Newark on Trent, UK: Historic Market Town, and Home to England's National Civil War Centre
The Crossroads to the North
Newark-on-Trent has been strategically important since the Romans invaded Britain and built roads to move their legions throughout the land. At Newark the old Roman Fosse Way, which ran from the Devon coast to Lincoln, linked with the Great North Road, which ran from London to Scotland, and with the road to the east coast.
By the 16th-century, Newark-on-Trent had become a busy and bustling staging post for horse-drawn coaches, which clattered through the town gates and across the cobbled market square frequently throughout the day—every twenty minutes or so. One imagines that the town at that time would have been a noisy, bustling, dirty, and foul-smelling place.
Inns and taverns were built within the walled town to accommodate travellers. The town was a Royalist stronghold, loyal to the King, during the English Civil war of the 17th century. It was besieged three times and eventually the garrison surrendered to Oliver Cromwell's troops. Newark Castle was then partially demolished on his orders. Over time many of the ancient buildings that surrounded the Market Place were lost. But some 16th-century treasures and a wealth of Georgian buildings remain for us to admire.
About the Old White Hart, a 15th Century Coaching Inn in Newark on Trent
- The oldest surviving inn in Newark
- 14th-century cellars lie underneath the carriageway and to the right
- The highly decorative facade dates to 1459. It was extensively restored in the 1980s. It‘s authentic style and colour were copied from original remaining material
Places of Interest in Historic Newark-on-Trent
There is a wealth of English history associated with this small market town situated on the banks of the River Trent:-
- The remains of a 12th Century castle
- The Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene
- The medieval Market Square
- The Governor's House
- The Georgian Town Hall
- The remains of the Civil War earthworks on the Queen's Sconce
- The National Civil War Museum
- Fine examples of architecture from many periods
- The Ossington building - built to serve as a temperance coffee house
Newark School of Musical Instrument Crafts
Situated in an impressive nineteenth-century building that was once the Westminster Bank, is the internationally renowned Newark School of Violin Making and Repair. Here skills are taught that are as much in demand today as they were 300 or 400 years ago. Students come from all over the world to learn how to craft a violin.
Lady Godiva's Connection With Newark-on-Trent
In 1055 Lady Godiva gave her manor of Newark to the Monastery of St.Mary at Stow near Lincoln. She was the sister to the Sheriff of Lincolnshire, and her husband, Earl Leofric of Mercia, was friend and companion to King Edward the Confessor. Lady Godiva is renowned for having ridden naked on horseback through the streets of Coventry in the year 1040 to save the inhabitants from the unreasonable demands of her husband, who promised to remove them if she would so do.
About Newark Castle
- Circa 1135 King Henry I granted a charter for the Bishop of Lincoln to build a castle at Newark. Originally a timber construction, it was rebuilt in stone towards the end of the century.
- Newark Castle boasts a rare bottleneck dungeon (oubliette), one of only two remaining on the planet. The second is on the island of Malta.
- 1215 - King John, regarded as the evilest king in British history, died at the Castle as a result of a severe case of dysentery (though some say he was poisoned).
- 1603 - King James VI of Scotland stayed at the Castle en route to London to succeed Elizabeth I and become King James I of England.
- 1646 - After the capture of King Charles I at nearby Kelham, the Castle was surrendered to the Roundheads who, within days, slighted it to render it useless as a fortress.
Rare Bottleneck Dungeon in Newark Castle
Guided Tours of Newark Castle
With the exception of the cold winter months, tours of the dungeons and the towers are held on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, subject to warden availability. Starting in March, tours last for approximately one hour and must be booked at least half an hour in advance, either online, at the Tourist Information Centre, or at the Civil War Centre.
Discover the dark past of the Castle with a tour of the Bottle Dungeon, Barrel Vault and Debtors Dungeons.
Prices: Adults £5, Children, £2.50, Family ticket £12.50
There are precarious steps and ladders to negotiate in the dungeons and the towers, so these tours are unsuitable for children under the age of five and people who suffer from physical disabilities. Suitable shoes are essential.
King John's Tower in Newark Castle
The Death of King John Re-Enacted at Newark Castle
The Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Newark-on-Trent
The Church is adjacent to Newark's medieval marketplace. In medieval times Newark was one of the largest towns in Nottinghamshire, which is reflected in the size of the Church, the tallest in the County and reputedly the fifth tallest in England. It has been recorded that after the surrender of Newark to Oliver Cromwell the Church was used to stable his troops' horses.
