< Previous | Contents | Next >


The intimate associations which existed between Hucknall, Newstead and the Byrons for centuries demand a sketch of the more notable members of that distinguished family in these pages.

The first Byrons who set foot on English soil were fighters, and the family poet thus refers to their endowment by the Conqueror:— "a sort of doomsday scroll, Such as the Conqueror William did repay His knights with, lotting others' properties Into some sixty thousand new knights' fees. I can't complain, whose ancestors are there, Erneis, Radulphus—eight and forty manors (If that my memory doth not greatly err), Were their reward for following Billy's banners; And though I can't help thinking 'twas scarce fair To strip the Saxons of their hydes like tanners; Yet as they founded churches with the produce, You'll deem, no doubt, they put it to good use."

Ralph de Burun got his Nottingham estate in reward for his fighting. Some of the Byrons were at the seige of Calais, under Edward III., and others of the family fought at Cressy.

The uncle of Little Sir John Byron with the great beard, fought against Richard III. on Bosworth Field, near Leicester, and seven brothers bore arms at Edge Hill.

Sir John Byron, whose escape at Brackley, in A.D. 1642, is described in succeeding pages, was one of the most loyal of the supporters of King Charles I. He was lieutenant of the Tower of London in 1641-2, and in the subsequent enquiry into his conduct it was reported that the " Lieutenant of the Tower saies hee hath taken an oath to maintaine the priviledge of the Tower .... and therefore hee will suffer noe guarde there without the King's warrant. Also hee knew noe power Parliament had in the Tower, and hee would obey noe command but the King's. He assumed the command of the reserve forces of the King at  the battle of Edge Hill, in Warwickshire. He

figured in the battle of Roundway, in Devon, where he led the charge with great impetuosity against Sir Arthur Haslerigg's cuirassiers, whom he routed and chased off the field, and in the fight at Newbury he led on the King's Horse with great bravery. He afterwards became Governor of Chester, where he sustained a heavy siege. The King made him a peer, and also governor to the young Duke of York, with whom he took part (after Charles I. was beheaded) in a campaign in Germany. He died in Paris A.D. 1652.

Sir Richard Byron succeeded to the title and estates of his brother John. Richard is known to fame principally on account of his fighting qualities. As governor of Newark, he and his soldiers held the Parliamentary forces at bay in that strenuous siege, and in A.D. 1643 he marched from Newark on Nottingham at the head of 600 Cavaliers, and by a bold movement invaded the town. His force arrived at the town gates in the dead of night, when about two-thirds of the soldiers from the Castle were caught in their beds. It was not till early morning that Col. Hutchinson and the Castle garrison discovered what had transpired in the town during the night: the drums were beating the reveille in the Castle and the night-watch were leaving the gates when some of Sir Richard's men fired injudiciously, and thus raised an alarm. On leaving the town Sir Richard was nearly killed in an encounter with the Castle garrison, his horse being shot under him.

It was afterwards found that Sir Richard sent a message to his relative, Col. Hutchinson, asking him to surrender the Castle, but the Colonel replied:—'"Except he found his own heart prone to such treachery, he might consider there was, if nothing else, so much of a Biron's blood in him, that he should scorn to betray or quit a trust he had undertaken."

On Nov. 27th, Sir Richard, in a dashing engagement at Melton Mowbray, captured 600 men, who were imprisoned in Belvoir Castle. Disputes arose between Byron and the King's Commissioners and Byron was superseded at Newark by Sir Richard Willis. He was 74 years old when he died, A.D. 1679. Richard Byron fought at Edge Hill (October 23rd), and so distinguished himself as to win a knighthood, whilst his uncle Nicholas, Colonel and Commander of the Foot, rendered such signal service that the King afterwards "in all warring engagements would have Commander Nicholas near him." Four of the Byrons fought at Marston Moor on July 2nd, 1644, a circumstance to which the poet Lord thus proudly alludes:

"On Marston, with Rupert, 'gainst traitors contending, Four brothers enriched with their blood the bleak field; For the rights of a monarch their country defending, Till death their attachment to royalty sealed."

Sir Richard's memorial tablet on the chancel north wall was placed there by his second wife's father, Sir George Booth.

His only son William was living at Bulwell Wood Hall, Hucknall, in 1674.

Mrs. Hutchinson, wife of the Governor of Nottingham Castle, described in her memoirs of that stormy period how one of the Byron brothers—Colonel Gilbert Byron—-with other local gentlemen, raised a force of about 500 horsemen for the King, but they were totally routed at Willoughby by a party under Colonel Ros-siter, and Gilbert Byron was carried prisoner to Belvoir Castle.

Admiral John Byrcn, the "wicked Lord's" brother, who lived from 1723 to 1786, was an adventurer, hardy, daring, but reckless —on a greater field and under more auspicious circumstances he might have figured in history as an honourable soldier. In Chaleur Bay, with three British ships, he destroyed three French ships of war, with 20 schooners, sloops, and other armed vessels. He also made a voyage of discovery. He died in 1786.

