Newstead Abbey is the ancestral home to one of England’s most famous, accomplished and notorious libertines and poets, Lord Byron. He was once described by one of his many love interests, Lady Caroline Lamb, herself no paragon of self restraint or propriety, as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. His publisher and biographer burned his memoirs rather than publishing them as they were simply too wild and debauched for the times, and both felt that these writings would turn the public against him and so harm his legacy as a poet.
The occupants and owners of the abbey that came before Lord Byron were not much better, if not worse. A more depraved bunch of liars, thieves, murderers and cutthroats you could not ask for, and since it was the 1700s and these scoundrels were all aristocrats-they did what they did with complete and utter impunity.
Newstead Abbey started its life out in the 1100s being exactly what the name implies, an Augustinian Priory up until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry the VIII between 1536 and 1531. Legend has it that Henry the II had the monastery built in 1170 as an atonement for his having Thomas A Becket murdered due to their disagreements over the power of the Church versus the State. Even the genesis of this building is steeped in blood, injustice and political intrigue, long before the notorious shenanigans of its later Enlightenment and Regency inhabitants.
There are many stories of supernatural activity at Newstead, and its most famous inhabitant and owner, Lord Byron the poet, saw this as a welcome addition to his already prolific imagination. Many passages in both Don Juan and Childe Harold were inspired by his encounters with the paranormal. He told of a dark and shapeless mass, with two fiery eyes like burning coals, that would sometimes share his bed with him, lingering and watching him with who knows what malevolent intentions, only to dissipate into the floor after a while.
There were also stories of the “Black Friar”. He was a monk, angry at having his monastery converted from a place where God’s most elevated work was done into a playground for these idle, amoral and Godless aristocrats. His presence was always a harbinger of some calamitous event about to befall the current inhabitant, who he regarded as a blaspheming, unwelcome intruder upon what was once a holy and sacred place. Unexpected deaths, financial ruin, suicides, even bad marriages all seemed to follow his appearances.
Then there is the “Lady in White”, Lord Byron’s version of our modern day celebrity stalker. Supposedly she was a next door neighbor, pathologically shy, obsessed with Lord Byron, who a later inhabitant of the manor allowed to wander the grounds at will to so as to satisfy her desire to be close to the now deceased poet. If by chance she was to encounter other people on a walk through the grounds she would hide in the nearby shrubbery, timorous and cowering like a rat trapped by some intractable Terrier. She can be heard to softly moan as she goes about her ghostly travels and wallows in the deep despair that only a phantom could know: “Lord Byron speak to me! Speak to me Lord Byron!”
It’s hard to say how much of the dark, macabre and Gothic ambiance of this place springs from its most notorious inhabitant, who, after all was a very dark, morbid and Gothically inclined fellow. But it has played host to and witnessed some very strange goings on and had its share of death, injustice, murder and insanity. All grist for the mill of a good ghost story!
Check out Haunted Finders’ Youtube video below for more horrifying details.