Newark Controversies

Any browser

Contents

Small scroll
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
Inverted small scroll

If Newark was the "new work", what was the "old work"?

There is no question that the name of the town is a derivation of "new work", probably in contrast to an old work, and that "work" in this context meant fortifications of some kind, but nobody is quite sure what the old work actually was. One possibility is that it referred to previous Saxon fortifications on the same or an adjacent site, probably following destruction by invading Danes.

Another theory is that it referred to a nearby Roman construction. The nearest major Roman fort was at Margidunum, about ten miles away.

Others again say it was not in contrast to any older work, but simply referred to the addition of fortifications to the existing Saxon settlement, possibly by the Danes.

It is probably significant that there was a place known as Aldewark on the Newark to Leicester road (the Fosse Way) not far from Newark in the 14th century, although its precise location is not known.

Small scroll
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
Inverted small scroll

Was Newark Roman?

Newark lies on the Roman road, the Fosse Way, which runs from Lincoln to Exeter. It is known that there were four small military stations between the towns of Leicester and Lincoln. These were at the places known to the Romans as Vernemeto, Margoduno, Ad Pontem and Crococalano. It is known that Vernemeto was near what is now Willoughby, Margiduno was between East Bridgford and Bingham, and Crococalano was near Brough, but the location of Ad Pontem is (or was) less certain.

According to Antoninus it was 33 Roman miles from Leicester and 19 from Lincoln, which corresponds more or less with the small village of Thorpe which lies between Farndon and East Stoke, and is also close to the river and at one of the rare bends in the Roman road, usually itself a sign of a settlement. Furthermore, the name Ad Pontem means "at the bridge" (or possibly "to the bridge", while a bridge connecting this main road (as it was even then) with the known Roman settlement four miles away at Southwell would mostly likely have been located just at this point.

Others, however, consider that it was at Newark, where they maintain there was a Roman road to the south. However, the different individuals whose quotations on the subject I have seen all appear to have different ideas on the matter of the road and the river bridge.

One says the bridge would have been at Kelham, since that is the nearest point to Newark of the main body of the river. This, however, ignores the fact that until 1558 there was no significant river at Kelham - the bridge would have been at Newark itself. Not an argument against Newark being the site of Ad Pontem, but it reflects badly on the logic of this proponent of the theory.

Another says the road south was a road known in his time as Sewsterne Lane, the line of which "is continuous from Stamford on its way via Lombard Street to Kelham Bridge, Wellow, Worksop and the North." Normally the Ordnance Survey maps mark old Roman roads, but this one is not marked, and the line of present day roads between those places is far from the straight line which typifies Roman roads. Sewstern Lane (using current spelling) is in fact a track which existed long before the Romans arrived, so it is possible that they also used it, but only as a minor road or they would have straightened it. Yet another says the road ran through Newark to Sherwood Forest "through part of Southwell, leaving Norwood Park to the left hand, and Kirklington to the right." Again, this is not a straight line and it is not marked as a Roman road on the Ordnance Survey maps. Furthermore, it is hardly a road to the south!

Another claim for Newark is based on the castle, pointing out that Roman forts were normally roughly square, as is the plan of Newark Castle, and that mediæval castle builders often used the site of a Roman fort.

The remains of a massive Roman stone bridge over the River Trent have been found at South Collingham, about four miles downstream from Newark, and I cannot help wondering how likely it would have been for the Romans to have invested in two such major bridges over the same river so close to one another, although this is off the Fosse Way and therefore cannot be the site of Ad Pontem.

Probably the clinching argument, however, is the fact that Roman remains have more recently been found in the fields at Thorpe/East Stoke, which, like the other "stations" mentioned between Leicester and Lincoln, appears to have been a small town rather than a fort. The bridge, however, has still not been found.

Small scroll
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
Inverted small scroll

How Many Town Walls

Like most mediæval boroughs, Newark was protected by a wall and ditch, except along the river where it would have been superfluous. The south-west boundary appears to have coincided with what is now Lombard Street. I wonder if this is connected with the former name of Potterdyke for this street (it changed towards the end of the 17th century), since dyke means ditch. In the south-east the ditch, outside the wall, ran along what is now Cartergate, with the east gate at the intersection with Bridge Street (formerly called Dry Bridge, a reference to a drawbridge over the ditch outside the gate). It continued in the same direction half-way down what is now Appletongate, where it turned left through a right angle to continue across Northgate to the river. It crossed Northgate just where the road name changes, Northgate being on the side outside the old wall and Bargate inside. This was the site of one of the old gate arches, which in this case survived until 1762.

The historian Cornelius Brown thought it probable that there was a later wall enclosing a greater area, roughly parallel to the original. He suggests it joined the river at a point where in his day a sewer flowed into the stream, crossed Millgate and ran behind Lombard Street/Potterdyke, enclosed the whole of Baldertongate and Barnbygate (I am not sure just how far out they extended in his day), followed round the wall of the Augustinian Friary, crossed the bottom of Appletongate and the bottom of some fields called The Appletons (where he says there are considerable remains of a wall and ditch) and met the river again where a small stream separating Northgate from Osmundthorpe flows into it.

