THE BYRON CURSE & the DEATH of SIR ARTHUR MARKHAM

 

In 1908, Arthur Markham, wealthy colliery owner and MP for Mansfield, vacated subsidence-affected Stuffynwood Hall and moved the family home to London and later to Beachborough Park in Kent. Subsequently, after the onset of WW1 in 1914, his Beachborough home was secondered by the War Office to be used as a casuality-hospital. By June of 1915, Arthur and his family had moved back, close to Mansfield, after taking a lease on Newstead Abbey, a 12th century Augustian priory founded by Henry II.

On September 17th, 1916, the New York Times reported the tragic coincidental deaths on the same day of Newstead Abbey owner, Major Roderick Webb while fighting in British East Africa and his new tenant at Newstead, Sir Arthur Markham after suffering an illness since taking the lease. The media became fascinated by the fabled Byron curse that had now claimed the lives of all three Webb children and the tenant, Arthur Markham, in the space of five years. It reported that the curse began after Newstead Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 and given to a court favourite, Sir John Byron, becoming the first Lord Byron. The article stated that the 5th peer, the so called 'wicked' Lord Byron escaped punishment for the cold blooded murders of his cousin and coachman. He was tried in the House of Lords for the murder of his cousin, who was Byron's guest at Newstead at the time of the murder. However, he escaped with a manslaughter verdict and a large fine but society shunned him, forcing him into isolation at Newstead where he met with liked minded people indulging in violent orgies. In his desire to shock and outrage society, he desecrated the tombs of the abbots using their skulls as drinking vessels while having the skull from the most venerable tomb silver lined to be used in his 'Order of the Skull' ceremonies.

The 'wicked' Lord Byron's two sons and grandson all met with violent deaths and pre-deceased him leading some to suggest that desecration of the tombs had cursed the family. He died in 1798 leaving the estate and title to the last of the Byron owners, his grand-nephew, the famous poet, Lord George Gordon Byron, aged just 10 at the time of inheritance, whom rarely visited the abbey, preferring to rent it out. George Byron, sold it in 1818 to his school friend, Colonel Wildman, for around £100,000 (£6million) which he used to finance his philanthropist activities in Armenia, Italy and Greece such as the £4000 (£3.5 million) he paid to refit the Greek navy in their fight for independance from the Ottoman Empire, a cause that lead indirectly to his death in 1824, aged just 36. The 6th Lord Byron, now revered for his romantic poetry and intellectual abilities, is buried in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Hucknall, close to Newstead, after Westminster Abbey, who had received his embalmed body from the Greeks, had refused to accept it on grounds of "questionable morality" in reference to his alleged homosexuality. Colonel Wildman restored the abbey at a further cost to himself of £100,000 (£6 million) but he would be pleased to know that his expensive restoration is largely still intact nearly 200 years later. His wife had a series of miscarriages hence Wildman died with no heirs, subsequently his wife sold it to the Webb family. The Abbey is now in the ownership of Nottingham City Council after the final owner, millionaire furniture empire owner and philanthropist, Julien Cahn, who had bought it from the Webb family, presented it to the Nottingham Corporation in 1931.

Sir Arthur's widow, Lady Lucy Markham, is widely believed to have moved on after her husband's death on August 5th, 1916 had terminated the lease, however, this Thoroton Society link proves that she was still the leaseholder in July 1919. The circumstances of Sir Arthur Markham's death are now well known and contrary to the New York Times of September 17th, 1916, his failing health was not linked to the Byron curse. In 1911, the day before he was informed of his baronetcy for his services to the coal industry, his doctor confirmed that he had angina and that he would be advised to relax more. Unfortunately, it wasnt in his character. Sir Arthur was always spoiling for a fight as do the many litigation records show! The NY Times considered his lone stand in parliament, attacking his own party for their deliberate recruitment of underage boys, as a symptom of the curse. Only in modern times have historians uncovered the shocking truth. Estimates of 250,000 child soldiers, recruited in Lord Kitchener's poster campaign, were killed in the First World War, 300 of which were shot for desertion. It was this fight and the assistance he gave to his friend, Munitions Minister, David Lloyd George, ensuring an uninterrupted supply of coal to the munitions factories, that killed him.

On the day of his death, Arthur and his wife were entertaining the Prince & Princess Victor Napoleon Bonaparte when Arthur had a fatal heart attack while in his office with Mr Moxon, his Brodsworth Colliery under- manager.