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Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1839

NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME,* a borough, market-town, and parish of Staffordshire, in the hundred of Pyrehill, 150 miles from London on the road by Daventry, Coventry, and Lichfield, to Liverpool.

This place is of considerable antiquity, and was a corporate town as early as the reign of Henry II. It is referred to as such in a charter granted in that reign to Preston in Lancashire. The earliest extant charter to Newcastle is dated 19 Henry III, 1235. At a later period of the same reign a castle was built (or probably rebuilt) here by Edmund earl of Lancaster, the king’s second son. The records of the borough are extant from 1386.

The town is situated about two miles from the right or west bank of the Trent, not far from the source of that river, and consists of several streets irregularly laid out, but well paved, and lighted with gas. It is supplied with good water. The houses are mostly old, but not deficient in neatness or uniformity. High-street along the Liverpool road is tolerably spacious. The town has two churches. One was rebuilt early in the last century, but has a lofty square tower of much greater antiquity, built of red sandstone. The other church was built a few years since. There is a Catholic chapel, built in 1834, which is a Gothic building, constructed of ornamental bricks ; and there are meeting-houses for Independents, Baptists, Unitarians, and several branches of the Methodists. There are a guildhall, having a clock with an illuminated dial, and a public office for the mayor and magistrates. There is a range of almshouses for twenty alms-women, founded by Christopher Monk, duke of Albermarle, son of the famous George Monk. There are no vestiges of the ancient castle except only a portion of the mound on which it was built, the rest having been levelled into the moat for purposes of cultivation.

The population of the borough, which is coextensive with the parish, was, in 1831, 8,192 ; at present it is probably about 10,000. In 1831, 784 men were engaged in manufactures. The chief manufacture is that of hats. There are three silk-mills, a cotton and a paper-mill, the latter chiefly for the manufacture of a tissue-paper used in the potteries for printing the ware. A small portion of the inhabitants are engaged in the potteries. Markets are held on Monday and Saturday in the High-street. Besides the five annual fairs there are now five additional moveable cattle-markets held during the year. The town was formerly regarded as the capital of the pottery district, which is immediately adjacent ; but this connection has been gradually diminished of late years, much to the detriment of Newcastle. A still more serious loss to the town has arisen from travellers being now nearly altogether diverted from it to the Grand Junction Railway.

There is a branch canal from this town to the Grand Trunk (or Trent and Mersey) Canal, which passes through the neighbourhood ; and a canal from the coal-mines in Apedale, which affords a supply of coals to the town at a cheap rate.

The corporation, under the Municipal Reform Act, consists of six aldermen and eighteen councillors. The borough, by the same act, was divided into two wards, and the municipal boundaries were made coextensive with the parliamentary boundaries, which had been somewhat enlarged by the Boundary Act. The borough has a commission of the peace, and a good police : quarter-sessions and petty-sessions are regularly held. The corporation revenues are about £600 per annum, a sum which is inadequate to meet the annual expenditure of salaries, rent charges in satisfaction of charitable bequests, &c.

Newcastle has returned members to parliament from 27 Edward III, and probably from an earlier date. The constituency, previous to the Reform Act, consisted of the resident freemen ; the number was about 800. The number of houses, in 1831, assessed at £10 annual value, was 267 ; the number estimated to be of that value was 360. Amongst other privileges, the burgesses have an exclusive right of pasturage on about 205 acres of fertile land, divided into four large fields, which were allotted to them under the Enclosure Act of 1816, in lieu of their ancient right to one-third of the pasturage of about 600 acres, called the Town Fields. At the same time five acres, bordering the town on its eastern side, were set apart for public walks, together with funds for their support, and are now planted and laid out in an ornamental manner, to the great advantage of the inhabitants.

The living is a rectory, of the clear yearly value of £285, with a glebe-house, built in 1698.

There were, in 1833, in the borough, an infant-school, with 100 children ; an endowed free grammar-school ; four other schools, partly supported by endowment, with 118 children ; nineteen other day-schools, with 499 children ; one boarding-school, with 43 children ; one national day and Sunday school, partly supported by endowment and partly by subscription, with 408 children in the week, and 625 on Sunday ; and five Sunday-schools, with 1,106 children. A Lancasterian school has been opened since these returns were made. There are a theatre ; a permanent Book Society, established in 1815, having a library of upwards of 1,500 volumes ; and a Literary and Scientific Institution, founded in 1836, which also possesses a library.

* Old records point to an ancient forest, or woodlands, originally separating Cheshire from the rest of England called Lime, probably from its standing on the limes, or border. It has been conjectured, with much probability, that a number of places situated on or near the tract formerly occupied by these lime woodlands have derived the addition of lyme (which is the most ancient and authentic form), lyne, or line, to their names from such proximity.

Besides Newcastle-under-Lyme we have Ashton-under-Lyme, now under Line, Burslem, anciently Burr-wardes-lime (the Saxon word Bur signifying a bower, cottage, or dwelling ; Wardes, towards ; and lime, the woodland tract). Madely-under-Lyme, Whitmore-under-Lyme, Norton in Salop (described in the Cartulary of St. Peter’s Abbey, Shrewsbury, as Juxta nemus quod Lima dicitur), Belton-under-Lyme, and Audlem (Old Lyme).