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Mad, Bad, And Dangerous To Know

May 8, 2010

Or A Brief Introduction Newstead Abbey And The Byrons

The Priory of Newstead was founded by King Henry the Second in about 1170,Newstead 1890s 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 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.

newstead_abbey 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!

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 her lover, 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.




56 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandy permalink
    May 8, 2010 2:04 pm

    With a family tree like that one, no wonder Lord Byron the poet was described as Mad bad and dangerous to know – a good blog title, it seems to apply to the whole family!!

  2. Sandi permalink
    May 8, 2010 2:05 pm

    The title of this blog was actually a comment made by Lady Caroline Lamb about the poet, but after reading about Byron\’s forebears, thought that it was a fitting statement to describe the family in general.More about the 6th Baron to come soon…watch this space…

  3. Sandi permalink
    May 8, 2010 2:06 pm


  4. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 8, 2010 2:10 pm

    Cool, nice interesting read and it reminds me I\’ve left a story half way through on mine!

  5. ROCKET permalink
    May 8, 2010 4:15 pm

    Byron nearly drove me to be come mad, bad and dangerous to know in college.

  6. Maria permalink
    May 8, 2010 4:30 pm

    Lovely bit of History there Sandi..I really enjoyed reading this. To be honest I don\’t really know that much about Byron but remember reading one of his poems way back when in school..I think the title was \’Darkness\’ which I really enjoyed, though I couldn\’t quote it now.Nice to see you back and blogging..may prompt me to get my backside in gear and get something written down ;o)

  7. Sandi permalink
    May 8, 2010 4:32 pm

    How\’s that then…?

  8. Sandi permalink
    May 8, 2010 4:37 pm

    You write with your backside, Maria…?! How odd! LOL!\’Darkness…a ghastly vision of the last man at the end of the world: I had a dream, which was not all a dream. The bright sun was extinguished… and the icy earth Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air…\’ (Byron by Elizabeth Longford. 1976)

  9. Natalia permalink
    May 8, 2010 4:40 pm

    Fabulous Blog Sandi. I really enjoyed reading this. Interesting that the paternal traits were inherited by the son, who not only was became a poet of noteriaty but a lover also. Once again cracking blog. xx

  10. Sandi permalink
    May 8, 2010 4:51 pm

    Let\’s not forget his mother\’s emotional instability….more of which in the next blog.

  11. Sandi permalink
    May 8, 2010 4:52 pm

    The poor bugger didn\’t stand a chance, did he…!

  12. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 8, 2010 6:29 pm

    Not really 😦

  13. Sandi permalink
    May 8, 2010 7:15 pm

    Talk about dysfunctional families…he got it from both sides…! Poor old Geordie (as he was know as a child)If these people were alive today, I wonder what medications they would be on…what conditions would they be treated for? Before my thyroid problem was diagnosed, I was having wild mood swings, and bursting into tears for \’no reason\’, etc. It jus makes me wonder…

  14. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 8, 2010 9:20 pm

    Watched \’History Cold Cases\’ last week and they were constantly saying \’that was so painful\’ \’How on earth did they cope with/without\’ and commenting that the remedies available would have been of little real help – makes you think how lucky we really are.

  15. Arlene permalink
    May 8, 2010 9:58 pm

    Who couldn\’t read \’When we two are parted\’ ,when you get to the last verse…..If I should meet the, after long yeas, how shall I greet thee?_ in silence and tears, it is a moving poem and I think gives an insight into the man\’s tortured mind. but boy, was he handsome!\’Lovely blog Sandi, I did enjoy it, I do like his poetry.

  16. Curiosity permalink
    May 8, 2010 10:14 pm

    Having discovered in some depth my family history covering this period in time it seems a bit odd to be seeing the history made that they would have been somewhat aware off at the actual time. I wonder what the conversations were among them then of all the scandal and gossip!

  17. Arlene permalink
    May 8, 2010 10:31 pm

    Oh Annie, that would have been so interesting, there\’s nothing new under the sun though is there, look at to-day\’s world, the trouble is because we are gettng the scandal and gossip thrown at us 24 hours we\’ve become blase, how interesting it would be if it were REALLY hot news.

