Historic Newark-on-Trent

In six years of living about 14 miles or so away from Newark there are memories of only two visits, once to a toy shop and once to a tailor. Make of that what you will…

Newark sits on the Fosse Way (the Roman road now known as the A46) and beside the Trent. The A1 is close by and the East Coast main line railway runs through the town. It has long been a transport crossroads… Back in 1942 Newark starred as “a British country town” in an information film made by the Americans  (and viewed at the Newark Information Centre ) to prepare its GI troops for periods of duty in wartime UK. The film features country people making their way to market, sheep being driven through the streets, a high percentage of the adult population with cigarettes at their mouths and the unmistakable shape of Newark Castle in the background.

The Nicholson Waterways Guide advises boaters heading to Town Lock to keep a bearing on the church spire. Heading towards the church in a walk into town brings the pedestrian into the market place.   It is huge, square, busy on a Saturday market day,    quiet on a Sunday. This old building


featured in the American info film, as did the church. (Are these the shiniest church floor tiles in all of England…?)


     There is a warren of small alleyways leading from the market place. There is a fine Butter Market    – and on the street behind the back of the church (Appletongate) is this amazing frontage.    Absolutely spankingly modern (opened in 2015) it forms the entrance to the National Civil War Centre, provides tourist information and links directly to the theatre next door.    Only from across the street can you appreciate the brilliance of this architectural feat.


On the left is the 1920 Palace Theatre, next to it is the modern entrance to the museum, next is the Georgian building and to the right is the stone work of the Tudor grammar school.

(A Google shot shows the site before the modern infill.    An internet quest to uncover who developed and unified these buildings of such diverse periods revealed it as Woodhead Heritage: see here for further detail.)

There is a lot to look at in the stunning exhibition spaces:    explanations of schooling practice,    descriptions and artefacts from Newark’s more recent past,     an impression of how Newark Castle looked in the 1500s in its pre-siege days    (the town was besieged 3 times during the 1640s) and exhibits and explanations of the causes and course of the British Civil Wars.      Different personal perspectives on events are provided by 6 short films.



The upheaval caused by the clash between King and Parliament led to the development of a variety of other political movements….    How people achieved the vote      – and how other democracies manage their electoral system was another thought-provoking theme.


There are additional exhibition galleries too: for visitors with sufficient time they can recoil at the sight of wartime injuries and learn about the struggle for welfare and pension support for military families.

An essential at any modern visitor centre is a café – and the café-bar here is the Nineteen20 which forms the foyer of the Palace Theatre in the now connected building. (“There’s no harm in asking,” was the whisper in Boatwif’s ear and for the third time* in less than a year she bluffed herself into a closed theatre auditorium).    This charming theatre    (98 years old now) has oodles of character, even when seen on a quiet Sunday morning. It has comfortable tiered seating (and some boxes),   a stage deep enough to receive touring ballet companies and to present elaborate pantomimes. Tribute acts often perform here as do comedians and celebrity speakers (Anyone for Dan Snow the historian on Sunday June 3rd…?)

“Do come and see our chandelier,”    Boatwif’s guide insisted – and due admiration was given to the lights now suspended near the street entrance, a gift from the Palace Theatre Members.

Time to go, time to leave Newark – but not before noticing this    (on the day that was Mothering Sunday in the USA). 

About  5 miles and 1 lock further on is Cromwell Lock     and here, beside the lock is a stone recording the site of a bridge in Roman times.     Another stone marks the accidental deaths at Cromwell Weir in 1975 of 10 volunteer sapper soldiers,  who died, it seems, because of a power cut. “Thankful villages” is a term used to recognise those places that did not suffer losses in the First World War.  Such a fortunate place was the village of Cromwell.

From here on Monday morning Tentatrice and Cleddau would be cruising northwards on tidal waters…

Distance and locks since leaving Aqueduct Marina: 143 miles, 77 locks

Distance and locks remaining to Bedford from Cromwell Lock: 182 miles, 22 locks

(*Theatres: the open air Moonlight Theater at Vista in California and Number 8 at Pershore in Worcestershire)

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