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Historic Newark-on-Trent: Visitor Essentials

Updated on November 06, 2016
Glenis Rix profile image

Glenis was born and raised in Newark-on-Trent and has so far traced the history of her family in the area back to 1728.


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The Cross Roads to the North

Newark-onTrent 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. Over time many of the ancient buildings have been lost but a few 16th-century treasures and a wealth of Georgian buildings remain for us to admire.

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The Queen's Head. A three storey 15th century coaching inn just off Newark Market Place
The Queen's Head. A three storey 15th century coaching inn just off Newark Market Place | Source
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View of Newark Castle from the Great North Road.
View of Newark Castle from the Great North Road. | Source
The Old White Hart. Three storey 15th century coaching inn with carriage entrance to the White Hart Yard.
The Old White Hart. Three storey 15th century coaching inn with carriage entrance to the White Hart Yard. | Source

About the Old White Hart

  • 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 is authentic and style and colour which was 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—built to serve as a temperance coffee house

Kirkgate, Newark
Kirkgate, Newark | Source
Newark School of Violin Making
Newark School of Violin Making | Source

Based in an impressive nineteenth century building that was once the Westminster Bank, is the internationally renowned Newark School of Violin Making and Repair teaches skills that are as much in demand today as they were 300 or 400 years ago. Students come from all over the world to learn the craft.

Newark Violin School
Newark Violin School | Source

Lady Godiva Connection with Newark-on-Trent

Painting by John Collier
Painting by John Collier

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 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). 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.
  • 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.


The Bottleneck Dungeon in Newark Castle

The ladder is a recent installation. Prisoners would simply be hurled down the vertical drop. If the fall didn't kill them they were simply left to starve to death and rot.
The ladder is a recent installation. Prisoners would simply be hurled down the vertical drop. If the fall didn't kill them they were simply left to starve to death and rot. | Source

Guided Tours of Newark Castle

Tours of the dungeons and the towers are held on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, subject to warden availability. 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.

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.

King John's tower at Newark Castle. The room where King John died is up the stairs
King John's tower at Newark Castle. The room where King John died is up the stairs | Source

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, which is the tallest in the County and reputedly the fifth tallest in England. 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.


The Church of St. Mary Magdalene seen from Newark Market Place. The building centre-left is the Moot Hall.
The Church of St. Mary Magdalene seen from Newark Market Place. The building centre-left is the Moot Hall. | Source

Newark Town Hall

Newark Town Hall was built in 1776. It is a Grade I Listed Building of outstanding architectural merit.

The Town Hall is used for meetings of the Town Council and for events and functions. It houses a museum collection of artifacts and gallery of works of fine art by local artists. Admission is free of charge
The Town Hall is used for meetings of the Town Council and for events and functions. It houses a museum collection of artifacts and gallery of works of fine art by local artists. Admission is free of charge | Source

Markets have been continually held in Newark Market Place since a Charter was granted in the 12th century.

The Assembly Room (Ballroom) in Newark Town Hall laid out for a dinner function
The Assembly Room (Ballroom) in Newark Town Hall laid out for a dinner function | Source

Market Days in Newark in Nottinghamshire

Since medieval times market days have drawn people into the centre of Newark 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.

Weekly markets have been held here since a 12th century  charter permitting them was granted
Weekly markets have been held here since a 12th century charter permitting them was granted | Source

Newark International Antique and Collectors Fair

The Newark International Antique and Collectors Fairs are world renowned. The 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


The Ossington building. Built in 1882 to serve as a temperance coffee house. Nowadays it houses an Italian restaurant on the ground floor and private apartments on the upper floors.
The Ossington building. Built in 1882 to serve as a temperance coffee house. Nowadays it houses an Italian restaurant on the ground floor and private apartments on the upper floors. | Source
show route and directions
A markerNG24 1JY -
Appleton Gate, Newark NG24 1JY, UK
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Newark Civil War Museum and Newark Palace Theatre

B markerNG24 1DU -
Market Pl, Newark NG24 1DU, UK
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Newark Town Hall Museum and Art Gallery

C markerNG241EL -
Queen's Rd, Newark NG24 1EL, UK
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The Old Bakery Tea Rooms

D markerNG241AW -
Stodman St, Newark NG24 1AW, UK
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The Governors' House (Greggs Bakery)

E markerNG241JS -
Church Walk, Newark NG24 1JS, UK
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Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene

F markerNG241BG -
Castle Gate, Newark NG24 1BG, UK
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Newark Castle and Grounds Newark Town Lock Lockkeepers Cottage

G markerNG241TN -
London Rd, Newark NG24 1TN, UK
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The Odeon Cinema has four screens. The programme changes each week. There is a Costa Coffee shop within the complex

H markerNG241BH -
Newark NG24 1BH, UK
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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.