  18. Sandi permalink
    May 8, 2010 10:53 pm

    I watched History Cold Cases too, Sarah…it\’s fascinating. Someone commented, last week, that they were told that they had been born in the wrong century. I disagree. Today we have far more choices and freedoms…we have the brilliant technology that allows us to comunicate and share and have \’conversations\’ with people all around the globe, we have the choices to re-enact and re-create history for fun and education, we have science and medicine that can keep some of us \’sane\’ and cure things that were once thought to be incurable. There are so many reasons for us all being born in the right century…for that I am thankful. If we had been born two hundred years ago, that would be it…our lot, our burden, our…you get the picture! We wouldn\’t hear the \’latest\’news or gossip for days, weeks or even months after it had happened.Also, Anne and Arlene, with TV and film, as well as news and gossip, we\’ve become immune to the shocking and the bad, and tend to \’switch off\’ when so-called celebrities are behaving badly. So, I wonder what our ancestors would make of today\’s gossip…?

  19. Sandi permalink
    May 9, 2010 11:53 am

    If I had been alive two hundred years ago, I would probably be in a lunatic asylum by now…LOL!

  20. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 9, 2010 12:03 pm

    Think I\’d have been nurned for witchcraft……noooo…..that\’s three hundred isn\’t it? probably have been out on a battlefield somewhere being one of Commander\’s camp followers

  21. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 9, 2010 12:04 pm

    possibly even burned* at the stake and all that, still get \’nurned\’ on a regular basis these days :D!

  22. Arlene permalink
    May 9, 2010 12:17 pm

    I\’d just be one of the \’peasants\’ working my life away, not that there would be much of it, the only consolation was it was usually a short one, I\’m quite happy in to-day\’s society for a ll its faults and follys

  23. Curiosity permalink
    May 9, 2010 12:35 pm

    My thanks for this lifetime is that survival rates among us are much better, so we did not need to churn out so many children as the Victorian women seemed to. It was enough for me to enjoy two and the ensuing grandkids, blow having 12 plus to cope with!

  24. Sandi permalink
    May 9, 2010 12:54 pm

    Er…I recently found out that my Nanna was one of fifteen children!! Just think of all those great aunts and uncles that I knew nothing about!! (Apart from Great Aunt Nell, that is.)

  25. Curiosity permalink
    May 9, 2010 1:07 pm

    I have had so many unknown cousins etc come out the woodwork all stemming from Grandfathers in that era. Some I have stayed in touch with and others just dwindle away.Not found any really scandalous stories in my past ……….yet! but a few interesting ones.

  26. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 9, 2010 1:34 pm

    Mercifully avoided all that so far – I gather my paternal grandpa had something of a roving eye and a wife in every port so to speak so its something of a wonder! Have found there are still maternal relations living in Highland but felt it best to leave be after my in laws experience many many years ago with a cousin from America who virtually tried to move in – all this \’searching for long lost\’ this n\’ thats is unfair really. It\’s enough to know the family is out there somewhere thriving and surviving.

  27. Sandi permalink
    May 9, 2010 2:27 pm

    My brother was doing all the digging and delving into the family trees, I did a little, but lost interest…as I tend to after a while. I\’ll stick with general history and costume stuff…more my thing.

  28. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 9, 2010 3:11 pm

    My mother was the family excavator, I got my arm twisted into doing a lot of her legwork when it came to parish records and the like though. Quite a bit came to roost after she died but I didn\’t follow it up and my dad\’s lot seem quiet content to remain unaware of my existence – suits me just fine.

  29. Poppy permalink
    May 9, 2010 3:34 pm

    Very interesting blog Sandi 🙂 I am sure we would have tales to tell of our ancestors if we knew about them! I was told by my Gran that my Grandad (who I never knew) was the illegitimate son of a landowner or lord, I know the surname but have never had the time to investigate further! My grans family have gypsies in their family tree apparently (that explains a lot!!) and my Mums family all hail from Ireland…. 🙂

  30. Sandi permalink
    May 9, 2010 3:48 pm

    Most of my family are from Kent, London and North Wales (paternal grandfather, William Roberts, who my brother was named after)…the rest is all very run of the mill stuff…probably why I lost interest, perhaps?

