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  • Newstead Abbey Byron Society
  • Ken Purslow, Chairman

Miss Lucy Edwards MBE – Remembered

On Sunday 9 December 2012 we held the annual Lucy Edwards Lecture which was presented by Bernard Beatty in the John Godber Centre in Hucknall. Bernard’s subject matter was ‘Byron and Books’. Prior to the lecture there was a Carol Service conducted by the Reverend Canon Kathryn Herod at St Mary Magdalene Church. During the service David Herbert read the same eulogy to Lucy as he had previously read at her funeral on Wednesday 11 April 2007. David read this in honour of Lucy as it would have been her 100th birthday on the 12 December 2012. Later in the service a wreath was laid for Lucy, as was a wreath to Byron’s daughter Ada Byron, the Countess of Lovelace who was the last person to be interned in the family vault within the Church. Ada was buried there on 4 December 1852, 160 years ago. Following the service a delicious Christmas lunch was served prior to Bernard’s lecture.

The first Lucy Edwards lecture was held on Sunday 13 December 1992, and it was initiated on Lucy’s 80th Birthday and held at the White Lady Restaurant in the South West Wing of Newstead Abbey. On that day Lucy planted a rose tree to finalise the newly created Mary Garden (which was Lucy’s ‘brain child’) within the cloisters of the Abbey. The following is an extract of the proceedings of the event, held at 3.30pm in the Mary Garden:

Introduction of: Miss Lucy Edwards M.B.E. by Mr. Ken Purslow, Chairman of Newstead Abbey Byron Society.

Planting by Miss Lucy Edwards M.B.E, followed by a short speech by Mr John Pell, Assistant Director, Leisure and Community Services, (Sport and Leisure) Nottingham City Council.

The Rose tree planted today is the final planting in the Mary Garden. An Ancient Rose, a medieval Rose known to be introduced to England before 1500AD.  This Rose is widely shown on religious paintings of the period. It is thought by garden historians to be the rose that formed the design of the Rosary. The Rose planted is known as a Roda Gallica Officinalis.

What Lucy said following the planting:

‘The Idea of a Mary Garden at Newstead Abbey first came to me in 1967, when I saw an article in the Herbal Review entitled ‘Herbs for the Mary Garden’. Knowing nothing about Mary Gardens I read on. They originated in medieval times, when Monks planted them in the cloister garden of their Monastery. They were known as Mary Gardens because all the plants, shrubs and trees were associated with the Virgin Mary by tradition and legend.

These gardens were not planted for domestic use. They formed part of the religious life of the Monastery – formal worship in the church, chanting and praying in procession round the cloisters, and individual quiet contemplation and spiritual refreshment in the cloister garden, gained by its peaceful beauty and fragrance. [End Page 221]

Remembering that when Newstead Abbey was a monastery it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, I thought that the creation of a Mary Garden in the cloister garden could be an interesting addition to its monastic history. I submitted the idea to Nottingham City Council and it was accepted. So, after much research at home and abroad, I produced an authentic plan and its long list of desirable plants, and the gardeners began work.

The garden should have a central feature – a statue or a fountain, Newstead has a fountain which was there already. Four main paths leading to the fountain are in the form of a cross. The beds are symmetrically placed around the fountain. The materials used in the garden i.e. gravel and stone are authentic to the period. It is interesting to note that the stone was obtained from a quarry on the same site as the original stone to build Newstead in the 12th century. Obtaining plants was much more difficult. Many of them no longer existed or had changed their names. However by diligent searching all over the country a collection sufficient to fill the garden was obtained. My gratitude to...


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