Surprisingly large ships sail on the lake in Newstead Park, Nottinghamshire, and a mock castle is seen on the shore to the lower left of the composition. In the background, just right of centre, is Newstead Abbey and to the right of the abbey, the old priory. This former Augustinian priory was founded by Henry II in c.1170. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the monks were expelled and the property presented to Sir John Byron for his services to the King. Sir John converted the old priory into a residence for his family.
The property passed down the family line and was inherited by 16-year-old William Byron, 5th Baron Byron in 1736. It was in William’s possession when this print was published. The Baron lived a reckless lifestyle, ran up numerous debts, and was known for his fiery temper, killing his cousin and later his coachman. William used the lake at Newstead as a setting to act out naval battles.
After the 5th Baron died in 1798, the family title and estate at Newstead (seen in this engraving) passed to future poet George Gordon Byron, who was just 10 years old, changing the course of his life. Byron used Newstead Abbey only sporadically and in 1818 he sold the estate to Major Thomas Wildman.
Thomas Smith of Derby was a topographical and picturesque landscape painter who lived in Bridgegate, Derby. He exhibited at the Society of Artists and the Free Society of Artists from 1760 to 1767. Several examples of his work include groups of elegant tourists admiring views of country estates. He took his art sufficiently seriously to name both his sons after great painters, calling them Thomas Correggio Smith and John Raphael Smith (who continued the tradition by naming his son John Rubens Smith). Both of his sons naturally became artists, as did his daughter, Emma. Smith died on 5 September 1767 in Hotwells, a district of Bristol.
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