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Newark-on-Trent, UK: Historic Market Town, Home to England's National Civil War Centre

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Glenis was born and grew up in Newark-on-Trent. She can trace her family history in the area back to the early eighteenth century.

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.

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.

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
The Old White Hart in Newark Market Place. Three storey 15th century coaching inn with carriage entrance to the White Hart Yard.

The Old White Hart in Newark Market Place. Three storey 15th century coaching inn with carriage entrance to the White Hart Yard.

About Newark Castle

  • 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 most evil 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.

The Death of King John Re-Enacted at Newark Castle

The Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Newark-on-Trent

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 the fifth tallest in England.

On a few days in the year visitors are permitted to climb the tower to enjoy a fantastic view of the town.

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, locally known simply as 'the Parish Church', seen from Newark Market Place. The building centre-left is the Moot Hall.

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, locally known simply as 'the Parish Church', seen from Newark Market Place. The building centre-left is the Moot Hall.

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

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.

A summer day in Newark on Trent Market Place

A summer day in Newark on Trent Market Place

A Late Nineteenth-Century Temperance Coffee House

The Ossington building was built by Lady Ossington in 1882 to serve as a temperance coffee house.

The Ossington building was built by Lady Ossington in 1882 to serve as a temperance coffee house.

A Walk Along Newark Riverside to the Town Locks

A stroll through the circular Riverside Walk passes Newark town 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. The inhabitants suffered greatly during this period. Disease raged in the town; and it has been recorded that 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 in Park include 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
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.

Hercules Clay’s Bequest to the Poor

To commemorate his family's escape from bomb, 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 descendant 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.

“ 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."

— Cornelius Brown - A History of Nottinghamshire (1891)

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.
The National Civil War Centre at Newark-on-Trent

The National Civil War Centre at Newark-on-Trent

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.

Newark on Trent in Bygone Days

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.

Early 18th century hotel with a piazza of Tuscan columns facing Newark Market Square. One of the grand coaching inns on the Great North Road with notable visitors such at Lord Byron and William Gladstone, it nowadays houses a variety of shops.

Early 18th century hotel with a piazza of Tuscan columns facing Newark Market Square. One of the grand coaching inns on the Great North Road with notable visitors such at Lord Byron and William Gladstone, it nowadays houses a variety of shops.

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.

© 2016 Glen Rix

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