I am not sure of the exact location of this stream, or of Osmundthorpe (which was referred to in many old documents but is not shown on the modern maps I have available), but suspect it was in the vicinity of Currie Road or Summer Road. A piece of evidence Brown does not refer to, perhaps because it was not known in his time, is that there is what appears to be a piece of ancient wall in Guildhall Street, which joins Barnbygate with Baldertongate part way along their length. It was thought this could be a fragment of the town wall, supporting his general thesis albeit located closer to the old wall than he suggests at this point. However, the direction of this piece of wall is at right angles to what it should be if it were a part of the town wall. It is now believed that it is a part of an old guild hall, supported by the name of the street in which it stands. This is still relevant supporting evidence for Brown's theory, however, since any such hall would normally be expected to be situated within the town's protective walls, not outside them.

Small scroll
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
Inverted small scroll

How Many Sieges?

It is somewhat surprising that there can be any doubt as to the number of times Newark was besieged during the Civil War. There is no dispute that one siege took place in the early part of 1644, and was relieved by the arrival of the combined forces of Prince Rupert and Sir Charles Lucas. Similarly, the last and longest siege was undoubtedly from November 1645 to May 1646.

There was certainly an attack on the town in February 1643, during which the whole of Northgate and a fortified building called The Spittal were burned to the ground, but this was fairly quickly beaten off and is certainly not referred to as a siege by Cornelius Brown in the detailed account in his History of Newark-on Trent. However, K.W. Bee, in his Newark-on-Trent in Times Past states that this was the first of three sieges.

There is a report from the time of at the least an attempt at a siege by Parliamentary forces in February 1645, and it seems clear that Newark was aided by the arrival of an army led by Sir Marmaduke Langdale. The story of the relief is told in some detail by a Mr. Savage. Unfortunately the tale has been confused by another similar but slightly contradictory story, purportedly by an officer serving in the relieving force but actually a fiction created by Daniel Defoe. There is no doubt that a siege was planned, nor that Langdale did arrive and give some help at the time, but whether it amounted to relieving a full siege, as Savage reports, remains unclear. Langdale's own report of his journey from a battle at Melton Mowbray to the relief of a siege at Pontefract does not mention the matter, but neither does it mention that he relieved a siege of nearby Norwell House (held by Newark forces) during that same journey, although he certainly did.

From the above it appears there could have been two, three or four sieges of Newark during the Civil War, and if there were three, then that relieved by Prince Rupert may have been either the first or the second!

Small scroll
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
Inverted small scroll

Which River Is It?

The bridge over the river beside Newark Castle is known as Trent Bridge, and every map I have seen names the river there as the Trent, yet various esteemed authorities on Newark, such as the historian Cornelius Brown, maintain that this river is the Devon, not the Trent, and that it joins the Trent a mile and a half downstream of Newark. How can such an apparently obvious matter be the subject of serious dispute?

There is no question that originally the River Trent flowed past Newark Castle. There was a small stream flowing through the villages of Averham, Kelham and Muskham, joining the Trent at Crinkle Point, about one and a half miles north-east of Newark. Problems arose in 1558 when a channel was cut to join the Trent to the stream near Averham, about one and a half miles east of Newark. This had the effect of diverting the river along the course of the stream, leaving Newark with insufficient water to drive its vital mills or for navigation. The subsequent court action led to a weir being constructed near Averham in the new channel to ensure sufficient water continued to flow through Newark.

The result is that the River Trent divides just above Averham, with the larger portion following the diversion through Averham, Kelham and Muskham and the smaller part continuing along the old course through Newark. To add to the confusion, a major tributary of the Trent, the River Devon, flows north through Hawton to join the Trent just as it enters Newark - i.e. it joins the old river course, and its water flows through Newark and past the Castle.

People such as Cornelius Brown maintain that this means that the River Trent now misses Newark, and that the river passing the castle is the Devon, which now joins the Trent at Crinkle Point. Others point out that by far the greater part of the water passing the castle has come down from Nottingham via the Trent, that the Devon is far smaller and relatively unimportant even at Newark, and therefore the Trent divides into two streams, one of which continues to serve Newark, with the Devon ending where it always has done, at Newark's eastern (i.e. upstream) boundary.

Small scroll
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
==================================================
Inverted small scroll

Browser compatibility statement

I believe web pages should be accessible to all browsers, rather than surfers being browbeaten into switching to some particular browser to see a page. (How many people would be happy if popular TV programmes could only be watched with the latest model of one particular make of TV set?). I am currently going through this site trying to achieve this as far as possible, but I do not have any means of testing it with all the dozens of browsers out there. When I think I have managed it with a page I'll include this paragraph at the end and a suitable logo at the top. If you have trouble viewing any page on this site, especially a page including this paragraph, please let me know (
see my contact page), and tell me what browser (name and version) and what operating system you are using, so I can try to do something about it. Thanks.

Main links within this site:

Jim's Jottings Home Page | An URGENT appeal for help

Running & Jogging for Ordinary People | Jim Fisher Summary Biography | Computers

Genealogy and Family History | Useful General Resources | Gardening with Strange Ideas | Humour?

Investment | Politics and Philosophy | Organisations with a Mission | Science

Wildlife | Map of This Site | Email me

A Personal Family History - People and Places | Genealogy and Nottinghamshire, England

Genealogy and Newark, Nottinghamshire, England

Buildings in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England | History of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England
1829 Map of Newark

Top of this page

This page last updated 1st September 2003