boatswain’s ghost is seen wandering the property because he is looking for his master.

Another ghost is seen at the Abbey is called the “Rose Lady.” This entity is seen in a passageway located at the bottom of the staircase. 

When the Rose Lady appears she is always accompanied by the scent of roses or lavender that lingers after she disappears. 

One notable appearance she made in more recent years was in front of a group of people touring Newstead. The staff felt she made this appearance as a form of protest. The guides had not included her story in the tour--after she appeared they started to include her. Since she has not been seen as often.

The ghost of the second Lord John Byron who lived at Newstead in the mid 17th century was also seen, but just for a period of six months after his death. He died several hours after his wife died. 

Servants at the Abbey would see him sitting in his favorite chair by the fire in the Library smoking his pipe and reading a book. These servants then refused to enter this room for years afterward.

One legend connected to Newstead is about the rooks--cousins to the American crow-- that stay on the property. It is stated that these birds contain the souls of the Black Monks that once lived at the Abbey. 

The American author Washington Irving observed this phenomenon while staying at Newstead. 

He saw these rooks all leaving in the morning to search for food--he then saw them return in the evenings, en mass. These birds did this Monday-Saturday, but he was told that on Sundays they never left Newstead’s grounds. 

Irving didn’t believe this until he saw it with his own eyes. The belief that these rooks are the former monks is so strong that the hunting and shooting of them is strictly prohibited.

*  Lord Byron was an eccentric who held contempt for most women. But women loved his poems, so they overlooked this fact. It didn’t hurt that despite his clubfoot he was considered to be a very handsome man. During his life, he was involved in several high profile love affairs.

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