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The History of Newark

Newark Hotels | guide to Newark

Newark is a thriving market town that sits on the River Trent in
Nottinghamshire. Although the Newark Torc, and gold and silver iron
age bracelet, was found nearby it is thought the town owes its
existence to its position along the Fosse Way. This major road was
built by the Romans and runs from Exeter to Lincoln. The point where
it crosses the River Trent is where Newark now stands. Subsequently
the town was inhabited by Saxons and a document of 664AD suggests it
received a charter and belonged to the Abbey of Peterborough. An
Anglo-Saxon cemetery was unearthed in Millgate, complete with cremated
remains housed in pottery urns, and dates to between the 5th and 7th
centuries. The town was granted to the monastery of Stow in 1055. It
remained in their charge even after the Norman Conquest but was
eventually granted to the Bishops of Lincoln from 1092 and remained in
their hands until the reign of Edward VI.

The Saxons built a fortified manor house in Newark which eventually
became Newark Castle. The Bishop of Lincoln founded a motte and bailey
structure there in 1073 built from earthworks and wood. Bishop
Alexander then rebuilt the entire castle in stone, the work took place
sometime between 1123 and 1133. A bridge across the Trent was built in
the time of Henry I, as was St Leonard’s Hospital. Henry granted the
town a charter to hold a five-day fair at the castle. King Stephen
granted the town a charter to establish a mint there. It was during
the early middle-ages that Newark began to prosper as a centre of the
wool and cloth trade. A series of charters were issued between 1156
and 1329 granting the rights to hold markets on Wednesdays and
Saturdays. The unpopular King John died at Newark of dysentery after
an ill-fated march through Eastern England that had resulted in the
loss of the royal baggage train during a flood at the Wash.

After King John’s death, Henry III tried to restore law and order to
his country but it was a move that the mercenary Robert de Gaugy
wasn’t playing along with. When Robert refused to hand Newark castle
back to the Bishop of Lincoln, Dauphin of France (later King Louis
VIII) was called over to lay siege to the castle. After eight days the
mercenary was paid to leave. By 1377 records show Newark with a
population of 1,178, placing it among the top 25 English towns by
population. The church of St Mary Magadalene was first built in the
11th or 12th century. The spire was added around 1350 and at 236 feet
is the highest in Nottinghamshire. The bridge over the trent was swept
away in 1457. A replacement, made from oak with stone defensive towers
at either end, was financed by the Bishop of Lincoln.

Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries led to trouble when the
Vicar of Newark refused to cooperate with the King’s break with Rome
and the establishment of the Church of England. The vicar, Henry
Lytherland was executed for his stand. In 1547 the Bishop of Lincoln
handed the town to the Crown. Newark was then incorporated, in 1549,
with the appointment of an alderman and 12 assistants to run the town.
This charter was confirmed and extended under the rule of Queen
Elizabeth the First, Henry’s daughter and heir. Charles I extended the
charter, incorporating the town under the control of a mayor and
alderman. This arrangement lasted until the Municipal Corporations Act
of 1835.

Newark was a royalist town during the civil war, one of their main
power centres. It was attacked in 1643 and put under siege in 1644.
Prince Rupert of the Rhine lifted the siege but the parliamentarians
returned again to besiege the town in 1645. This siege was lifted,
only to return in November that year after the heavy defeat of the
royalist forces at the Battle of Naseby in June 1645. A hole in the
spire of the church of St Mary Magadalene is supposed to have been
made by a parliamentary canon ball. In May 1646 Charles I ordered the
town, still fiercely loyal to his cause, to surrender. The
parliamentary forces subsequently entered the town and all-but
demolished the defences and castle.

The town’s situation along the Great North Road and the Fosse Way
ensured it continued to proposer when it recovered after the Civil
War. However, the Industrial Revolution largely passed it by and it
never grew like it’s neighbours in Yorkshire, such as Sheffield, and
even failed to keep pace with nearby Nottingham. The town did expand
though, going from 7,000 people in 1800 to over 15,000 by 1900.
Industry tended to centre around agriculture, with a sugar refinery
and brewery dominating the town. Today a plethora of light industry
and small businesses are the main sources of employment there. Newark
did manage to attract the main north-south route of the Great Northern
Railway. The town’s Newark North Gate station is on the Great Northern
Railway Line from Peterborough to Doncaster which opened in August
1852. It now connects the town directly with London to the South, and
Scotland to the North. The town’s direct connection to London by road
and rail has meant it has become a viable commuter town for those
ready for the 1hour 20 minute train ride to London every morning!

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