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Mad, Bad, And Dangerous To Know

October 27, 2010

8/05/2010 13:30:28

Or A Brief Introduction Newstead Abbey And The Byrons

The Priory of Newstead was founded by King Henry the Second in about 1170, and remained thus until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry the Eighth in 1539.  The following year it was sold for £800 to Sir John Byron.

During the 17th century, King Charles the First bestowed the title of Baron upon

Newstead Abbey

another John, and when he died, the title went to his brother Richard, who became the 2nd Baron.

The fortunes of the Byrons were constantly fluctuating, with money troubles and debt, but most of them distinguished themselves in one way or another.  The 2nd Baron was Governor of Appleby Castle in Newark, and the 4th Lord Byron was Gentleman of the Bedchamber to George, Prince of Denmark and was the poet’s great grandfather.

The 5th Lord Byron was a colourful character, and was known locally as the ‘Wicked Lord’.  He had a violent temper, and always carried pistols in his belt.  His poor wife fled from Newstead and was immediately replaced by a servant girl who the villagers called ‘Lady Betty’.

When his son made a marriage that he disapproved of, he set about destroying his inheritance, only for his son to die before him!

Newstead Abbey

In 1765 he got into an argument with his neighbour Mr Chaworth over poachers and game, which turned nasty.  They ended up fighting a duel, but Mr Chaworth was killed and Byron was tried by his peers at Westminster Hall, and acquitted.  He died at Newstead in 1798.

Meanwhile, the 5th
Lord’s brother, John, became a naval officer, eventually becoming a Vice
Admiral, and later being appointed Governor of Newfoundland.  He died in
1786.

The Admiral had two sons.  The elder, John, was a wild young man whose violent character and soaring debts earned him the nickname ‘Mad Jack’.  He was a gay and dashing Guardsman who returning to London at the age of 20, fell in love with the Marchioness of Carmarthen, an heiress of £4,000 a year.  She fled with herlover, and when her husband divorced her, married him.  They fled to France, where she gave birth to a daughter, Augusta.

After his wife died in 1784, Byron returned to search for another heiress.  He met Miss Catherine Gordon of Gight in Bath, an orphan and the possessor of a fortune of £23,000.  They were married in Bath, but by 1788 Mad Jack had ruined his wife by his extravagnce, and left her to face her confinement alone.  She gave birth to
a son, George Gordon Byron, on 22 January 1788.  He was destined to become one
of England’s greatest romantic poets, whose short life ended at the age of 36 in
1824.

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