Newstead Abbey – A Tirade on Betrayal of Trust

“Huge halls, long galleries, spacious chambers, join’d by no quite lawful marriage of the arts, might shock a connoisseur; but when combined form’d a whole which, irregular in parts, yet left a grand impression on the mind, at least of those whose eyes are in their hearts . . . (From Lord Byron’s Don Juan – he was clearly speaking of Newstead Abbey, ancestral seat of the Byron family.)

Where is Robin Hood when you need him? If ever we could use a champion of the underdog to go toe-to-toe and head-to-head with the Sheriff of Nottingham it is now. Oh wait, make that the City of Nottingham – because the City of Nottingham is the villain of this piece. For the city has betrayed its sacred duty of stewardship where it comes to Newstead Abbey, all but abandoning it to the ravages of weather and the plunder of unscrupulous thieves. Though this priceless treasure has survived nearly a millennium it may not survive its present owner’s indifference and neglect.

The powers-that-be in Nottingham will plead the dismal economy – not enough copper in the coffers to do a proper job of managing the property. Okay sure,(they may say) Newstead was given to the city with the understanding that it be preserved and cared for in keeping with its value to all humanity as an irreplaceable historic site – but hey, that was that was then, this is now. This is business – it’s not personal. Ah yes, those fighting words: “It’s not personal”. But to those of us who love Newstead (and I don’t use that word lightly) there is nothing more personal than what is happening at Newstead. It is an arrow to the heart.

“That’s a bit over the top, Sallie,” you may say. Could be – but this is my tirade and my blog and I reserve the right to let my passion speak. A friend once commented, “Don’t get Sallie going on the topic of Newstead Abbey, we’ll be here all night!” I concede that on this subject I am a fanatic in the best sense of the word. And right now I’m livid with outrage.

Let me share with you a recent email from Ken Purslow of the Newstead Abbey Byron Society in England (with his permission):

“The City Council unashamedly said their priority is indeed Wollaton Hall and Nottingham Castle. Newstead Abbey is not within the City boundaries and that is exactly why they neglect Newstead in favour of the other two. When money is ‘tight’ they prioritize the budget – Newstead and Leisure being the big time losers.

The City has never been proactive in marketing the Abbey. As I said to them on one occasion “If you take all your goods out of the shop window, you will have no customers and nothing to sell” In my Society (NABS) I have four Ladies all of whom worked at Newstead as guides, one of them for nineteen years. They were all made redundant at the start of the summer last year. They are also part of a group calling themselves M.O.N.K.S. Members of Newstead Kindred Spirits.(All former guides to the Abbey) Like us they meet regularly, we are fortunate to have them; they keep me in touch with the latest developments.

In my archive file I have found some photographs taken last year after the lead down pipes had been stolen from outside the Abbey, you will see the plastic pipes they have put in their place to catch the water. Others have just been left. I will send them separately to this email – try not to fall in your coffee when you see them!”

I viewed the photos Ken sent me and they broke my heart. Certainly there are so many things that legitimately inspire outrage in the world today – war, terrorism, poverty, the destruction of the environment yet (if we are to retain a shred of humanity) somewhere near the top of the list had better be outrage when something of priceless beauty is trampled in the dust as not worth our time or money.

(More to come after I’ve taken a few deep breaths . . .)

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