The image of the silent ruins of the church at Newstead Abbey brings to mind how short life is. I think of George Gordon Lord Byron, his life lived vigorously, yet soon gone. His body lies in a small grave at Hucknall Church which stands on ground once owned partly by the Byron and partly by the Rolleston families.
One day Frances Rolleston visited Hucknall Church and had this to say afterwards:
"No one can venerate Sunday schools more than I do, but what I know of the tears and blows that now corrupt the institution, made me shrink from the hubbub that weekly invades Byron's sepulchre." She thought "hubbub" inappropriate for a gravesite.
Frances had already urged Colonel Wildman (owner of Newstead Abbey at that time) to bring Byron's coffin to the Mausoleum at Newstead, and after this visit to Hucknall Church, she was ready to urge him again.
Silence was a way of respecting the dead. Even knowing the soul was no longer present, this respect for the bodily remains continued. Much later in her life when a child she had a special relationship with died, Frances reported that she hardly ever passed his grave because "I have had an awfully materialistic feeling from the first, that my step would disturb him."
Frances Rolleston's own grave is very near little Lewie's. One hundred fifty-two years have passed since she was buried. She finished this life with complete faith that she would continue forever in the Lord's presence.
July 9, 1835
FR is installed at Watnall Cottage. She would like to have her London friend S____ come for a visit, but can't have the cruelty to ask her. Why? Because FR's living situation is just what Londoners hate.
Ivy and roses cover beautiful Watnall Cottage which stands surrounded by hawthorns in bloom. Ashes, hollies and hawthorns top a hill on which sheep graze. The gorse is in bloom and a stream chatters at the bottom of the hill. Opposite is a church with the distant hills of Matlock behind it. There's no neighbor within a mile and "draughts enough to blow you out of window, so fresh, so wild, so airy, so lonely, so every thing that I love and Londoners hate." It is all "So sweet, so soothing! but S___ would be miserable."
In the spring of 1835 FR left the London area to live among her relatives in Nottinghamshire. News of the day was that at nearby Newstead Abbey, a ghost known as the "black monk" had badly frightened a man-servant. (FR claimed later to have put that ghost to rest, but that's another story.) One other piece of news concerned some antiques.
Newstead Abbey, estate of the poet Lord Byron, at that time in the possession of Colonel Wildman, was founded originally not as an abbey but as a priory of Austin or Black Canons. For the uninitiated, whether an abbey or a priory is a matter of rank. Priories were subsidiaries of abbeys. The head of the priory—the prior or the prioress—was answerable to the abbot or abbess, whereas the head of an abbey—the abbot or abbess—was answerable to the Pope. That is, until Henry the Eighth broke with Rome.
Newstead dated from the 12th century, and so FR found it humorous when Colonel Wildman persuaded Mrs. Rolleston (FR's aunt) to let him have the old grates from Watnall Hall. Watnall Hall was less than 200 years old. How amusing that the old grates were "now among the precious 'antiques' of Newstead."