13 October 2006

(103) The Rooks of Newstead

Newstead Abbey : The Rooks - October 2002

The rooks of Newstead were believed to be the souls of the 'Black Monks' as they were seen to observe the Sabbath...

Washington Irving, the author of the famous American ghost story 'Legend of Sleepy Hollow' stayed at Newstead in the 1800s.

He noted with interest that each morning the rooks would fly away, en mass, to sweep the countryside for food.

They would return in a similar manner in the evening, where their discussion of the days events would echo around the estate.

Irving was told that the rooks observed the Sabbath; they set out every day except Sunday, when they stayed in the abbey grounds.

He didn't believe this until he saw it for himself. Indeed it appeared that the rooks visited their neighbours and friends, devoting Sunday to their nearest and dearest, but didn't leave the estate.

Irving tells us that the local tradition had it that the rooks at Newstead were the souls of the 'Black Monks' reborn as birds, still occupying their old abbey.

Indeed so strongly was this belief held that, contrary to common country practice, the Newstead rooks were not shot, and were generally left unhindered.