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Newark-upon-Trent in 1839

Newark-upon-Trent, a town in Nottinghamshire, having a separate jurisdiction, though locally in the southern division of the wapentake of Newark, on an arm of the Trent, 19½ miles north-east of Nottingham, and 124 from London, by Biggleswade, Norman Cross, Stamford, and Grantham.

Newark was considered by Dr Stukely to have been a Roman town ; but the correctness of this opinion is doubtful, though many Roman antiquities have been discovered here. The Dr considered it to have been the Sidnacester of the Saxons, which others place elsewhere. The first undoubted mention of it is in the time of Edward the Confessor, when it had already acquired the name of New-erk or New Work, in contradistinction to some town or building of older date in the neighbourhood. The manor in a early period belonged to the see of Lincoln, and Alexander, bishop of that see, built or perhaps enlarged or strengthened the castle of Newark in the early part of the twelfth century. The castle came, a short time after, into the possession of the crown, and in the time of King John was besieged by the Barons in the interest of Louis the Dauphin. John, coming to its relief, died at Newark A.D. 1216. On the conclusion of the treaty between Henry III (son and successor of John) and the Dauphin, some of the English adherents of the latter, fearing punishment, seized the castle of Newark, where they were besieged by the king’s guardian, the Earl of Pembroke, and were obliged to surrender. The castle was subsequently restored to the see of Lincoln, and, with the exception of a short interval in the reign of Edward III, appears to have remained in its possession until the reign of Edward VI, by whom the town was incorporated. It was at Stoke, near Newark, that Henry VII defeated Lambert Simnel and his supporters, A.D. 1487. In the civil war of Charles I the townsmen zealously supported the king, and received a garrison from the forces of the marquis of Newcastle, of some 4000 to 5000 foot and above 500 horse : there were plenty of cannons on the walls.

The town is seated on the right bank of a stream, which is usually regarded s an arm of the Trent, but ought rather to be considered as belonging to its tributary, the Devon. Two small islands, with water-mills on them, opposite the town, are within the boroughs limits.

The borough comprehended, in 1831, the parish of Newark and a very small portion of the adjacent parish of East Stoke, viz. the site of the castle, and the islands with the mills. It had an area of 2080 acres, with 2022 houses, inhabited by 2087 families ; the population was 9557, a very small portion agricultural. The commissioners for regulating the boundaries of municipal corporations have recommended a new boundary-line, excluding a rural district comprehended within the former limits, but for parliamentary purposes the boundary remains unaltered.

Newark is irregularly laid out, and consists of several streets, with a market-place near the centre of the town. It extends in length about a mile along the bank of the river, and in some parts about a half a mile in breadth from the bank inland. It is well paved, and lighted with gas, under the provisions of local acts, and is well supplied with water. The houses built of late years have been mostly of an inferior class.

The church is one of the largest and most elegant in the kingdom : it was in great part rebuilt during the time of Henry VI, and Henry VII ; but there are in it some remains of a previous edifice of Norman character. It is a cross church, and consists of nave and chancel, with large aisles, transepts, and some chapels, with a tower at the west end, surmounted with a lofty and elegant spire. The general appearance of the exterior is of perpendicular character ; some portions, however, rather partake of the decorated character. The length of the church is 218 feet, the breadth of the nave and of the chancel, with their respective aisles, 77 feet, and the breadth between the extremities of the transepts 117 feet. The height to the summit of the steeple is 240 feet. The interior has some good wood-screen work, some ancient stained glass, and some brasses and other ancient monuments.

The ancient castle stood near the bank of the river ; the south-western angle, the western wall washed by the river, a considerable part of the tower at the north-western angle, and parts of the north side of the building, remain. The western wall exhibits three distinct stories or tiers of apartments. The architecture varies with the period of erection of the various parts ; some of it is Norman, but other portions were probably erected just before the civil wars of Charles I. Part of the inner area of the castle is used as a bowling-green, and the remaining portion has been recently converted into a large and commodious cattle-market. Just below the castle is a neat bridge of seven semicircular arches over the river, built of brick and faced with stone. The approach to Newark from the north is by a causeway a mile and a half long, carried over the flat island formed by the main channel of the Trent and the Newark branch, and leading to the bridge : in this causeway are several bridges and arches, to give free passage to the waters when the floods are out.

There are a court house, where the quarter-sessions for the division are held; a handsome town-hall, for the corporation business, the borough sessions, and assemblies ; several dissenting meeting-houses and schools, &c, and St. Leonard’s hospital or almshouses, built about the time of Charles I. There are some walls of an ancient Augustine friary, now converted into a dwelling-house. The chapel of the ancient hospital of the Knights Templars, converted into a dwelling-house, is yet standing.

The principal trade of Newark is in corn, malt, flour, coal, cattle, and wool. The market, which is on Wednesday, is well supplied with butcher’s meat, fish, and poultry, and is one of the principal corn-markets in that part of the kingdom. There are six considerable yearly cattle-fairs. Large quantities of gypsum and lime-stone are obtained in the neighbourhood : the gypsum is burnt and pulverised for the use of plasterers and sculptors, and sent by water-car-riage to London. Seventy men and boys are employed in plaster-pits and stone-quarries. Bricks and tiles are also made, and there are two large iron and brass foundries in the town. The arm of the Trent which passes by Newark is navigable : there is a lock in it close to the town.

The corporation, under the Municipal Reform Act, consists of 6 aldermen and 18 counsellors ; the borough, by the same act, was divided into three wards, the previous boundaries of the borough being retained ; but the muni-cipal boundary commissioners recommend narrower limits, and have proposed a new division into two wards. The corporation have no property of their own. There are valuable charity estates, from which the church is kept in repair, and the salaries of the church officers, including the organist and singing-boys, are paid. Out of these funds also the town is lighted and paved, a dispensary is partly maintained, and the grammar-school, including two exhibitions to one of the universities, besides the national schools for boys and girls, and an almshouse, containing 12 men and 12 women, are supported. The town returns two mem-bers to parliament. The right of voting, before the Reform Act, was in the inhabitants paying scot and lot : 1362 voters polled in 1830. The number of £10 houses is above 500, and the number of registered electors in the year 1835-6, including £10 householders and the remaining scot and lot voters, was 1293.

Borough sessions are held every quarter, and petty sessions twice every week; there is a court of record for civil suits under £300, and a court of requests, obtained in the last session of parliament, for the recovery of debts under £5. The borough gaol is small and very defective in its arrange-ment. Its abolition has been recommended by the inspectors of prisons.

The court of election for the southern division of the county is held at Newark, which is also a polling-station.

The living of Newark is a vicarage in the archdeaconry of Nottingham, formerly in the diocese of York, but now in that of Lincoln, of the clear yearly value of £325, with a glebe-house. It is in the gift of the crown.

There were in 1833 one dame-school with 13 children the endowed grammar-school with 37 boys ; two national schools, one each for boys and: girls, with 246 scholars ; and nineteen other day or boarding and day schools with 760 to 780 children ; one day and Sunday school held at the workhouse, with about 12 to 15 children in the week and 25 on Sundays; and five Sunday-schools, with 1157 children.