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Review: The popular Byron ‘Walk and Talk’ event in Harrow

The son of Captain ‘Mad Jack’ Byron and Catherine Gordon, a Scottish heiress, George Gordon Byron was born on the 22nd of January 1788 in Holles Street, Marylebone in London.

When George was just two years old, his mother fled with him to Aberdeen after Captain Byron was forced into exile to avoid being imprisoned for debt.

“Mad, bad and dangerous to know”

In 1798, at the age of 10, the death of a great uncle meant that George would become the 6th Baron Byron as well as inheriting estates in Rochdale and Nottinghamshire and would be given the title dominus, or lord.

Despairing of her son’s inadequate education, Catherine enrolled Lord Byron at Harrow School in 1801 – with mixed results. Byron once announced that ‘I always hated Harrow till the last year and a half’ – which was when he was placed under the individual guidance of assistant master, Henry Drury. Lord Byron’s love / hate relationship with Harrow would continue when he refused to return to the school in 1803 however, in 1804, he returned to the school and he began to write the poetry which would become his lasting legacy.

The Byron walk and talk event

This year’s event took place on Sunday 21st of April at 2.30pm and began outside the main entrance of Harrow School. There was an impressively large turnout and although chilly, it was a reasonably bright day and so not uncomfortable to be outdoors.

The host, Mike, was extremely knowledgeable about Lord Byron and his time spent at Harrow School – including an anecdote about taking Robert Peel under his wing and, allegedly, being part of a plot to burn down the school when an undesirable man was made headmaster.

Review: The popular Byron 'Walk and Talk' event in Harrow Harrow Online
Image: Nicci Rae

From the school, the walk makes its way to the churchyard of St Mary’s and the stone which was set in place in 1980 to commemorate the death of Byron’s daughter, Allegra, who tragically died at the age of just five years old (her remains were laid to rest in an unknown spot under a tree in the churchyard).

While the talk was really interesting (and very funny in places), one of the best parts was undoubtedly the surprise at the end. The walk finishes close to the tomb of A Bob Speel (also known as the Byron grave due to the fact that Lord Byron was particularly fond of it and would lay upon it while reading or studying). Once the talk finished, Arturro, a student from Harrow School, read one of Byron’s poems aloud to the group.

Catching the next tour

The walking tour takes place on a few Sundays every year and is run by voluntary organisation The Harrow Hill Trust. The Trust normally puts posters up in and around Harrow before each event but if you don’t spot one of these, you can always keep an eye on their website.

The tour is free and takes about an hour. Afterwards, several members of the group – including ourselves – adjourned to the nearby pub, The Castle, on West Street but there are also a few restaurants dotted around the top of the hill.