On a few days in the year visitors are permitted to climb the tower and enjoy a fantastic view of the town. Visit on a market day and you may find that a lunchtime concert is being given in the Church.
The building in front of the Parish Church in the picture below is the Moot Hall. The Hall was built in 1708 on the site of an earlier "King's Hall". It was used for meetings of the Manor Court, the Quarter Sessions, and other official business. But don't be deceived—this 'old' building was demolished brick-by-brick in the 1960s and rebuilt to the original plans, using the original bricks. A coffee shop, with outdoor seating under the pillars, is currently on the ground floor.
Newark Town Hall
Newark Town Hall was built in 1776. It is a Grade I Listed Building of outstanding architectural merit.
Market Days at Newark in Nottinghamshire
Market days have drawn people into the centre of Newark since the granting of a 12th-century charter and, as in those earlier days, the town is at its busiest, bustling, times on days when the general market is held. Saturdays are particularly busy.
- Monday (except Bank Holidays) - collectors/antique market
- Wednesday - General Retail Market
- Thursday - collectors/antique market
- Friday - General Retail Market
- Saturday- General Retail Market
A Farmers Market is held on the first Wednesday of every month. Here you will find locally grown and prepared food and drink including vegetables, fruit, jams, meat, honey, ice creams, dairy produce, and home-baked goods.
Newark International Antique and Collectors Fair
The Newark International Antique and Collectors Fairs are world renowned. They take place on 84 acres at Newark Showground. A few celebrities, including the actress and singer Cher, have occasionally been spotted there.
Tip: A no-hassle way to get to the Fair: arrive by train, or park your car at Northgate train station and then catch a shuttle bus to get to the Fair.
- Newark Antiques & Collectors Fair – iacf
Newark is Europe’s biggest antiques and collectors fair. 6 events per year at Newark Showground, Notts.
A Late Nineteenth-Century Temperance Coffee House
Newark Civil War Museum and Newark Palace Theatre
Newark Town Hall Museum and Art Gallery
The Old Bakery Tea Rooms
The Governors' House (Greggs Bakery)
Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene
Newark Castle and Grounds Newark Town Lock Lockkeepers Cottage
The Odeon Cinema has four screens. The programme changes each week. There is a Costa Coffee shop within the complex
The Ossington. A Temperance Coffee House nowadays housing an Italian Restaurant with private apartments above
A Walk Along Newark Riverside to the Town Locks
The River Trent at Newark was canalised near to the Castle in 1773. The river became an increasingly important means of transporting goods, which were loaded and unloaded on Newark Wharf. A stroll through the circular Riverside Walk passes the locks.
The Three Sieges of Newark-on-Trent
Because of its geographic position Newark was strategically important, in terms of keeping supplies and troops moving, to both the Royalists and the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War (1642-1651).
Newark was fiercely loyal to King Charles I. A circle of earth fortifications were constructed outside the walled town—the remains of nine of them are still visible. The Royalist troops repulsed two sieges by the Parliamentarians before surrendering after a third assault. Evidence suggests that the townspeople suffered greatly during this period. Disease raged in the town; and it has been recorded that on occasion the people resorted to eating rats.
Sconce and Devon Park
- Sconce and Devon Park is the largest area of open space in Newark
- Within the Park is the Queen's Sconce—the remains of a Civil War defensive earthworks constructed in 1642 and now designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The Sconce is considered an internationally important heritage feature
- Facilities within the Park include a park ranger, a children's play area, large areas of grassland and woodland, a riverside walk, nature reserves, and Rumbles Cafe
- The Park received Green Flag awards in 2013/14 and 2014/15
“ Hercules Clay, some time Mayor of Newark, resided in a house at the corner of the market-place [...] For three nights in succession he dreamt that the besiegers had set his place on fire,[he and his family quitted their abode}.They had no sooner done so than a bomb, fired from Beacon Hill, occupied by the Parliamentary forces, and believed to have been aimed at the Governor’s house, fell on the roof of Clay's dwelling, and, passing through every floor, set the whole building in flames."
The quotation is from Cornelius Brown's "A History of Nottinghamshire" (1891).
To commemorate the family's escape Hercules Clay left a sum of money to be distributed in charity. To this day a service is held annually at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene to honour his wishes. A Bible representing Hercules Clay's Bible is brought to the altar by a surviving relative and small loaves of bread are symbolically handed out to the Church Choir to represent Hercules Clay's bequest of £100 to the poor people of Newark.
