Byron event will be poetry to town’s ears

An 1814 portrait of Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips.
An 1814 portrait of Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips.
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Experts will converge on Seaham this weekend to discuss the town’s links with a literary legend.

Members of the Newstead Abbey Byron Society and the Irish Byron Society will visit the town for lectures about the poet Lord Byron.

The line-up for Saturday’s event includes Durham University professor Michael O’Neill, chairman of the Association of International Byron Societies’ advisory board, and former Byron Journal editor Bernard Beatty, an academic at Liverpool University and also a research fellow at St Andrews in Scotland.

The free talks will be hosted by Seaham Hall Hotel.

It was at the Lord Byron’s Walk hotel that the poet married Anne Isabella Milbanke, also known as Annabella, in January 1815.

The discussions will be followed by a tour of Seaham led by members of the town council.

With the 200th anniversary of that wedding approaching, it is hoped that this weekend’s talks will pave the way for further celebrations of the town’s links with George Gordon Byron, the sixth Baron Byron.

Paul Fletcher, deputy clerk of Seaham Town Council, said: “Byron’s wife first used the term ‘Byron-mania’.

“We know his links with Seaham are of interest to people.

“We’re likely to get people from across the world following these lectures, so it’s really putting Seaham on the map.

“The Byron events are run with the help of the council, but we hope, in time, cafes and pubs will host events.”

Sculptor David Goss, of Seaham, is working on a piece to mark this weekend’s events.

Ross Grieve, the hotel’s general manager, said: “As the marital home of one of England’s greatest poets, Seaham Hall is of great significance not just to the North East but to lovers of literature across the world.

“Our guests are fascinated by the Hall’s links with the ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ poet and the doomed love story that began with his marriage to heiress Annabella Milbanke, daughter of the hall’s owner.

“As we approach the 200th anniversary of that wedding, we are not only offering a range of special packages for our Serenity Spa, but we are also delighted to be hosting this event.

“Seaham should be very proud of its links to Lord Byron, and we would be very much in favour of looking at ways to raise public awareness of those links and bringing more visitors to the town.”

Saturday’s celebrations start at 10.30am. For further details, call the town council on 581 8034.

Byron – portrayed on the big screen by the likes of Gabriel Byrne in 1986 and Hugh Grant in 1988 and on TV by Jonny Lee Miller in 2003 – was born in London in January 1788 and died of a fever in Greece in April 1824 at the age of 36.

His best-known works are the narrative poems Don Juan, published in parts from 1819 onwards, and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, printed in sections between 1812 and 1818, and the 1814 short lyric poem She Walks in Beauty.

His wife, born at Elemore Hall at Pittington in May 1792, was the only child of baronet Ralph Milbanke and his wife Judith. She died in May 1860 at the age of 67.

] Milbanke

Seaham Hall will serve food during the day, with Spey whisky firm, which was used by the founder of the firm as it stored the liquor before it was sent to the US during the time of prohibition, will also meet delegates.