This is a distrustful age. That being said, most of us want to think the best of our fellow humans – even think the best of the officials we have elected to act on our behalf. I’ve never been overly eager to jump onto the latest conspiracy theory, no matter how close to home it comes. Still . . .

Yesterday I posted a poem I had written back in 2000, prompted by a proposal to mine for coal under Newstead Abbey. Geologists speculated that the soil under the Abbey might slump an inch or two due to the drilling – and of course there would be a certain amount of vibration. Nothing to worry about if this were a modern building we were talking but Newstead was built in 1170 before re-bar! And what if the soil subsided more than the estimate? What if there were a catastrophic cave-in? There would be no saving Newstead once it was reduced to a pile of rubble. Byronists world-wide rose up to defeat the scheme – and we succeeded. Then.

But the coal seams are still there, snaking under the heart of England. Coal from the Midlands fueled the Industrial Revolution. (The Byrons owned extensive mines in their Barony of Rochdale but the poet sold them off when they became unproductive. The Rochdale mines are once again producing quality coal, used in part for power generation.) The Midlands is still rich in coal that wasn’t accessible during Victorian times but with modern methods could be exploited. Presently the Midlands (including Nottinghamshire) is going through a deep recession – something that wasn’t the case back in 2000. The economy has done its own caving-in since we Byronists stopped the mining proposal a dozen years ago. Unemployment has sky-rocketed. Needless to say, there would be a huge financial incentive to expand coal mining in the area. Including under Newstead Abbey. Enter, the conspiracy theory.

This isn’t my theory. It was suggested to me yesterday when I was talking about my blog post to a friend – but when she voiced it my blood ran cold. She wondered if it were possible that the City of Nottingham might once again be positioning to sell the rights to mine under the Abbey – that behind the scenes they were deliberately running the Abbey into the ground so that when they proposed the scheme this time there would be less opposition, considering the relative value of a building already falling apart and of little commercial value balanced against the greater good of jump-starting the moribund economy of the region. Oh my God, I thought, that may indeed be what they are doing! What utter fools they must take us for if this is the case. I pray it isn’t, but we’ve seen governments all over the world pull some pretty dirty tricks lately and by the time we call them on it, it is often to late to set things right. I’m sick to my stomach thinking that Byron’s apocalyptic poem “Darkness” (upon which my poem was based) was prophetic of what is destined to befall Newstead Abbey.

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