In 1871 Newstead Abbey was in the hands of the Webb Family. It was sold to William Frederick Webb for i?? 138,000. From the information from the resource sheets given to us by the school I know that the Webbs inhabited Newstead for nearly 70 years. As we toured the Abbey we were given a taster of how the Webbs lived in those days. As I walked round the Webbs’ living quarters of the Abby I immediately became aware of the tremendous feeling of luxury and wealth. This was seen in the decoration of the house.
Richly patterned and coloured wallpaper, which was fashionable in the Victorian times, paintings and coats of arms on the walls. It was all in a Victorian gothic style which was the height of fashion in those days as I’m informed and therefore this is an indication that the Webbs wanted to impress any visitors that they had. On the main staircase there are metal stair bolts, and though it is not there now these are what would have held a stair rug in place, a luxury in those days. Also in the furnishing which is mostly made of heavy dark wood.
Other indications of the wealth of the Webbs were the portraits of themselves hung on the walls. To have a portrait painted was expensive if it was to be done to the high standards that these were so they must have had money to do so. As I recall, one painting depicts a man dressed in a suit in an odd shade off pink satin. The tour guide informed me that this was a reflection of this man’s wealth as the colour was not naturally or easily obtained and the material itself was expensive therefore to have a whole outfit made of it would require immense wealth.
The Webbs would have associated with this man therefore this would have made their position higher in society. Another theme that struck me as I continued on my tour of Newstead Abbey was a theme of hunting. There was paintings of it and antlers and heads from various grazing animals such as deer and moose. Also in the private lounge there were two rugs made from the skins of lions with the heads still attached. As I think was the intention in the days of the Webbs the emanated a feeling that the master of the house was powerful and in charge as was the idea in those days.
On the website it informed me that Mr Webb was an African explorer so this could be an influence from then. I know from the tour guide and the information leaflets that although the previous owner of Newstead spent a lot of money restoring the Abbey from the state of disrepair it was left in after the Byrons left, work still need doing and Mr Webb took it upon himself to put a lot of time effort and money into the further restoration, improvement and repair of the Abbey. In fact on top of the 138,000 he spent on the purchase of the Abbey a further 200,000 was spent on its restoration.
The tour guide informed me of the fact that Mr Webb had an extremely modern form of heating installed for those times. It was a system of pipes which provided under-floor heating. Also there was a proper drainage system and gas lighting. This not only gave the Abbey a new lease of life but the quality of life of the Webbs went up. Also it was a tool to impress any visitors with which seems an important aspect in the Victorian lifestyle. However from the continuation of my tour we found out that the life of the young children was significantly different.
As I walked up into the small attic where the nursery was the cold hit me. I was informed by the tour guide that the Webbs believed that it was healthy for their children’s arms to be a purple colour. Therefore the heating system was not continued into the loft and there were no fires in the nursery. The tour guide also mentioned that in the book written by Augusta Webb, one of the Webb’s children, on her childhood it mentions many times how cold she felt practically all of the time. One of the accounts states:
‘The suffering we endured in consequence from cold was quite severe and mad most of us dread the winter months. The entire house was admirably heated by hot water pipes but these stopped short of our nursery gallery. Whilst in our parents company we were warm and comfortable but they seemed unaware that at other times we shivered. ‘ It is further stressed in the extract from Augusta’s book how they were ‘inadequately clad’. As it is obvious that the Webbs obviously had enough money from the style and luxury of the Abbey, this backs up the theory that the Webbs believed it unhealthy for their children to be warm.
As Augusta also says that ‘our poor mottled red arms were only considered a sign of health’. As I saw there was a fireplace in the nanny’s bedroom but according to the tour guide she was forbidden to use it to heat up the children Also the windows were small and located high up so that when the children sat at the desk they could not look out onto the grounds and be distracted. As we see life for the children was not all good. As I travelled round the house I was taken into a room called the solo.
I was told by the tour guide that this was used by the Webbs as a breakfast room. Apparently breakfast was the only time of the day when the children saw their parents. They were told to sit in the large bay window and play quietly with a box of toy bricks. One room was a huge indication of the way the Webbs lived. This was the great hall. A large impressive room once used by Lord Byron in the 18th century, so it says in many resources, for pistol practice. In the time of the Webbs it was used for eating and dancing when the Webbs had important company.
There is a large fireplace and on the walls along with antlers there are shields, connections with visitors that the Webbs had. Beside the fireplace there is a small door. It does not open onto anything but the tour guide informed me that this was one of the very few reminders of the Monastery that Newstead was in its past. It was left by the Webbs as a talking point to impress visitors with. The fireplace too holds much significance. The tour guide told us that the Webbs were once visited by the famous Dr. Livingstone over Christmas.
Whilst playing a game of Blind Mans Bluff in the Great Hall, Dr. Livingstone ran into the fireplace and concussed him self. His stay at Newstead had to be prolonged for him to recover. Dr Livingstone visiting is another reflection of the wealth and superior social status that Newstead Abbey life gave to the Webbs. Also in the Great hall you can still see the bells that were for the servants. Below stairs was a completely different world but with many similarities. The 1871 census of Newstead Abbey shows that there were 35 occupants. 24 of these were servants. There was obviously a hierarchy in the house of: Father