Essay on The Current Interpretations of Newstead

Essay on The Current Interpretations of Newstead

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The Current Interpretations of Newstead

Newstead Abbey has an extensive and diverse history, dating back to
the 12th Century when it was built as a priory for Augustinian monks.
Over the last nine hundred years, Newstead has been the possession of
several different families, home to the famous poet Lord Byron, and
most recently a tourist attraction. The house is presented, as it
would have looked like in 1871, when the Webb family was residing
there. The Webb family lived in the house for seventy years, after
which it was donated to Nottinghamshire County Council and was opened
to the public. Consequently the house has retained its Victorian
heritage and gives tourists today an interesting insight into the
lives of a wealthy, upper class Victorian family.

To a certain extent current interpretations of Newstead Abbey
accurately portrays what it may have been like in 1871 for the Webb
family. Although the house has a strong Byronic influence, we know
from Augusta’s book, Livingstone and Newstead, that Emilia Webb and
her husband William had an interest in the poet, Augusta writes, “one
of his [William Webb‘s] chief aims was to increase both the Byronic
and historic interest of the place.” Emilia Webb encouraged visitors
to view the assortment of artefacts and curios associated with Byron,
that she had collected, prompting her daughter to write, “[she] seemed
much less mistress in her own house than caretaker for Byron’s. It is
chiefly owing to Mrs Webb’s care on her first arrival at Newstead that
every relic connected with Byron has been so religiously preserved.
She regarded this as an obligation and a duty to the poet’s admirers.”

... middle of paper ...

... gone
into the decoration and furnishing of each room. The house was kept in
the Webb family before it was donated to the Nottinghamshire County
Council, meaning that a lot of the furniture and decoration was
preserved from when the first generation of Webbs lived there. However
in conclusion I think the image of Newstead is to some extent
inaccurate of how it may have been in 1871. The Byronic significance
of the house is too heavily promoted, in 1871 Byron had not lived in
the house for over fifty years, and the role of the servants, and the
children, is neglected for commercial reasons. Also the ghost evenings
are not part of the Victorian heritage, and are simply used for
attracting visitors. Heritage tourism plays too big a role for
Newstead Abbey ever to be considered an accurate reflection of
Victorian life.

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