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Newark-on-Trent - Wikipedia

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This article is about the town in Nottinghamshire. For other uses, see Newark (disambiguation).

Newark-on-Trent or Newark ()[1] is a market town and civil parish in the Newark and Sherwood district of Nottinghamshire, England.[2] It stands on the River Trent, the A1 - the ancient Great North Road - and the East Coast Main Line railway. Its origins may be Roman, as it lies on a major Roman road, the Fosse Way. It grew up round Newark Castle, now ruined, as a centre for the wool and cloth trades. In the English Civil War, it was besieged by Parliamentary forces and relieved by Royalist forces under Prince Rupert. It has a market place still lined with historic buildings. Many present Newark residents commute to Lincoln and Nottingham.


Signpost in Newark-on-Trent

Early history[edit]

The place-name Newark is first attested in the Cartulary of Eynsham Abbey in Oxfordshire, where it appears as Newercha in about 1054-1057 and Niweweorche in about 1075-1092. It appears as Newerche in the 1086 Domesday Book. The name means 'New work', with the apparent meaning of "New fort".[3]

The origins of the town are possibly Roman, due to its position on an important Roman road, the Fosse Way. In a document which purports to be a charter of AD 664, Newark is mentioned as having been granted to the Abbey of Peterborough by King Wulfhere of Mercia. An Anglo-Saxon pagan cemetery, used from the early 5th to early 7th centuries, has been found in Millgate, Newark, close to the Fosse Way and the River Trent. There cremated remains were buried in pottery urns.[4]

In the reign of Edward the Confessor, Newark belonged to Godiva and her husband Leofric, Earl of Mercia, who granted it to Stow Minster in 1055. After the Norman Conquest, Stow Minster retained the revenues of Newark, but it came under the control of the Norman Bishop Remigius de Fécamp, after whose death control passed to the Bishops of Lincoln from 1092 until the reign of Edward VI. There were burgesses in Newark at the time of the Domesday survey. The reign of Edward III shows evidence that it had long been a borough by prescription. The Newark wapentake (hundred) in the east of Nottinghamshire was established in the period of Anglo-Saxon rule (10th-11th centuries).

Medieval to Stuart period[edit]

Newark Castle was originally a Saxon fortified manor house founded by King Edward the Elder. In 1073, Remigius de Fécamp, Bishop of Lincoln, founded an earthwork motte-and-bailey fortress on the site. The river bridge was built about this time under a charter from Henry I, as was St Leonard's Hospital. The bishop also gained from the king a charter to hold a five-day fair at the castle each year, and under King Stephen to establish a mint. King John died of dysentery in Newark Castle in 1216.[5]

The town became a local centre for the wool and cloth trade - by the time of Henry II a major market was established. Wednesday and Saturday markets in the town were founded in the period 1156-1329, under a series of charters from the Bishop of Lincoln.[6] After his death, Henry III tried to bring order to the country, but the mercenary Robert de Gaugy refused to yield Newark Castle to the Bishop of Lincoln, its rightful owner. This led to the Dauphin of France (later King Louis VIII of France) laying an eight-day siege on behalf of the king, ended by an agreement to pay the mercenary to leave. Around the time of Edward III's death in "1377 Poll tax records show an adult population of 1,178, excluding beggars and clergy, making Newark one of the biggest 25 or so towns in England".[7]

In 1457 a flood swept away the bridge over the Trent. Although there was no legal requirement to do so, the Bishop of Lincoln, John Chaworth, funded a new bridge of oak with stone defensive towers at either end. In January 1571 or 1572, the composer Robert Parsons fell into the swollen River Trent at Newark and drowned.[8]

After the break with Rome in the 16th century, the establishment of the Church of England, and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII had the Vicar of Newark, Henry Lytherland, executed for refusing to acknowledge the king as head of the Church. The dissolution affected Newark's political landscape, and even more radical changes came in 1547, when the Bishop of Lincoln exchanged ownership of the town with the Crown. Newark was incorporated under an alderman and twelve assistants in 1549, and the charter was confirmed and extended by Elizabeth I.

Charles I reincorporated the town under a mayor and aldermen, owing to its increasing commercial prosperity. This charter, except for a temporary surrender under James II, continued to govern the corporation until the Municipal Corporations Act 1835.

The Civil War[edit]

A makeshift royalist shilling (siege piece) made from silver plate during the siege

During the English Civil War, Newark was a mainstay of the Royalist cause, Charles I having raised his standard in nearby Nottingham. "Newark was besieged on three occasions and finally surrendered only when ordered to do so by the King after his own surrender."[9] It was attacked in February 1643 by two troops of horsemen, but beat them back. The town fielded at times as many as 600 soldiers, and raided Nottingham, Grantham, Northampton, Gainsborough and other places with mixed success, but enough to cause it to rise to national notice. In 1644 Newark was besieged by forces from Nottingham, Lincoln and Derby, until relieved in March by Prince Rupert.

