My latest adventures researching the history of houses has recently led me to an exciting discovery in a house involving the poet Byron. Byron had not only been a regular visitor to the house, but had in fact joined with some friends to perform amateur dramatics there, as well as getting himself embroiled in a love affair with the daughter of the house.

Today, Burgage House is a Grade II listed Georgian home for sale with Chesterton Humberts in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. However, during the early 1800s Burgage House was home to the Leacroft family, including teenagers, John and Julia. The Leacrofts were good friends with John and Elizabeth Pigot, who lived nearby in The Burgage, as well as the young Byron, who came to visit his mother at Burgage Manor.

Byron first came to Southwell during his school holidays from Harrow in 1804 and he was soon spending many holiday breaks with his friends the Pigots and Leacrofts. The teenagers became close friends and during the summer of 1806 they decided to amuse themselves by staging amateur dramatics in the drawing room of Burgage House, which was said to have “converted into a neat theatre for the occasion”. The friends staged two plays with Julia Leacroft and Byron playing the lead roles. However, when the dramatics were over, flirtations between Byron and Julia continued and the young pair soon became the talk of the town. By January 1807 it was widely accepted that the two would marry, however, Byron had no such intentions and scandal soon ensued in the quiet town of Southwell.

It has been suggested that Julia’s brother John challenged Byron to a duel for his sister’s honour, but nothing eventuated as Byron made a swift exit from Southwell. Byron’s escapades with Julia Leacroft did, however, leave the world with two poems, firstly, To Julia [1806], later re-titled To Lesbia and secondly, To a Lady [1807] where Byron describes an assignation in the garden.

Burgage House has seen many changes over the years, but I still like to imagine Byron walking through the front door or secretly meeting Julia Leacroft in the garden!

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