Past Events

*Postponed* Bedford Square, Newstead Abbey and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Research Lunch, Walking Tour – Simon Brown

  • 24 June 2022
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
  • This event is part of the Bedford Square Walking Tours, Research Lunch series.
  • Paul Mellon Centre

*This tour has been postponed and will no longer take place on 24 June.*

Newstead Abbey is a stunning historic house in the heart of Sherwood Forest, just outside Nottingham. The house is known worldwide as the ancestral home of Lord Byron, the remarkable nineteenth-century poet, traveller and political figure.

Newstead was founded in the twelfth century as an Augustinian priory, remaining a working religious house until the sixteenth century, when Henry VIII seized all such houses in England. The house and surrounding lands were granted to Sir John Byron in 1540, beginning nearly three hundred years of occupation by the Byron family.

It was the hugely significant figure of George Gordon, the 6th Lord Byron, who sold Newstead to his school friend Thomas Wildman in 1818. After serving as Wildman’s home for forty years, the house was owned by the Webb family until it came into the ownership of the City of Nottingham in 1931.

Thomas Wildman’s father, also Thomas, amassed a huge fortune from his ownership of the Quebec sugar plantation in Jamaica. This entire fortune was inherited by the younger Thomas on his father’s death. Close to £200,000 of it was invested in the purchase and refurbishment of Newstead Abbey.

The Wildman family had lived at Bedford Square for the ten years prior to Thomas senior’s death in 1795. It had only recently been completed, and was a sought-after location for families of their social standing in London.

This clear connection between Newstead and the transatlantic slave trade had never had a presence in the house’s permanent interpretation until relatively recently. A collaborative project with the University of Nottingham and communities in Nottingham has produced a film reflecting on this history, on permanent display in the house.

This has in turn informed further work exploring new perspectives, and new ways of interpreting these connections. A recent project to co-produce new interpretation of the Black history of the house has brought new creative responses in a huge variety of media.

Image Caption: Black Newstead, Newstead Abbey, Courtesy of Simon Brown

About the speaker

  • Head and upper body of Simon Brown

    Simon Brown is curator of Newstead Abbey, the ancestral home of Lord Byron in the heart of Sherwood Forest. Newstead is part of Nottingham City Museums and Galleries (NCMG). His post is part-time; alongside this he is also the co-manager of Erewash Museum in Derbyshire.

    Simon’s background is in social history, and he has worked across a variety of museums in the East Midlands, including Nottingham Castle, the National Justice Museum, Wollaton Hall, the National Civil War Centre and Nottingham Contemporary. He is a former curator of social history and world cultures at NCMG, and has worked in their schools and public engagement programmes.

    Simon is also vice-president of the Museums Association, the UK membership organisation for museum professionals. The MA campaigns for socially engaged museums and a representative workforce, advocating for and supporting museums and everyone who works in and with them. Simon was elected to the board in 2017, and has served as vice-president since 2021.