Seldom can such an epitaph have been written to a faithful friend. Byron was no ordinary poet though and nor seemingly was his loyal, Boatswain an ordinary pet in his eyes and heart.
‘Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.’
When Byron wrote his moving words in 1808, he had deep financial problems. His beloved Newfoundland dog, Boatswain, had died after being bitten by a rabid dog in nearby Mansfield Market Place. The poet concluded to a friend that he had now lost most everything.
Despite his acute pecuniary problems, Byron was driven to demonstrate his love and affection for his dog by commissioning an impressive marble monument at the poet’s ancestral home, Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire.
Boatswain was buried in an elaborate tomb, which was indeed larger and more impressive than that erected for Byron himself in St Mary Magdalene’s Church at Hucknall, after his passing in Missolonghi in Greece in 1824.
I have many times, when wandering and dreaming through dear Newstead’s remains, admired this monument and its fine and devoted words, many of which were faded over the years. I am very happy to read today of its refurbishment.
Dedicated to the memory of my late friend, Alistair Tait. The kindest and warmest dog lover it was my great pleasure to know.
Southwell is my favourite town in the county of Nottinghamshire by some distance. It has many places of interest and charm in its beautiful aspect and storied and historic environs.
The Minster dwarfs the centre and is barely commensurate with the reasonably modest acreage of Southwell. It is impressive, notable and loved.
The first time I recall visiting this impressive structure was as a child in school when it was a firm favourite for school educational visits. I recall being instructed to take brass rubbings and playing the game of trying to find where all the ‘church mice were. The interior has a number of ‘mice’ carved into and secreted about the building. In those days the West entrance shown to the left of the image above was most often used and is, as I understand, the oldest part of a building which was constructed in stages as so many older churches were.
Another story I find interesting regarding Southwell Minster is of its ‘Eagle Lectern’ which apparently at the time of Cromwellian distaste for Catholic tradition and imagery was disposed of unceremoniously. It was later discovered in a lake at Newstead Abbey, romantic poet Lord Byron’s stately home situated some miles away. The lectern was lovingly restored and stands proudly in the Minster.
I have visited numerous times over the years and grand though the building might be there is always a friendly and helpful welcome. There is no admission pay but you are kindly asked to make a small contribution by way of a donation.
LIKE EVERYWHERE ELSE, Nottinghamshire has had it’s share of snow so far this Winter though as is usual, generally less than most. I find the snow freshens the landscapes and really enjoy the rarer opportunities these days to get out and enjoy a bracing walk with a little crisp snow underneath my boots.
The pictures here were taken on just such a pleasant Sunday morning walk just before Christmas. My friends and I parked up at nearby Papplewick village and headed along the bridleway into Newstead Abbey where we took morning coffee before retracing our path back to the pretty village.
I always find the site of Newstead Abbey a somewhat inspiring one at any time. I’ve written here before of my great affection for it, which travels back several decades, for the this historic place. This day was an opportunity to see it’s grandeur draped in a fresh coating of thin white snow. The Romantic poet, Lord Byron’s ancestral pile in its Winter clothing.
The courtyard and its cafe is always of appeal but particularly so on a cold wintry morning where a mug of steaming hot coffee could be viewed as one of life’s great, yet simple pleasures.
Looking over towards the lake, the early signs of it freezing over were visible. A light drifting of snow had skimmed and settled across it’s thin crusty surface.
Watery sun shone down on us on the eve of the shortest day of the year, glinting off the grassy meadows outside the Abbey. There were few there to enjoy the sights and sounds of Newstead Abbey in this cold December Sunday morning.
It was a time of year when many things need to be done, the important late Christmas shopping to be concluded and food and drink to be brought into the home in preparance for the soon-to-be festivities. For all that, I’m happy that I found the time to visit one of my favourite places in it’s different guise. The coffee was good too.
I do quite a lot of walking in my locality here in Nottinghamshire. I’m fortunate in that living in a suburb to the north of the city, the countryside is easily accessible to me. To the north of where I live much of that countryside is covered by several old woodlands, doubtless remnants in many cases of the original Sherwood Forest. These number the remaining few hundred acres of Sherwood Forest itself, Sherwood Pines. Clipstone Woods. Bestwood and others. They’re all lovely places to visit. Much nearer than most of them however, practically ‘on my doorstep’ at just five miles of so up the road stands the wonderful Newstead Abbey with it’s main drive heading through it’s stately gates on the A60 Nottingham to Mansfield Road at Ravenshead.
Whenever I pass through the Abbey’s grounds these days my thoughts invariably go back to Sunday visits as a youngster with my family. We all have our bouts of rose-tinted recall but my memories only stretch as far as the sunny days we invariably spent there in the environs of Lord Byron’s ancestral pile. After gaining the bus up the ‘Ramper’ as it used to be termed along the A60 main road travelling to Mansfield, the single-decker Trent bus would take a detour along the long main drive and up to Newstead Abbey lakeside and drop us among the throng enjoying a day out.
Continue reading “Young Days at Newstead Abbey”
The First of May.
Is this day one of the nicest on the calendar? Spring is rushing in after a long dark winter. Birds are happily singing everywhere, trees have that beautiful and fresh translucent green in their leaves that is seen at no other time of year. Everywhere is finally becoming active, people remember their smiles and thank their blessings all over again. We emerge into Springtime once more.
My First of May this year was partly spent with a friend walking from the local village of Papplewick through the graceful and historic Newstead Abbey, ancestral home of romantic poet, Lord Byron. Vividly coloured peacocks fought for scraps, visitors sipped tea lazily and appreciatively whilst all was well with the world for those precious moments. Water burbled and gurgled over stepping stones whilst a moorhen sat pacified mid-stream. Canada Geese took the sun on the finely-clipped grass.
Continue reading “The First of May”