Parliament commenced a new siege towards the end of January 1645 after more raiding, but this was relieved about a month later by Sir Marmaduke Langdale. Newark cavalry fought with the king's forces, which were decisively defeated in the Battle of Naseby, near Leicester in June 1645.

The final siege began in November 1645, by which time the town's defences had been greatly strengthened. Two major forts had been constructed just outside the town, one called the Queen's Sconce to the south-west, and another, the King's Sconce, to the north-east, both close to the river, with defensive walls and a water-filled ditch of 2¼ miles around the town. The King's May 1646 order to surrender was only accepted under protest by the town's garrison. After that, much of the defences was destroyed, including the Castle, which was left in essentially the state it can be seen today. The Queen's Sconce was left largely untouched and its remains are in Sconce and Devon Park.

Georgian era and early 19th century[edit]

Around 1770 the Great North Road around Newark (now the A1) was raised on a long series of arches to ensure it remained clear of the regular floods. A special Act of Parliament in 1773 allowed the creation of a town hall next to the Market Place. Designed by John Carr of York and completed in 1776, Newark Town Hall is now a Grade I listed building, housing a museum and art gallery. In 1775 the Duke of Newcastle, at the time the Lord of the Manor and a major landowner in the area, built a new brick bridge with stone facing to replace a dilapidated one next to the Castle. This is still one of the town's major thoroughfares today.

A noted 18th-century advocate of reform in Newark was the local printer and newspaper owner Daniel Holt (1766-1799). He was imprisoned for printing a leaflet advocating parliamentary reform, and for selling a pamphlet by Thomas Paine.[10]

In a milieu of parliamentary reform, the Duke of Newcastle evicted over a hundred tenants at Newark whom he believed to support directly or indirectly at the 1829 elections the Liberal/Radical candidate (Wilde), rather than his candidate, (Michael Sadler, a progressive Conservative).[11]

J. S. Baxter, a schoolboy in Newark in 1830-1840, contributed to The Hungry Forties: Life under the Bread Tax (London, 1904), a book about the Corn Laws: "Chartists and rioters came from Nottingham into Newark, parading the streets with penny loaves dripped in blood carried on pikes, crying 'Bread or blood'."

19th-21st centuries[edit]

Many new buildings and much industry appeared in the Victorian era. The new buildings included the Independent Chapel (1822), Holy Trinity (1836-1837), Christ Church (1837), Castle Railway Station (1846), the Wesleyan Chapel (1846), the Corn Exchange (1848), the Methodist New Connexion Chapel (1848), W. N. Nicholson Trent Ironworks (1840s), Northgate Railway Station (1851), North End Wesleyan Chapel (1868), St Leonard's Anglican Church (1873), the Baptist Chapel (1876), the Primitive Methodist Chapel (1878), Newark Hospital (1881), Ossington Coffee Palace (1882), Gilstrap Free Library (1883), the Market Hall (1884), the Unitarian Chapel (1884), the Fire Station (1889), the Waterworks (1898), and the School of Science and Art (1900).

The Ossington Coffee Palace was built by Lady Charlotte Ossington, daughter of the 4th Duke of Portland and widow of the former Speaker of the House of Commons, Viscount Ossington, designed to be a Temperance alternative to pubs and coaching inns.[12]

These changes and associated industrial expansion raised the population from under 7,000 in 1800 to over 15,000 by the end of the 19th century. The Sherwood Avenue Drill Hall opened in 1914, just as the First World War began.[13]

Memorial cross to General Sikorski, Newark Cemetery

During the Second World War, there were several RAF stations within a few miles of Newark, from many of which operated squadrons of the Polish Air Force. A special plot was set aside in Newark Cemetery for RAF burials and this is now the war graves plot, where all but ten of the 90 Commonwealth and all of the 397 Polish burials were made. The cemetery also contains 49 scattered burials from the First World War. A memorial cross to the Polish airmen buried here was unveiled in 1941 by President Raczkiewicz, ex-President of the Polish Republic and head of the wartime Polish Government in London, supported by General Sikorski, head of the Polish Armed Forces and wartime Polish Prime Minister. When both men died - General Sikorski in 1943 and President Raczkiewicz in 1947 - they were buried at the foot of the memorial. General Sikorski's remains were returned to Poland in 1993, but there is still a memorial to him in Newark.[14]

