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Lord Byron’s Ghost haunts Antechapel

Lord Byron haunts the Antechapel, alongside other famous alumni, 200 years after the College authorities denied him a resting place here.

During Trinity’s bicentenary commemoration of his death, a spectral image of the statue of Byron in the Wren Library appears and disappears with the changing light.

An image used as part of the design process

When Byron died in Missolonghi, Greece in April 1824, his many friends wanted him buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey but were rebuffed. A committee was formed, led by Byron’s friend and fellow student at Trinity, John Cam Hobhouse, to raise money for an appropriate memorial.

Bertel Thorvaldsen’s statue arrived from Rome in 1834 and, having failed to convince Westminster Abbey, Byron’s supporters looked to Trinity College to house the memorial in the Antechapel. But after prolonged negotiation, at the suggestion of the Master William Whewell, the statue was installed in the Wren Library on 18 October 1845.

The Wren Library Statue

The ghostly image is a ‘Pepper’s Ghost’ illusion, a theatre technique pioneered in the 1860s by John Henry Pepper. Byron’s Ghost was created by Trinity Engineers, Teaching Assistant Dr Joe Stallard and undergraduate Andrew Farquharson.

They etched an image of Byron derived from the Thorvaldsen statue onto a polycarbonate sheet affixed to a black background. When illuminated with lighting at the edge, ghostly reflections of the luminous source can be seen in a series of glass screens.

Guests at the Byrothon may be able to see the ghost depending on light levels. Like all ghosts, it will be more visible at night!

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