"Mad Jack Byron," the poet's father, was somewhat of a scapegrace, he served in the Guards in America, and after spending his days in riotous living, died in 1791, at Valenciennes, aged 40.

The poet Lord Byron took up arms on behalf of Greece in an endeavour to restore freedom to that country. He was brave and beloved by his men, and it was partly the vicissitudes of the campaign which caused his death.

The following is an account of the difficulties which beset Sir John Byron and his soldiers (which probably comprised some Hucknall yeomen.) The Sir John Byron here referred to in this chapter was the grandson of the founder of the Kucknall Charity. A State document records as follows:—

"A true and perfect relation of the manner of the Apprehension and taking of forty-six rebellious cavaliers at Brackley, in Northamptonshire, under the command of Sir John Byron, colonel; with a catalogue of the names of every particular person. Whereunto is affixed a true copy of a letter from Sir John Byron, colonel, to Master Clarke at Croughton, near Brackley, in Northamptonshire. 'Ordered by the Lords and Commons, in Parliament, that this be published, September 14th, 1642. A perfect and exact relation of the famous and valiant fight of Sir John Byron, colonel of the troops of horse at Brackley, in Northamptonshire : with a declaration how above sixty cavaliers were taken with much gold apparel, and other riches, to the value of eight thousand pounds; which cavaliers were sent up to Newgate, in carts, where they do now remain. Sir John Byron, with his two brothers (Nicholas and Anthony) were marching from Leicester, for Oxford, with three troops of horse, he being the colonel, and his brothers each of them led a troope, who promised the souldiers that they should doe service for the King and Parliament, and that they should fight for religion, and the upholding of the happiness and tranquility of the kingdom; and so, by fair speeches, persuaded the souldiers to believe that they should goe for the King and Parliament, and they received money to buy them horse, and were all provided of horse, but not of almes, nor provision. And so they marched from Leicester, towards Oxford, tidings whereof was brought to the officers and governors in the county, and thereupon the country was raised and persued them with the greatest force and all expedition they could, till they came to Brackley, when news was brought to Sir John Byron that it was high time to look about him, for the country was in persuit after them, and if they made not great haste they would all be taken; which struck amazement into Sir John and the commanders, that they knew not what to do. So the Colonel, Captains, and the rest of the officers made the greatest haste to flye away that could be, not caring for soul-diers, so that they could save themselves, and so most of them fled away. This was on Sunday the 28th of August last, at which time the country came into Brackley upon them, and did there take many of them, to the number of about sixty, with much wealth and horses.

A  catalogue of what was taken:—

  1. above 60 horses.
  2. a hat full of gold.
  3. about two thousand pounds in silver.
  4. a trumpet.
  5. a box with great riches and wealth.
  6. a packet of clothes of Sir John Byron's, worth two hundred pounds.
  7. about fourteen or fifteen pair of pistols.
  8. a sumpter horse, very rich (A).
  9. between sixty and seventy men.
  10. the value of the gold, money, horses, and apparel, with other things, cannot be worth less than six or seven thousand pounds.

The men who were taken had all their money taken from them, so that they have, since that time, lived on the charity of such as sent them relief. They were then sent to the prison in Northampton for the space of eight or nine days, and afterwards sent up to Newgate, where they do now lye. They were brought to London in carts, on Saturday the 10th of this present September, and news being reported in the city that they were come, they were followed with a great acclamation and shouting. About eight or nine of the clock at night they were brought to Newgate, where they do now lye in great misery, and had they not relief sent them in charity they might perish."

A relation of the manner of taking these cavaliers,—"When Sir John Byron was at dinner, in Brackley, with his two brothers, and the rest of the commanders, soldiers, some at that time with him, others at other places, Sir John gave his sumpter man charge to haste away and look every man to himselfe. Then he took his own horse, which was an excellent stout steed, and got up, set hi3 spurs to the horse's sides, and rid away with all might and main, and so got away before the country came in. Sir John's two brothers, the two captains, also got up and hasted away, one of the captains with a box wherein was money and other good things.

The country coming into the town met four of the cavaliers riding out of the town, and commanded them to stay; who were forced to yield themselves into their hands, and coming into the town in the mires found others of the cavaliers who were likewise taken to Northampton. Other cavaliers were taken in other country towns thereabouts, who presently yielded themselves up, for there was not any of them that did offer to stand against the country. After they had taken as many as they could meet with of these cavaliers, they stript them of their cloathes to see what money they had about them; and they found some ten shillings, some twenty shillings, two pounds, five pound, six pound, some more, some less, yet some of them were so cunning as to hide their monies in their boots, doublet, or what private places they could find out, and so did save the greater part of their monies. But they were afterwards serched againe because this their subtility was imagined, and then they found out a great deal more money than before about some of them, and when they had done they sent them all to prison." The names of the persons received by the Sheriff of Middlesex, of the Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, the tenth day of September, 1642, and then delivered to the gaol at Newgate:—James Astin, Robert Paggett, Robert Hardy, Thomas Langefield, Robert Hoot-ton, Walter James, John Garret, William Craford, Andrew Braith-waite, George Robinson, William Addlington, George Browne, William Hubbard, John Bracegirdle, William Day, Lorell Thrifte, John Holliday, John Greenwood, Richard Moore, Richard Thompson, Edward Davenport, John Taylerson, George Key, Christopher Foster, Francis Trickley, John Berry, Archibald Bell, John Malin, Joseph Lowe, Edward Markyson, Wm. Smith, John Holliday, Nicholas Creswell, Thomas Bond, Wm. Bennett, Edward Gibson, Jno. Lee, Thomas Holsworth, Thos. Norwood.