  31. Sandi permalink
    May 11, 2010 11:19 am

    Photos have now been collected…I\’m happy and disappointed, as some of them have beautifully crisp focused backgrounds, but…well…need I go on…?!! 😦

  32. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 11, 2010 11:33 am

    Tis practice which makes perfect.Tis also why I prefer my digicam it is so handy and the memory cards let me take hundreds of shots so I am not worrying about wasting pics.

  33. Eileen permalink
    May 11, 2010 12:12 pm

    Such a shame Sandi.. I know how hopeful you were on being able to save them after the film snapped!

  34. Sandi permalink
    May 11, 2010 12:21 pm

    It is indeed practice…and as I haven\’t used the camera, properly, for years…I am definitely out of practice! One or two of the photos were exposed when I opened the camera, only to see the film had snapped, but the rest were put into two piles…good shots and fuzzy ones! We have a decent enough digital camera, which Robert used to get lots of photos and videos, but I wanted to play with my SLR. More playing needed!!

  35. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 11, 2010 1:59 pm

    Just seen the ones you posted – the ones that came out ok are great and what a fab day out – can\’t blame you for wanting to get into it! :-)xx

  36. Sandi permalink
    May 11, 2010 2:16 pm

    It\’s only £22 per annum to join the Napoleonic Association. Great! But there is also the cost of joining your chosen unit or group, and kitting yourself out with costume and period-correct accoutrements for daily living…oh, and a tent! Hmmm…!

  37. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 11, 2010 2:28 pm

    I recall that when we were off a viking it was the cost of the equipment which was crippling. Also had the cost of insuring and on some occassions permits for things like swords. Then there was the rigmarole of getting a black powder licence for the special effects and costs of transporting our ponies, in the end it all got too much with a growing brood and sadly I gave up.

  38. Sandi permalink
    May 11, 2010 3:38 pm

    I bet that was interesting, though a bit too rough and ready for my tastes…the Age of Elegance holds more attraction for me…plenty of \’Lydia Bennet\’ moments to be had…LOL!

  39. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 11, 2010 5:03 pm

    You would be surprised just how refined the vikings were – the pope\’s personal bodyguard were exclusively norse for the best part of a century.They were pretty discerning plunderers too.We also encountered some pretty unreasonable prejudice from the general public too. I recall being summoned to my daughter\’s school about her \’pathalogical lying\’ The teacher began by saying that the child was off her chump claiming anyone in our neck of the woods could possibly afford to own three horses. When I said that we did and worked damned hard to keep them in fact they worked too she looked stunned then redoubled her attack with \’ well this total fantasy about her dad being a viking needs addressed\’ I explained again and the headmaster jumped in at that point, no hint of apology to ask – \’can you do a fundraiser for the swimming pool?\’Likewise I found poor Thor\’s home work being slanted towards the bible, I queried it on parents evening to have the teacher burst into tears over the poor \’godless\’ little soul I pointed out that if she really was a committed christian then she surely should have known that Thorarrin Lawspeaker was the first viking to bring christianity back to the norselands!It was quite wearing for the kids in all honesty and that did play a small part in the choice to quit too.

  40. Sandi permalink
    May 11, 2010 8:39 pm

    I do know that the Vikings didn\’t just rape and pillage, but traded and farmed, too. Maybe you should do a few Viking blogs for the enlightenment of us lesser mortals…?

  41. Natalia permalink
    May 11, 2010 9:59 pm

    The mention of Vikings made me prick up my ears Sandi, I\’d be interested to read what Sarah would write on the subject. Was also amazed about the actions of the tutors she mentioned. Arrogance is the word that springs to mind and well done for countering this blinkered attitude.