Newark Town Locks
Newark Town Locks | Source
Cross the bridge on the locks for a reviving cup of tea at Lock Keepers Cottage
Cross the bridge on the locks for a reviving cup of tea at Lock Keepers Cottage | Source

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.

Civil War Earth Fortifications. An image of what the Queen's Sconce looked like during the English Civil War.
Civil War Earth Fortifications. An image of what the Queen's Sconce looked like during the English Civil War. | Source

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

Location of the Queen's Sconce

A markerScone and Devon Park, Newark -
Sconce and Devon Park, Boundary Rd, Newark NG24 4AU, UK
get directions

The Governors' House. A 15th century half timbered building in Newark Market Place During the Civil War it was occupied by successive Governors of the town. KIng Charles I and Prince Rupert are said to have argued here over battle plans.
The Governors' House. A 15th century half timbered building in Newark Market Place During the Civil War it was occupied by successive Governors of the town. KIng Charles I and Prince Rupert are said to have argued here over battle plans. | Source

Hercules Clay

“ 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.

The Mayoral procession from Newark Town Hall to the Hercules Clay Sermon. The Hercules Clay sermon is also known as the penny loaf sermon or the bombshell sermon.
The Mayoral procession from Newark Town Hall to the Hercules Clay Sermon. The Hercules Clay sermon is also known as the penny loaf sermon or the bombshell sermon. | Source
Queen Henrietta stayed in this building when visitng Newark with 3000 troops to rally support for the King's cause.
Queen Henrietta stayed in this building when visitng Newark with 3000 troops to rally support for the King's cause.

Re-enactment of the Siege and Surrender of Newark by the Sealed Knot Society

The Sealed Knot Society visits Newark to re-enact the Town's pivotal place in the English Civil War.
The Sealed Knot Society visits Newark to re-enact the Town's pivotal place in the English Civil War. | Source
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Gaze at the Church spire to discover a hole made by a cannonball. This plaque is on Mount Lane.
Gaze at the Church spire to discover a hole made by a cannonball. This plaque is on Mount Lane. | Source
The National Civil War Centre at Newark-on-Trent
The National Civil War Centre at Newark-on-Trent | Source

Newark National Civil War Centre Opening Times and Prices

April - September: 10am-5pm

October - March: 10am-4pm

Prices:

  • 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!

The old bakery tea rooms.Take a break for coffee, a light lunch, or afternoon tea with delicious homemade cakes.
The old bakery tea rooms.Take a break for coffee, a light lunch, or afternoon tea with delicious homemade cakes. | Source

42 Castlegate

The late 16th - early 17th century cottage in the middle is where the author's grandmother was born in the late 19th century.
The late 16th - early 17th century cottage in the middle is where the author's grandmother was born in the late 19th century. | Source
The Prince Rupert. A 16th century wealthy merchants house.  Underwent extensive restoration some years ago and is now a pub/restaurant.
The Prince Rupert. A 16th century wealthy merchants house. Underwent extensive restoration some years ago and is now a pub/restaurant. | Source

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.

Telephone Boxes in Newark Market Place
Telephone Boxes in Newark Market Place | Source
Chain Lane, looking towards the Market Place
Chain Lane, looking towards the Market Place | Source
Chain Lane. The archway leads to the Market Place.  Ladies who enjoy fashion at the high end of the ready to wear market will love this shop!
Chain Lane. The archway leads to the Market Place. Ladies who enjoy fashion at the high end of the ready to wear market will love this shop! | Source
Some of the exhibits at Newark Air Museum
Some of the exhibits at Newark Air Museum | Source

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

Opening Times:

  • 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

A markerNG242NY -
Winthorpe, Newark NG24 2NY, UK
get directions

Newark Showground, Newark Air Museum, Golf Centre, and Indoor Bowls Centre

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.

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 (live jazz on Saturday evenings)
  • Stray's Coffee Shop has occasional jazz and tapas evenings
  • Visit the multi-screen cinema
  • Try your hand at ten pin bowling
  • Take an evening boat trip on the River Trent
  • 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

Ann et Vin Renowned wine shop and venue for all that jazz
Ann et Vin Renowned wine shop and venue for all that jazz | Source

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

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  • Glenis Rix profile image
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    Glenis Rix 4 months ago from UK

    Thank you so much Peggy. I appreciate your kind comments and your generosity. I have lived in Newark for most of my life and in my working life was involved in a number of regeneration projects around the riverside.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 4 months ago from Houston, Texas

    Wow! You have given such a great explanation of what there is to see and do if visiting Newark on Trent along with some history of the place and times. Excellent hub! Thanks for introducing me to this place via your words and photos. It looks like a great destination to spend some time. Happy to share this and give it a tweet.

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