The letter of Sir John Byron to Master Clarke, at Croughton, neere Brackley, in Northamptonshire:—"Sir,—In my way to Oxford I made some stay at Brackley to refresh myself, and my men and horses, after a long march, where I was unexpectedly assaulted by sundry troops of rebels that came (as I am since informed) from Northampton and other adjacent places, and withall most treacherously set upon by the town of Brackley, so that I was forced to make a retreat to the heath to resist them, had they the courage to come forth of the towne. In this confusion, one of my groomes, who had charge of my baggage, was surprised in the town; another who had charge of a box wherein was money, apparell, and other things of value, left it in a land of standing come, which hath since been found, and, as I hear, brought to you. I have therefore sent this messenger to require the restitution of it, which, if you do, I shall represent it to his Majesty as an acceptable service. If not, assure yourselfe, I will find a time to repay myself with advantage out of your estate, and consider that rebellion is a seed of hasty growth, so it will decay as suddenly, and that there will be a time for the King's loyall subjects to repaire their losses sustained by rebels and traytors. So I rest in expectation of a speedy answer by the bearer.—Your friend and servant,

John Byron. Oxford, 2nd September, 1642.


There was an air of mystery and dread in the manner in which old people hereabouts used to talk of the "Wicked Lord Byron." His duel and death-thrust to Mr. Chaworth in a London Tavern, followed by a wild, roystering career, gave rise to very exaggerated tales of his madcap freaks, more than one crime being attributed to him for which there was no foundation. He had all the deer in his park killed, demolished the timber which ornamented the estate, and converted some of the Abbey rooms into stables and lumber rooms. His affair with Mr. Chaworth was followed by a trial by the House of Lords, and he was convicted of manslaughter, which amounted to an acquittal.

The following letter, now in the possession of Mr. James Ward, of Nottingham, was sent by Lord Byron to his steward, Mr. Daws, of Hucknall:—

"Daws,—As I intend being at Newstead on the 8 or 10th of next Month, I would have you order in a load of Coals, and tell Bell to put a few Bricks in the Hall fireplace that I may have a Fire there. I would have Jon. Hardstaff do the carpenter's work that is wanted. I am informed that John Lee is employ'd at Newstead by Twig, and he stopes the earth for Mr. Musters, the Instant I get down I will Discharge Mr. Musters and send John Lee to Gaol; tell Bell to have everything in readiness to put up the Hall chimney piece; whilst I am down do you see that there is a good Road to the Pk Gates and down to the House.


"Hampd., Dec. 24th, 1784."

The poet's opinion of the Wicked Lord is thus expressed in one of his letters:—

"Genoa, July, 1823.

"As to the Lord Byron who killed Mr. Chaworth in a duel, so far from retiring from the world, he made the tour of Europe, and was appointed Master of the Staghounds after that event and did not give up society until his son had offended him by marrying in a manner contrary to his duty. So far from feeling any remorse for having killed Mr. Chaworth, who was a fire-eater, and celebrated for his quarrelsome disposition, he always kept the sword which he used on that occasion in his bedchamber, where it still was when he died."

Much controversy has arisen as to the culpability of the two duellists, but Jeaffreson, in "The Real Lord Byron," seems to speak fairly when he observes: "It was a case of two practised duellists flying at one another in the fierceness of rage, begotten of much wine and mutual insolence." Byron was said to be a bad husband, a hard landlord, and a harsh master. He drove his wife from the Abbey and supplanted her by a common woman, whom the people hereabouts called "Lady Betty."

He built mock forts on the lake, put toy gunboats on the water, and had mock fights. He died May 20th, and was buried in the Hucknall vault on June 6th, 1798, breathing his last almost alone and unattended in the only furnished room in the Abbey which was secure against wind and rain.

The Hucknall tenants' dinner in the "Wicked Lord's" time was held at the Red Lion Inn, kept by Theophilus Allcock, in 1771. The following Hucknall people supplied the Abbey with various necessities at that period:—Mary Shaw (Box Tree Farm?) and Mr. Hankin, butter; Wm. Rhodes, oats; Ann Gaunt, wheat; and George Hardstaff, lime.

In 1741 among his lordship's leading tenants in the parish were Thomas Butler, George Butler, G. Frost, John Lindley, and Saml. Staynrod.

(A) A charger, or horse of State.