The prime industries in Newark in the last hundred years have been the manufacture of clothing, bearings, pumps, agricultural machinery and pine furniture, and the refining of sugar. British Sugar still has one of its sugar-beet processing factories to the north of the town near the A616 (Great North Road). There have been several factory closures[citation needed], especially since the 1950s. The breweries in the town that closed in the 20th century included James Hole[15][16] and Warwicks-and-Richardsons.[17][18]


The estimated population for Newark parish in 2007 was 26,330, increasing to 27,700 at the 2011 census.[19] According to the 2001 census, it had a population of 25,376. The ONS Mid Year Population Estimates for 2007 indicate that the population had increased to some 26,700.[20] "The population of Newark is approximately 35,000 and the rural area of Newark and Sherwood to the west of the town has an additional population of 75,000 in the small towns of Southwell and Ollerton and the numerous villages of the district."[21]

In ethnographic terms, Newark is 93 per cent white British, according to the 2011 census. It is also prosperous: 77 per cent of adults are employed, according to the latest ONS data, compared with a national average of 72 per cent. Earnings are 7 per cent above the average in the surrounding East Midlands.


Newark lies on the River Trent, with the River Devon also running through the town. Standing at the intersection of the Great North Road and the Fosse Way, Newark originally grew around Newark Castle, now ruined, and a large market place now lined with historic buildings.

Newark forms a continuous built-up area with the neighbouring parish of Balderton to the south-east. To the south, along the A46 road, is Farndon, and to the north Winthorpe.

Newark's growth and development have both been enhanced by having one of few bridges over the River Trent, by the navigability of the river, by the presence of the Great North Road (the A1, etc.), and later by the advance of the railways, bringing a junction between the East Coast Main Line and the Nottingham to Lincoln route. "Newark became a substantial inland port, particularly for the wool trade,"[22] though it industrialised to some extent in the Victorian era, and later with an ironworks, engineering, brewing, and a sugar refinery.

The A1 bypass was opened in 1964 by the then Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples.[23] The single-carriageway, £34-million A46 opened in October 1990.


The parliamentary borough of Newark returned two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the Unreformed House of Commons from 1673. It was the last borough to be created before the Reform Act. William Ewart Gladstone, later Prime Minister, became its MP in 1832 and was re-elected in 1835, 1837 and 1841 (twice), but possibly due to his support of the repeal of the Corn Laws and other issues he stood elsewhere after that time.

Newark elections were central to two interesting legal cases. In 1945, a challenge to Harold Laski, the Chairman of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, led Laski to sue the Daily Express when it reported him as saying that Labour might take power through violence if defeated at the polls. Laski vehemently denied saying this, but lost the libel action. In the 1997 general election, Newark returned Fiona Jones of the Labour Party. Jones and her election agent Des Whicher were convicted of submitting a fraudulent declaration of expenses, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.

Newark's former MP[24] is Patrick Mercer, Conservative. Mercer held the position of Shadow Minister for Homeland Security from June 2003 until March 2007, when he was forced to resign after making racially contentious comments to The Times.[25]

After a by-election on 5 June 2014 brought about by the resignation of Patrick Mercer, he was replaced by the Conservative Robert Jenrick, who was re-elected at the general election of 7 May 2015.[26]

Newark has three local-government tiers: Newark Town Council, Newark and Sherwood District Council and Nottinghamshire County Council. The 39 district councillors cover waste, planning, environmental health, licensing, car parks, housing, leisure and culture. The District Council opened a national Civil War Centre and Newark Museum in May 2015. Ten county councillors are elected to Nottinghamshire County Council for the area.[27] Nottinghamshire County Council provides children's services, adult care, and highways and transport services. The town has an elected council of 18 members from four wards.[28] Newark Town Council has taken on some responsibilities devolved by Newark and Sherwood District Council, including parks, open spaces and Newark Market. It also runs events such as the LocAle and Weinfest,[29] a museum in the Town Hall,[30] and allotments.[31]

A new police station, costing £7 million, opened in October 2006.[32]


The town has two main mixed secondary schools. The older, Magnus Church of England Academy, founded in 1531 by the diplomat Thomas Magnus, lies close to the town centre.[33] The Newark Academy is in neighbouring Balderton[34] (previously The Grove School).[35] It underwent a £25 million rebuild in 2016 after a long campaign.[36][37][38]

The town has several primary schools. A large new school is in the Middlebeck development on the town's southern edge and is planned to open in September 2021.[39][40][41]


British Sugar PLC runs a mill on the outskirts of the town that opened in 1921. It has 130 permanent staff and processes 1.6 million tonnes of sugar beet produced by about 800 UK growers, at an average distance of 28 miles from the factory. Of the output, 250,000 tonnes are processed and supplied to food and drink manufacturers in the UK and across Europe. At the heart of the Newark factory's operations is a combined heat and power (CHP) plant, with boilers fuelled by natural gas to meet the site's steam and electricity requirements and contribute to the grid enough power for 800 homes. The installation is rated under the government CHP environmental quality-assurance scheme.

