History of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England

Before the Normans

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The nearest Old Stone Age (Paleolithic, up to about 8000BC) site to Newark is at Creswell Crags in Derbyshire, while Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age, 8000 to 4000BC) tools have been found at Tuxford, about 12 miles north of Newark. The earliest traces of human activity in the immediate vicinity of Newark are some tools from the New Stone (Neolithic, 4000 to 2500BC) Age, and a few spear- and axe-heads from the late Bronze Age (2500 to 700BC) have also been found, and there is a burial site (a round barrow) from that period nearby at Cromwell and a henge at East Stoke. The area was later occupied by the Celtic Coritani tribe, but there is no evidence that the site of Newark became a village at that time.

When the Romans built the Fosse Way through the area they established four stations between Leicester (Ratis) and Lincoln (Lindum). The locations of three of these are known precisely, but that of the fourth, Ad Pontem (meaning "At the bridge") was until relatively recently uncertain. The three possibilities were Newark, Farndon about three miles south-west, and East Stoke, about a further three miles in the same direction, with evidence to support each possibility, but the most recent excavations have shown there was definitely a town at East Stoke, which appears to confirm that location. However, Roman villas were later established along the road in the Newark area.

After the departure of the Roman legions, invading Angles followed both the Trent and the Fosse Way, and they certainly settled at Newark. As the Anglo-Saxon states developed, Newark became a part of the midland kingdom of Mercia.

Newark was in the heart of the area fought over repeatedly first by contending Angles and Saxons, then by invading Danes and the defending Saxons. During the period when England was divided between the Saxons in the south and west and Danes in the north and east, Newark was a part of the Danelaw, a fact reflected in the names of many of the villages in the area ending in the Danish suffices of "-by" and "-thorpe".

A pagan Anglo-Saxon cemetery, used from the early 5th to the early 7th centuries, has been found in Millgate, in Newark, close to both the Fosse Way and the River Trent, in which cremated remains were buried in pottery urns. Defences were built around the settlement in the 9th and 10th centuries.

The first named individual definitely known to have owned Newark was Lady Godiva (famous for her nude horse ride in Coventry), the lady of the manor, who married Earl Leofric, adding Newark to about one third of all England that he already owned. (This seems to imply that Newark was at the forefront of the women's liberation movement a thousand years ago!) In 1055 the couple gave the income from the manor of Newark to the monks of Stowe, near Lincoln.

From earliest times, documents refer to Newark as a burh or borough, meaning then a fortified town or village. Newark had its own court from Anglo-Saxon times, and its citizens were recognised as burgesses (for example in the Domesday Book). The Domesday Book shows that Godiva had about 870 acres of ploughed land at Newark. This would have been under the open field system, which survived here until the Enclosure Act of 1800 ended the system of agriculture started by the Saxons (which still survives not far away at Laxton).

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History of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England

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This page last updated 11th July 2001