Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire

I do love a good English day trip, and I’ve been lucky to explore a bit more of the English county of Nottinghamshire recently because one of my friends moved there. In my previous post, I visited Southwell with her, and on this winter visit we headed to Newstead Abbey.

Arriving at the Abbey

The History

Newstead Abbey was founded in about 1170, by Henry II in penance for the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral – an event which shocked the country and shaped Henry II’s actions for the rest of his life.

The priory was designed to be home to at least 13 monks, although there appear to have been only 12 at the time the Abbey was shut down. Despite being so small, it couldn’t escape Henry VIII and his blinking dissolutions. I think every other article I publish about England includes this man’s maniacal destructions – see Mottisfont, Shaftesbury, Lacock, Whitby, Rievaulx, Fountain’s and St Augustine’s – to name but a tiny few of the c.800 religious buildings he killed off across the country.

Henry VIII granted the house to Sir John Byron in 1540,and it remained in the Byron family until 1815. The Byrons are a famous family, and perhaps the Estate could have remained with them for longer if the 5th Baron hadn’t squandered his wealth and ended up stripping the Abbey of all its treasures to pay off his debts. After his death, the Abbey passed to the most famous of them all – George Byron, or the Lord Byron, famous for his poetry. His assessment of the situation when he arrived was indeed poetic, and rather dramatic.

Thro’ thy battlements, Newstead, the hollow winds whistle;
Thou, the hall of my fathers, art gone to decay.

The formal gardens

He didn’t turn out to be wrong though – unable to keep up the house he was forced to sell it in 1818 to Thomas Wildman, a school friend of Byron’s, whose wealth came from a plantation in Jamaica. The restoration you see today is off the profits of slavery. I’m pleased the Abbey recognised this in its exhibitions, and whilst we can’t change history, I’m glad they faced in to it.

Finally in this long and interesting history, The Webb family took over the house in 1861. Mr Webb was an African explorer, and people such as Livingstone, Wainwright and Susi all visited. His daughters also travelled, and particularly loved Japan – you can find Japanese touches all over the house in tribute. After the family died, the Abbey was given to the Nottingham Corporation in 1931.

One of the Japanese rooms

What to see

Be sure to start your visit inside the house, where you can explore inside the incredible Abbey, including the Great Room, Library, Study and Bedrooms. You can also enter the ex-Abbey cloisters and chapel which are very special.

In the cloisters

The Gardens at Newstead are also amazing, with lots to explore. There are formal gardens, woodland area, and my favourite – the Japanese Gardens. Ethel Webb (above mentioned daughter who went to Japan) had no children because she was too busy travelling (oh you 1800s pioneering woman) and dedicated her life to bringing Japan back to England. She was president of the horticultural society for years and the Japanese Garden at Newstead was her passion and her legacy. I loved it.

The stunning walled gardens

There’s also a lake to walk around, some lovely cottages to find and a tea room serving some tasty treats. All in all, we spent 4 hours visiting the Abbey.

How to get there

It’s easiest to get to Newstead with a car, being 30 minutes from the centre of Nottingham. It’s also do-able as a day trip from nearby cities including Derby (30 mins), Sheffield (50 mins) and Lincoln (1 hour). You could also visit as a day trip from the Peak District, being around 35 minutes from Matlock.

If you don’t have a car, the easiest way to get there is by taking a train in to Nottingham or Mansfield and taking a taxi, although this will be much more expensive than driving and I think there are easier day trips in England without a car.

Overall, I found Newstead Abbey a beautiful place to visit and really enjoyed it. The history was interesting and the grounds beautiful. What do you think? Would you want to visit? Thanks for reading – stay safe and happy travelling!


  1. Wow! I would say “magnificent”, yet even that word is an understatement in describing the depth of beauty found in this historical, architectural Abbey masterpiece!! Such wonderful sights you share, Hannah ~ TY πŸ™‚

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  2. Newstead Abbey looks amazing, Hannah. From the beautiful architecture and decor to the rich history. Ethel was definitely a woman ahead of her time! Yes, Mike and I would love to visit there. I think we would also like Nottingham – the name itself sounds intriguing.

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    1. Hehe yes the name itself does sound interesting – though I think you guys would say it ‘notting-ham’, whereas in the UK we say ‘notting-um’ to pronounce it. I also loved Ethel and wish I could have met her, I’m sure she was very interesting and full of life. Thanks as always for following along and have a great weekend πŸ™‚

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  3. Gorgeous! Never heard of Newstead Abbey, but with its rich history surrounding its religious beginnings and Lord Byron afterwards, it definitely looks to be a worthwhile place to visit. The library looks so regal and despite its not-so-great slave history during the restoration process, it’s good Newstead Abbey recognizes it…overall, a great little trip outside of Nottingham!

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    1. It was a really nice day trip which definitely overdelivered on my expectation. There’s always so much to find on the doorstep isn’t there. Thanks for taking the time to comment Rebecca, and have a wonderful weekend

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was glad too, it’s a step in the right direction. Ahh I’m so glad as I learn so much American history from your posts too – it’s fascinating learning about other countries and cultures. Unfortunately for England it’s largely huge monstrous buildings built off profits of slavery and empire, or maniacal kings destroying everything and everyone!!!

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  4. What a fantastic place, Hannah! You guys have some of the most beautiful Historic Houses! I love how some of them look similar to a rabbit warren, with corridor after corridor leading through a bewildering succession of rooms, most filled with memorabilia. The gardens must be spectacular during the summer month, and I can only imagine how beautiful Newstead Abbey looks at Christmas time. Thanks for sharing and have a good day πŸ™‚ Aiva xx

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  5. This place is wonderful. I like the story of Ethel Webb, who did not follow suit and chose a different life for herself. What a sad ending for the Byron family, the poor state of the house summed up so well by Lord Byron. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Glad to hear that they faced up to the origins of the fabulous wealth that went into the restoration of such a lavish estate. It’s a step in the right direction.

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    1. I loved Ethel, I decided I’d quite like to be her friend, I’m sure it would be fun. I also liked Byron’s words, they were very fitting. I agree as well it’s a ste p in the right direction acknowledging the funding of the rebuild came from slavery and I hope more places start to do so. Thanks for reading Leighton, have a great weekend πŸ™‚

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  6. What a beautiful place with such an interesting history. Living there would bring out the poetry in anyone- but to claim the poetry of Lord Byron is pretty impressive. Loved following along with you to this abbey today πŸ™‚

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  7. It’s true that throughout your articles some names seem to come back quite often – I guess that’s how you can recognise a β€œruler” that truly impacted the country (in good or in bad)! This places looks beautiful and really has an interesting history. It’s great that they acknowledge that it was built β€œβ€β€thanks to””” slavery. As you say, you can’t change the past, but not trying to hide it is already a step forward!

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  8. You know you have the most beautiful old buildings, don’t you Hannah? Newstead Abbey is beautiful (I especially love the garden with colourful flowers – even in winter time). And a big thumbs up to Ethel Webb πŸ˜‰. There is just so much history in these old buildings, thanks for sharing.

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    1. We are just so lucky here in England to have so many old and beautiful buildings. And we love Ethel Webb for sure πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading Corna, hope recovery is still going well for Berto x


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