Other major employers are a bearings factory (part of the NSK group) with some 200 employees, and Laurens Patisseries,[42] part of the food group Bakkavör since May 2006, which bought it for £130 million. It employs over 1,000. In 2007, Currys opened a £30 million national distribution centre next to the A17 near the A46 roundabout, and Dixon's moved its national distribution centre there in 2005, with over 1,400 staff employed at the site at peak times. Flowserve, formerly Ingersoll Dresser Pumps, has a manufacturing facility in the town. Project Telecom in Brunel Drive was bought by Vodafone in 2003 for a reported £163 million. Since 1985, Newark has been host to the biggest antiques outlet in Europe, the Newark International Antiques and Collectors Fair, held bi-monthly at Newark Showground. Newark has plentiful antique shops and centres.


Newark hosts Newark Rugby Union Football Club, whose players have included Dusty Hare, John Wells, Greig Tonks and Tom Ryder.[43] The town has a leisure centre in Bowbridge Road, opened in 2016.

Newark and Sherwood Concert Band has over 50 regular players and has performed at numerous area events in the last few years. Also based in Newark are the Royal Air Force Music Charitable Trust and Lincolnshire Chamber Orchestra.[44]

The Palace Theatre in Appletongate is Newark's main entertainment venue, offering drama, live music, dance and film.

The National Civil War Centre and Newark Museum, next to the Palace Theatre in Appletongate in the town centre, opened in 2015 to interpret Newark's part in the English Civil War in the 17th century and explore its wider implications.[45]

Landmarks and treasures[edit]

Newark Torc[edit]

The Newark Torc, a silver and gold Iron Age torc, was the first found in Nottinghamshire. It closely resembles that of the Snettisham Hoard. Uncovered in 2005, it occupies a field on the town's outskirts,[51] and in 2008 was acquired by Newark and Sherwood District Council.[52] The torc was displayed at the British Museum in London until the opening of the National Civil War Centre and Newark Museum in May 2015. It is now shown in the museum galleries.

Churches and other religious sites[edit]

Newark's churches include the Grade I listed parish church, St Mary Magdalene. Other Anglican churches include Christ Church in Boundary Road and St Leonard's in Lincoln Road. The Catholic Holy Trinity Church was consecrated in 1979.[53] Other places of worship include three Methodist churches,[54] the Baptist Church in Albert St, and the Church of Promise, founded in 2007.[55]

In 2014 the Newark Odinist Temple, a Grade II listed building in Bede House Lane, was consecrated according to the rites of the Odinist Fellowship, making this the first heathen temple operating in England in modern times.[56][57]


Newark has two railway stations. The East Coast Main Line serves Newark North Gate railway station with links to London, King's Cross in around an hour and a quarter, as well as north to Leeds, Hull, Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh. Newark Castle railway station on the Leicester-Nottingham-Lincoln line provides cross-country regional links. The two cross at the last flat crossing in Britain.[58] Grade separation has been proposed.[59]

The main roads of Newark include the A1 and A46 as bypasses. The A17 runs east to King's Lynn in Norfolk, and the A616 north to Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. The bus-service providers include Stagecoach in Lincolnshire ("Newark busabouttown"),[60] Marshalls and Travel Wright,[61] under the control of Nottinghamshire County Council,[62]


The town's weekly Newark Advertiser, founded in 1854, is owned by Newark Advertiser Co Ltd, which also publishes local newspapers in Southwell and Bingham.[63]

The community station Radio Newark began broadcasting on 107.8 FM in May 2015, after three successful trials in 2014 and 2015. The station replaces a former community station, Boundary Sound, which ceased broadcasting in 2011.

Notable people[edit]

Armed forces[edit]

Fine arts[edit]



Politics and government[edit]


Science and technology[edit]


Stage and screen[edit]

Twin towns[edit]

Since 1984 Newark has been twinned with:


Coat of arms of Newark-on-Trent Notes Originally granted to the Borough of Newark-on-Trent on 8th December 1561. Crest On a wreath Argent and Azure a morfex Argent beaked Sable holding in its beak an eel Proper. Torse Gules doubled Argent. Escutcheon Barry wavy of six Argent and Azure on a chief Gules a peacock in his pride Proper between a fleur-de-lis on the dexter and a lion passant guardant on the sinister Or. Supporters On the dexter side an otter and on the sinister side a beaver the latter langued Gules. Motto Deo Fretus Erumpe (Trust God And Sally)[84]


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External links[edit]