Nottinghamshire is probably best known as the home of the poet Byron
who lived there from 1808 to 1814. It was originally an
Augustinian priory, founded in around 1163 by Henry II, reputedly in
penance after the death of Thomas Beckett.
Hepplewhite chairs in Byron's dining room.
nearly 400 years the abbey was home to a religious community and there
are still very many traces of the original building to be found. One of
the main remaining parts of the Abbey is the garth and its surrounding
cloister. The garth is currently planted as a "Mary Garden". The
Augustinians were dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus, and a Mary garden
contains plants with names connected to the bible story.
The Mary Garden
priory was taken over by the Byron family in 1540 when Henry VIII
granted to Sir John Byron of Colwick during the Dissolution of the
Monasteries. It stayed in their hands for almost 300 years until the
5th Lord Byron hit money problems and much of the estate and its
contents were sold to solve them. It wasn't enough, however, and George
Byron (aged just 10) inherited a wreck in 1798 and little money to
repair it with.
In spite of his efforts he was forced to sell the house in 1818 and it was bought by his friend Thomas Wildman, whose family owned large plantations in Jamaica. He invested much of the family fortune in the house, choosing to keep its medieval character. After his death the house was bought by William Frederick Webb, a friend of the Victorian explorer David Livingstone. It then passed through several members of Webb's family before being sold to philanthropist Sir Julien Cahn, who gave it to Nottingham Corporation in 1931.