Mystery of Byron, an illegitimate child and Linby church

WAS an illegitimate child of the poet Lord Byron and one of his servants at Newstead Abbey christened at St Michael's Church, Linby?

This intriguing question is posed by an extraordinary two-line deletion in a baptismal register for the church dating back to September 1812 that has come to light in a new book.

The mystery is probed by Ralph Lloyd-Jones, a chartered librarian in Nottinghamshire, in a stimulating essay entitled 'Paphian Girls and Hyacinths — Byron's Servant Relationships'.

This is Mr Lloyd-Jones's contribution to the new book, entitled 'Byron And Women (and Men)' and edited by Newstead Abbey Byron Society stalwart Peter Cochran. The book deals with Byron's complex sexuality.

With the start of the Hucknall-based International Byron Festival just two weeks away, the publication is sure to arouse renewed interest in the poet and his remarkable life.

Mr Lloyd-Jones reveals that in a letter he wrote while at Newstead, Byron mentioned that one of his servants, Lucy Monk, was pregnant.

In another letter written the next day, he stated: "The youngest servant is pregnant (I need not tell you by whom) and I cannot have the girl on the parish." He settled 50 a year on Lucy and a further 50 on their child.

Mr Lloyd-Jones tells how he tried to find out the wording of the two inked-out lines in the register, now in the Nottinghamshire Archives, which were carefully examined under magnification and backlit.

He writes that a tentative reconstruction made at the time of examining the document MIGHT read: "September 24 George illegitimate son of Lucy Monk, illegitimate son of Baron Byron, of Newstead, Nottingham, Newstead Abbey'.

Mr Lloyd-Jones stresses that the entry refers to someone important. Furthermore, the inhabitants of Newstead, including servants from the abbey, worshipped at Linby, the date is around the time Lucy's baby was due and someone went to the trouble of, perhaps illegally, deleting the entry.

"It is worth thinking about who had the power and influence to get parish registers censored," Mr Lloyd-Jones adds.

"Byron's executors, cleaning up after him, seem to me more likely candidates than Byron himself."

The author says Byron, then aged 24, created his own Oriental 'harem' while living at Newstead Abbey after the death of his mother.

He encouraged his female servants to discard caps and to wear their hair long and loose so that they were presented as concubines or Paphian girls (prostitute-priestesses in Ancient Cyprus).

A letter from another servant, Susan Vaughan, to Byron reminds him of the time the poet "put his hand so nicely" over her bosom while they were in bed together!

Lucy went on to marry a Joseph Holmes at Allesley, a suburb of Coventry, but no record has been found of what became of her baby by Byron. "Byron's executors, cleaning up after him, seem to me more likely candidates than Byron himself."

The author says Byron, then aged 24, created his own Oriental ‘harem' while living at Newstead Abbey after the death of his mother.

He encouraged his female servants to discard caps and to wear their hair long and loose so that they were presented as concubines or Paphian girls (prostitute-priestesses in Ancient Cyprus).

A letter from another servant, Susan Vaughan, to Byron reminds him of the time the poet "put his hand so nicely" over her bosom while they were in bed together!

Lucy went on to marry a Joseph Holmes at Allesley, a suburb of Coventry, but no record has been found of what became of her baby by Byron.

ALL IS REVEALED in this new book, Byron And Women (And Men)', which is sure to arouse controversy during the International Byron Festival in Hucknall.

CHURCH OF SECRETS? — St Michael's Church in Linby where it is believed that Byron's illegitimate son was christened.