History of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England

Newark under the Tudors

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The first year of Henry VII's reign was marked in Newark by disastrous flooding which swept away the vital bridge beside the castle. There was no legal requirement for anyone to replace it, so, in response to a deputation of Newarkers, the Bishop of Lincoln financed the building of a new bridge of twelve arches, built of oak with stone defensive towers at each end.

The new dynasty, established in 1485, was quickly challenged by the Lambert Simnel rebellion in 1487. The rebels, after collecting a large army, headed for Newark in the hope of making it their stronghold. Unfortunately for them, the royal army reached the town first and established itself there. The decisive battle took place four miles away at East Stoke, where the rebels were crushed.

The reign of Henry VIII brought great changes to Newark, as it did to the rest of the country. Many of the most important people in Newark at the time were the chantry priests and the Austin (= Augustine) friars, who had a friary in Appletongate. Both these organisations, like the guilds, were suppressed, removing a major element from the town. Another result of the same operation was the revolt in Lincolnshire in protest against the suppression of local monasteries and anticipated despoliation of churches. The Newark area was regarded by both sides as the crucial point at which battle was expected, and defensive works were erected at the bridge and at Muskham. The rebellion subsided without a fight, but just as it was ending the better organised and more powerful Pilgrimage of Grace was beginning in Yorkshire. Again the royalist side treated Newark, as well as Nottingham, as the major places to defend against the advancing army. Although 30,000 well-armed and trained rebels reached Doncaster, battle was again avoided.

On a more purely local note, the Vicar of Newark, Henry Lytherland, refused to acknowledge the king as head of the church and was executed. One of Newark's most important benefactors, Thomas Magnus, built between 1529 and 1531 the Magnus School, containing schools for teaching grammar and music, and established and funded trusts for their staffing and maintenance, as well as for other charitable purposes in the town. This was by no means the first school in Newark, but it is certainly the only such institution still surviving from that time, albeit in somewhat newer premises (1909) than the original - the original building is now a part of Newark Museum.

In 1547 the people of Newark achieved a long-held ambition when the ownership of the manor passed, as part of an exchange transaction, from the Bishop of Lincoln to the Crown, leading to the incorporation of the borough in 1549 and its consequent administration by an alderman and twelve assistants. From this time onwards details of the town's affairs can be found in the minute books of the official meetings of the corporation.

Newark came under attack in a quite different way in about 1558, when the Sutton family of Averham cut a channel near Farndon which diverted most of the water of the River Trent into what had been a small stream through Averham, Kelham and Muskham. This not only stopped boats from reaching Newark, but, much more serious at the time, it left Newark's six mills high and dry. The mills were used both to grind corn and for the fulling of cloth, Newark's main industry, so the owners took court action, forcing the owners of Averham to build, and maintain in perpetuity, a weir at Averham to ensure that an adequate flow continued to Newark.

The town basically remained fairly prosperous, and by the end of the Tudor period the population had reached about 2,700.

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This page last updated 1st September 2003