The Surrender of Newark!

May 8th 2016 marks four hundred and fifty years since the Royalist forces holding the town of Newark-on-Trent during the English Civil War surrendered to Parliament. This was done on the orders of King Charles 1, who had already surrendered himself to Parliament at the town of Southwell, eight miles away. Members of the Sealed Knot re-enactment group gathered last Sunday (May 8th) to commemorate the events of the official ceremony of surrender. And we hopped along to have a look.

First we headed for the castle grounds to watch the groups gathering before they marched to the Market Place for the actual surrender ceremony. A few tents had been set up and accompanying wives and children, also in costume, added interest to the scene. The soldiers in blue are the Scots, who had fought for Parliament. The royalists are in red, some of the more high-ranking ones dressed as cavaliers with red sashes and big black hats with plumes. One or two Puritan ministers were also present (in black, with white collars):

This is the march to the Market Place to the sound of accompanying drum beat:

Civil War broke out in 1642, for many reasons that I won’t go into here, other than to say that the causes can (very generally) be said to fall into three categories: politics, religion and money. King Charles and Parliament simply could not agree on so many issues. Like all civil wars, it split the country in two as people sided with either King or Parliament. Sometimes, members of the same family were on different sides: a tragic state of affairs.

Newark was staunchly Royalist from the beginning, besieged three times until it surrendered, reluctantly, in May 1646, on Charles’ orders. The town had been surrounded by enemy sconces (forts) and totally battered. Scars from cannon fire can still be seen on the castle wall facing the river, and the church in the town centre displays a hole beneath one of the windows in the spire where a cannon ball struck:

056 Newark Church Cannonball hole.2 +

So, by 1646, the town’s food supplies had been cut off for some time; people were nearing starvation and suffering from plague. War debts and damage to the surrounding grazing and farmland would impoverish it for generations. Yet still, surrender was only accepted under protest by the town’s garrison, the loyal Royalists prepared to hold out to the bitter end.

Newark played a vital role during the English Civil War. Not only was it was situated at the intersection of two major roads (the Great North Road and the Fosse Way) it was also sited at the last crossing point of the River Trent before it became tidal. Additionally, Newark’s central location, near to Parliamentary areas in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, made it particularly desirable to Parliamentary generals.

The Royalists held it  and the Parliamentarians wanted it! And in the end, Oliver Cromwell’s well-disciplined and organised ‘New Model Army’ won out over the less well organised, less well paid and less well fed Royalist troops. The execution by beheading of Charles 1 in 1649, is one of the most well known events of English history.

And finally, here are some photos of the ceremony. Unfortunately, as we were ‘roped off’ it was difficult to get close. The then Governor of Newark, Sir John Henderson (a Scottish military figure who was thought to add ‘clout’ to the Royalist cause) plays the major role. Several speeches were made.

Then it was back to the castle for the stalls and displays of musket fire in the afternoon. As we’d watched the Sealed Knot do this last September (which I posted about) we gave it a miss on this occasion.

To Market To Market To Buy A Fat Pig … or whatever takes your fancy.


To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog

Home again, home again, jiggety-jog

To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,

Home again, home again, market is done.

All children love this rhyme, and this version of it is from the late nineteenth century. The first version, earlier that century, made no mention of a pig.


And the reason I’m quoting the rhyme at all . . .?

Well, I love old towns, old buildings and anything of historical interest in general. The market town of Newark (full title, Newark-on-Trent) in Nottinghamshire, is simply brimming with history, and I’ll be doing a post about it some time soon. (We lived in Newark for eleven years, before moving out to enjoy village life seven miles away.) Today I just want to share some views of the market and market place in general and a few words about its history. Our eldest son has his butcher’s shop there which, naturally, we visit when we’re in town.

Map of Nottinghamshire, UK. Source: Ordnance Survey OpenData. Author: Nilkamion. Commons
Map of Nottinghamshire, UK. Source: Ordnance Survey OpenData. Author: Nilfanion. Commons

Newark Royal Market is one of the oldest in the UK, dating back to the 12th century when a charter was granted by Henry VI. Originally held on a Sunday, it became the first market in England to operate on a Wednesday. Its Royal Charter was granted in 1549 by Edward VI,  and since then it has continued to be a key trading centre for the region. Markets are held five days a week: general markets on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and ‘collectors’ or antique markets on Mondays and Thursdays (which sound impressive, although few stalls are involved).

The markets are held in the impressive market place, overlooked by the Georgian town hall, with the spire of the church, St. Mary Magdalene, also in the background. Both of these can be seen in the photos below, as well as a few very old, Tudor-style buildings and the old water pump. There are also some stocks – which I forgot to photograph yesterday.

Until relatively recently, Newark was famed for having the oldest cobbled market place in the country, and possibly in Europe. But sometime around 2000, the old cobbles were removed and replaced by new, smoother and flatter ones. I completely understand that this was done for safety reasons – old people, either on foot, in wheelchairs or mobility scooters, and mothers with pushchairs, all found the bumpy cobbles difficult to walk on. For anyone unsteady on their legs, they were obviously dangerous. Yet the destruction of something of such historical value still causes a pang.

And this is my son’s butcher’s shop, also in a really old building, close to the market square:

The cellars beneath Richard’s shop have tunnels running through the shops alongside it, right up to the building facing the market place. They were all once part of that building – an old hotel/inn called The Clinton Arms. The last picture above shows the view from his shop to the market. We’re delighted that it’s such a prime site for him, and his shop is very popular. Not surprisingly, he’s a great butcher, having worked at it since leaving school (and he’s now 41).

So I suppose, if anyone wanted to buy a fat pig (though not a live one) Richard’s would be the place to go . . .