A Brief History of Newstead Abbey

The Poet Byron

Heralded by many as the greatest romantic poet of his time, Lord Byron lived at Newstead Abbey at various times from the autumn of 1808 to the autumn of 1814. Visitors may visit the Abbey to discover the Byron collection. The collection includes:

  • objects and furniture which belonged to the poet
  • letters written by Byron
  • manuscripts and portraits of Byron, his family and friends
  • the poet’s magnificent giltwood bed, which Byron brought with him from his student rooms in Cambridge when he moved into Newstead Abbey
  • Byron’s very own pistol and the desk at which he wrote much of his poetry

Visitors are also invited into the ‘Dressing Up Room’ to try on for size replicas of period dress or Lord Byron’s favourite clothes and be transformed into a romantic hero!

Medieval Newstead

The Abbey was founded as a monastic house in the late 12th century, and to this day the house retains much of its medieval character. The most famous survival is the iconic West Front of the church that dates from the late 13th century and is now a scheduled ancient monument. Inside the house the medieval cloisters, Chapter House (now the Chapel) and a collection of medieval stone carvings and manuscripts enable visitors to discover the Abbey’s early history.

Victorian Newstead

Lord Byron sold the Abbey in 1818 to Thomas Wildman, who had inherited a fortune from plantations owned by his family in Jamaica. It remained in his family until 1861 when it was purchased by William Frederick Webb, an African explorer. The Abbey contains many items that belonged to the families who lived in the house throughout the Victorian period. View the splendid Victorian room settings and see the furniture, paintings, letters, deeds and diaries of those who once lived there. Of particular interest are the Victorian photo albums showing the Abbey, its interiors and its gardens, as they were more than a century ago.

Newstead through the ages

The house also features a collection of items that span the centuries, from when Newstead Abbey first became a private house, right up to the present day. It includes paintings, objects, letters, maps and photographs associated with the estate, including a collection of the eighteenth century views of Newstead Abbey by artist Pieter Tillemans. Visitors can linger over displays and reading material in the Gothic Revival Library, or marvel at the expansive panelling in the Great Hall, all reputed to have come from a single oak tree.