I want to kick start this blog off by firstly saying, that I hope you all had a blissful Christmas and I hope you all have a spooktacular New Year!
I’ve been to Newstead Abbey located in Nottingham in the UK, many times over the years but it wasn’t until we decided to attend a ghost tour of the Abbey over the Halloween period that I came to found out that it holds a haunted painting!
Obviously, I am quite known for my interest of haunted items and this particular story sparked my interest in haunted items with a genuine history, once again.
The bearded man portrait is of a gentleman named Sir John Byron, an important figure in Elizabethan society.
The portrait, painted in 1599 was owned by Lord Byron. Legend says that even during this era there was reports that the portrait would come alive and Sir John Byron would haunt the room it sat within.
The American author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving, a visitor to Newstead in the 1830s, wrote of supernatural sightings of “Sir John Byron the Little with the Great Beard”. He recorded that “visitations were not confined to the night” and that the figure had been spotted by the fireplace, reading a book.
The portrait then went missing for 160 years!
It’s assumed that after Lord Byrons sold the abbey in 1818, the portrait had been borrowed to a Mrs Leigh – Byrons half-sister for her state apartments.
In 2015, Philip Mould, an expert who appears on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow and the Fake or Fortune? series, spotted the picture in a minor auction, where it was catalogued as a 16th-century portrait of an unidentified gentleman.
He identified it and traced it back to Mrs Leigh. Public funds and donations was made to get the portrait back to the abbey and having paying a whopping £30,000, the bearded man returned home…
When I say he returned home, the portrait returned and of course the haunting.
Staff during our tour informed us that shortly after it was displayed, a group of American tourists exploring the abbey appoached staff praising the efforts of the ‘actor’ dressed in tutor period clothing and who had the long beard. Staff informed the visitors that there was no actors around the abbey this particular day and there was no other visitors dressed as such.
Staff took the tourists to the portrait and asked if who they had seen made any resemblance to the man in the portrait and they confirmed it indeed was him…
So, after 160 years of no ghostly reports of the bearded man had he made a return…
I would say so…