  42. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 11, 2010 10:21 pm

    It\’s an idea Sandi, one I might follow up.It was many years ago Natalia – the then children are now 35 and 25 respectively, I would like to think re-enactment is more widely acknowledged nowadays and that teachers are more open minded.

  43. Sandi permalink
    May 11, 2010 10:55 pm

    Next time you are in WH Smiths or other newsagents, have a look at a magazine called Skirmish…it covers all areas of re-enacting. There is an article in this month\’s issue (pages 54-58) Cameras Rolling – Britannia\’s Experiences on two film sets in 2010….there is mention of The Vikings SocietyAlso…

  44. Sandi permalink
    May 11, 2010 10:57 pm

    I\’m glad that schools and education feature in a lot of the re-enactment soceties thingummies today.

  45. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 11, 2010 11:15 pm

    Fantastic site! Most of our gigs were by word of mouth and via radio publicity, what a difference the internet has made in raising awareness of such things.

  46. Sandi permalink
    May 12, 2010 12:15 am

    Re-enacting has never been so popular! Not only is the internet great in spreading the word, but re-enactors of all eras have their own magazine…Skirmish. Not only do I love the articles, but the advertisments are really interesting, too. There are also re-enactor\’s markets and fairs, where all kinds of items, clothing, uniforms, etc., are available.

  47. Ayrgael - permalink
    May 12, 2010 8:10 am

    My mum used to teach spinning and I have baked on flatstones to demonstrate old arts, the bakers and leather makers sold the goods they made and we had a rune reader – it all seems so long ago now though. Sadly like everything else it has sold out to the corporate machine apparently.One of things I loved about it at the time was that it was pretty random in those days (with the exception of BBC crowd scenes) It\’s nice that its gone \’large\’ so to speak but I\’m a bit sad about the shiny packaging in some ways, another bit of the wilderness become a cultivated garden. 😦

  48. Eileen permalink
    May 12, 2010 9:38 am

    Oh now Brian would be interested in the Viking bits… he even went to Iceland last year just to see proper viking texts having spent months trying to learn the basics of the launguage so he could understand some of it.

  49. Sandi permalink
    May 12, 2010 12:25 pm

    Here\’s another website that may be of interest have also had a go at spinning, with a wheel and drop-spindle…fiddly to start with, but once you get going is quite relaxing and theraputic.Adrian told me about a new Regency event that is starting up in Horncastle, near us, at the end of the month…I\’m trying to find out more about it. There will be a Regency Ball, and, supposedly, a Promenade and Fair, but so far I can find no info about them…it\’s all about the Ball…!

  50. Sandi permalink
    May 13, 2010 11:34 pm

    Blimey, it\’s nearly two weeks since we went to Newstead…and still haven\’t written a bog about it! Is it really worth it, now? I\’ve already posted the photos…!

  51. Sandi permalink
    May 15, 2010 10:35 am

    LMAO!! I guess I was right…about writing a \’bog\’…! As I haven\’t got my writing head on, anything I did write would be crap…!!!

  52. Sandi permalink
    May 15, 2010 1:24 pm

    O…K…! Time to play hunt the sissors…!! Found them! So, what\’s next…? Ah, yes… length of stays…ho hum…Oh, buggrit…time to put the kettle on again…!!

  53. Sandi permalink
    May 15, 2010 8:18 pm

    I might as well watch TV…no-one about…bored!

  54. Sandi permalink
    May 15, 2010 9:17 pm

    Or is Spaes keeping us all in solitary confinement again…?!

  55. Sandi permalink
    May 16, 2010 9:05 pm

    \’Spaes\’…talking rubbish again! Not that it matters, as I am talking to myself…as usual!!I meant \’Spaces\’!!

  56. Sandi permalink
    May 30, 2010 9:30 pm

    So much for writing a blog about our visit to Newstead Abbey…I guess there is no point doing so now, as everything has been covered here and on the Darkside. I just have not had my writing head on this month, but am trying to get on with the costumes, despite many distractions and interruptions…!Oh, well…onwards and upwards my friends…! 😉

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