Newark National Civil War Centre Opening Times and Prices
April - September: 10am-5pm
October - March: 10am-4pm
- Adults £8
- Concessions (students and seniors 65+) £7
- Children (5-16 years) £3.50
- Children (under 5) Free!
- Carers (accompanying persons registered as disabled) Free!
17th Century Surgeon's Equipment
The National Civil War Centre in Newark-on-Trent
- National Civil War Centre, Newark
The National Civil War Centre was opened in 2014. It is part of a complex which includes the Palace Theatre and the Tourist Information Office.
A Schedule of Listed Buildings in Newark-on-Trent
- Listed Buildings in Newark, Nottinghamshire, England | British Listed Buildings
British Listed Buildings is a comprehensive online resource including text from the statutory listed buildings register, location maps, user-contributed comments and photographs. Includes all listed buildings online in England, Scotland and Wales.
Visitor Trails Around Newark-on-Trent
Everything in Newark that is of historic interest is within easy walking distance of the town centre. Pick up a few leaflets at the Tourist Information office, located in the Palace Theatre, to guide you along the fascinating trails.
Visit Newark Air Museum
- A Visit England Quality Assured Attraction
A Visit England Quality Assured Attraction with a range of aircraft and cockpit parts. Located on the former WWII airfield at Winthorpe. The museum organises special events throughout the year.
Opening Times and Ticket Prices for Newark Air Museum
The Museum is open every day except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Day
- 10 am - 5 pm March to October
- 10 am - 4 pm November to February
Admission Charges: You can make a Gift Aid Donation as an alternative to normal admissions for accessing the museum. With this new option the Gift Aided Donation includes a 70p or 60p voucher to spend in the Museum Café.
Gift Aided Donation [G.A.D]
Adult G.A.D - £9.35
Over 60s G.A.D. - £8.25
Family G.A.D. - £25.30
Child G.A.D - £4.95
None Gift Aided Price [N.G.A.P]
Adult N.G.A.P - £8.50
Over 60s N.G.A.P. - £7.50
Child N.G.A.P - £4.50
Family N.G.A.P. - £23.00
Under 5s FREE: Special rates for the disabled, students, UB40 holders, serving members of the armed forces, and parties of 15 plus are available on application.
The Family ticket now covers two adults and three children.
Find Newark Air Museum
Newark Showground, Newark Air Museum, Golf Centre, and Indoor Bowls Centre
The Romantic Poet Lord George Byron Published his First Poems In Newark-on-Trent
Lord Byron visited Newark whilst living in Burgage Manor, Southwell. He stayed at the Clinton Arms Hotel and had his first collection of poems printed at a printing shop just off the Market Place.
You can read more about Byron and his connection with Newark and Nottinghamshire here.
How to Get to Newark-on-Trent
- Nowadays you don't need to suffer the discomfort of a horse-drawn coach to get to Newark.
- The town is on the East Coast mainline railway, which runs from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh, stopping at Newark Northgate Station.
- An East MIdlands line runs from Nottingham to Lincoln via Newark Castle Station.
- There is a regular bus service from Lincoln and from Nottingham.
- Newark is easily accessible by car.
Car Parks in Newark on Trent
Multi-storey car park in the centre of town
Close to the castle, the riverside and the town centre
Riverside Park Car Park
Newark Castle Station Car Park
Close to the town centre, the library and the Odeon cinema
Close to the Palace Theatre
Suggestions for Evenings Out in Newark-on-Trent
- See a production at the Palace Theatre
- Visit one of the numerous excellent restaurants in the town or surrounding villages
- Stop by at a pub for a pint—the Prince Rupert offers a flavour of history, the Fox and Crown has speciality beers. Those who want to be on the water beat a track to the Barge on Newark Wharf.
- Enjoy a glass of wine at Ann et Vin (occasionally live jazz on Saturday evenings)
- Stray's Coffee Shop has occasional jazz and tapas evenings and jazz after 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoons.
- Visit the multi-screen cinema
- Try your hand at ten pin bowling
- Take an evening boat trip on the River Trent during the summer months
- Go for a swim at the new Newark Leisure Centre, which opened in 2016
- Hit a few balls on the driving range at Newark Golf Centre
Some Nearby Visitor Attractions
- Sherwood Forest and the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre. The Robin Hood Festival is held there during the summer
- Southwell—a quaint small town with an imposing Minster
- Clumber Park
- Rufford Abbey Country Park
- Newstead Abbey—the family home of the poet Lord Byron
- Belton House (National Trust property)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2016 GlenR