On 12 July, 52 members and friends attended the second outing of the 2014 summer programme. This was a two venue outing: Newstead Abbey in the morning and Papplewick Pumping Station (PPS) after lunch.
On arrival at Newstead, we gathered in front of the Abbey, in beautiful sunny weather, for a short photo shoot before being escorted to the Victorian Kitchen for a welcome cup of coffee. Suitably refreshed, we split into two groups for a guided tour of the Abbey ruins and the House.
Actually, Newstead was never an abbey: it was a priory, the priory of St. Mary of Newstead, a house of Augustinian Canons, founded by King Henry II circa 1163, as one of many penances he paid following the murder of Thomas Becket. In the late 13th century, the priory was rebuilt and extended, and extended again in the 15th-century, when the Dorter, Great Hall and Prior’s Lodgings were added. The priory was designed to be home to at least 13 monks. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, the priory was converted into a house which today retains much of its medieval character. The most famous survival is the iconic West Front of the church that dates from the late 13th century and is now a scheduled ancient monument. Inside the house the medieval cloisters, Chapter House (now the Chapel) and a collection of medieval stone carvings and manuscripts are indicative of the Abbey’s early history.
Heralded by many as the greatest romantic poet of his time, Lord Byron lived at Newstead Abbey at various times from the autumn of 1808 to the autumn of 1814. Lord Byron sold the Abbey in 1818 to Thomas Wildman, who had inherited a fortune from plantations in Jamaica owned by his family. It remained in his family until 1861 when it was purchased by William Frederick Webb, an African explorer. Of particular interest were the Victorian photo albums showing the Abbey, its interiors and its gardens, as they were more than a century ago. The house also features a collection of items that span the centuries, from when Newstead Abbey first became a private house, right up to the present day. It includes paintings, objects, letters, maps and photographs associated with the estate, including a collection of the eighteenth century views of Newstead Abbey by artist Pieter Tillemans. We lingered over displays and reading material in the Gothic Revival Library and admired the expansive panelling in the Great Hall, reputedly fashioned from a single oak tree.
After the house tour, those members who opted for the pre-booked £10 buffet returned to the Victorian Kitchen where the Catering Manager laid on an excellent lunch. This was the first time that Victorian Kitchen has been used as a catering outlet for members of the public – we were privileged indeed. After lunch we were free to wander round the formal and extensive gardens which were developed by the Wildman and Webb families.
Newstead Abbey is now owned and run by Nottingham City Council. Our thanks go to Diane, the House Keeper, Tricia and James, our tour guides who were so knowledgeable and entertaining and the catering personnel – nothing was too much trouble for the staff who also had to contend with two weddings. The consensus was that Newstead was a gem on our doorstep and would warrant a full day out.
Following a brief interlude enjoying the sunshine we all boarded the coach for the short journey to Papplewick Pumping Station (PPS). This is built on an enormous rock formation called ‘Bunter Sandstone’. This sedimentary rock is over 200 million years old and stretches as far as the eye can see. This rock acts like a giant sponge with 20% of it being made up of holes into which rain water trickles and is stored. When water permeates through the stone, most impurities are removed. This is why the PPS was built here. Andrew Montague of Papplewick Hall owned the land on which PPS was built and also Linby Colliery nearby which provided coal for the enterprise.
PPS is probably Britain’s finest working Victorian water pumping station. The site underwent extensive restoration between 2003 and 2005 and once again stands proud as a spectacular example of Victorian craftsmanship. It boasts a range of original features including an ornate Engine House, ornamental Cooling Pond and a Boiler House complete with six Lancashire boilers, all set amidst formal landscaped grounds. The Engine House is home to the original twin beam engines, built by James Watt and Co., in 1884, and is of special interest for its outstanding combination of Victorian engineering and artistic design. We were taken aback by the sheer splendour of the stained glass windows, elaborately decorated columns and polished mahogany and brass work. Designed as a statement of Victorian flair, pride and commitments to public health, it is hard to believe that the site was never intended to be seen by the general public. We were fortunate to have done so, especially on a steam day when we marvelled at the quietness of the James Watt beam engines and the 1922 Linby Colliery Winding Engine, built by Robey and Co., Lincoln which is now a permanent feature at PPS. As a relief from the sunshine we were able to visit the 1879 brick built Underground Reservoir nearby. It resembled a cathedral with vaulted ceilings.
We left PPS at 5.00 pm, tired but having had a wonderful day out in sunny weather.