Europe > Britain and Ireland > United Kingdom > England > East Midlands > Nottinghamshire > Newark (England)
Newark-on-Trent is a small market town in Nottinghamshire, on the edge of Sherwood Forest. It’s famous as the place where King Charles I surrendered during the English Civil War.
Newark has probably been a transport hub since Roman times – here the “Fosse Way” reaches the River Trent, which is navigable. The town prospered through wool and cloth and in the early 11 C it was owned by Lady Godiva, she of the legendary naked ride. King John died here in 1216, a year after signing Magna Carta. When the English Civil War broke out in 1642 over the powers of the monarch versus parliament, Newark supported the Royalists. But by 1646 Charles I found himself defeated across England and surrendered (actually at nearby Southwell); in 1649 he was beheaded. His son Charles II continued the war until 1651 but then fled into exile, and Britain became a republic. Castles that had resisted parliament were demolished, so Newark Castle became a ruin.
Newark stands on the A1 some 120 miles from London, at the junction with the A46 and A17. You’ll know you’re close when you see the steaming chimneys and silos of the British Sugar plant at Kelham just west of town. The junction is messy, especially when there’s a big event at the Showground, watch out for standing traffic queueing back onto the A1.
The bus station is central, off Lombard street. National Express coaches take just under five hours to London Victoria, with departures at 8 am (NX447 direct) and 9.30 (on NX339 from Grimsby to Birmingham and the West Country, change at Leicester). Coaches from London Victoria to Newark depart at 2.30 pm (NX441, change at Leicester) and 4 pm (NX447 for Lincoln / Hull, direct).
The main station, Newark Northgate, is at the NE edge of town. It’s on the East Coast main line between London Kings Cross and the north. Trains to London (operated by Virgin Trains East Coast) run at least every hour and take 80 mins. Newark Castle station is near the centre and is on the line between Nottingham, East Midlands Parkway (for East Midlands Airport), Lincoln and Grimsby. These trains are operated by East Midlands Trains and run hourly.
The nearest airport is EMA East Midlands Airport (30 miles / 50 minutes). This has good connections across West Europe, including Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast. For anything further afield, use the London airports.
A shuttle bus connects EMA with East Midlands Parkway railway station, with direct trains to Newark Castle. EMA airport buses also run from Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Loughborough.
Newark stands on the River Trent which is navigable and non-tidal. There is mooring for visiting craft, with two marinas in the town and a harbour at the nearby village of Farndon.
The town itself is readily explored on foot. The country around is flat and cyclable.
The main sight in town is the castle. Other notable buildings are the church of St Mary Magdalene, and the Governor’s House which is now just a bread shop. The National Civil War Centre is the town’s main museum. Millgate Museum is currently closed, so you can’t see the “Newark Torc”, a beautiful piece of Iron Age gold found near town by a metal-detectorist.
- 1 Newark Castle, Castlegate NG24 1BG, ☎ . dusk to dawn for the gardens, guided tours by arrangement. Newark and many other English castles were partly demolished after 1648, not in the heat of battle, but to prevent them ever being used again by rebels (a policy commemorated by Gracie Fields in her song “I’m one of the old ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit”.) The castle was partly restored in the 19 C; it’s basically a masonry shell set in municipal gardens.
- National Civil War Centre, 14 Appletongate NG24 1JY, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. daily 10-5 (10-4 winter).
There are frequent events at Newark Showground, the biggest being the International Antiques & Collectors Fairs held about once a month, see www.iacf.co.uk for calendar and prices. The Nottinghamshire County agricultural show is held here in mid-May. The showground is in the adjacent village of Winthorpe just NE of the A1, about 3 miles from town centre, on Lincoln Road NG24 2NY.
Adjoining the showground is Newark Air Museum (open daily). The flat terrain of Lincolnshire is well-suited to airfields, which during the Second World War were bases for RAF Bomber Command. Many members of the Polish Air Force served in this region and are buried in the war graves plot in Newark Cemetery. General Sikorski, their wartime Prime Minister and military commander, was initially buried there but his remains were repatriated to Krakow in 1993.
Five miles SW of town, Southwell has a magnificent minster and several other historic buildings. Here, rather than at Newark, is where King Charles I surrendered; he was then taken to nearby Kelham Hall. Southwell Racecourse is an all-weather track with flat-racing and steeplechasing. Newark to Southwell takes under 20 mins on the hourly bus 29, run by Stagecoach Bassetlaw. You can either ask for “SUH-thell” or “South-well”, both pronunciations are used locally.
Enjoy the variety of stalls in Newark's market in the market place Tuesday through Saturday. Browse the shops along Chain Lane and in the market place.
For traditional Fish & Chips try Middle Gate or Appletongate. The town has the usual range of eateries: Indian, Chinese, Italian, small cafés. The stand-out local restaurant is Caunton Beck 5 miles west of town, see listing.
- Asha Tandoori, Stodman Street. Good Indian food.
- Braith's, Carter Gate. Coffee Bar with extensive range of hot & cold sandwiches.
- Il Castello, Castlegate. Italian
- Pizza Express, The Wharf. Pizza and Italian Cuisine with excellent views over the River Trent.
- Zizzi's at the Ossington, Great North Road. Pizza & Pasta style eatery - brilliant ambience and service.
- The New King Wah, Bar Gate. Cantonese style Chinese restaurant
- Caunton Beck, Main Street Caunton NG23 6AB, ☎ . all week 8.30 am to 10 pm. Excellent all-day eatery
The decline in the English pub scene has afflicted Newark, with many familiar names closing; those below are still with us in early 2017. Look for products of The Newark Brewery (77 William St NG24 1QU), with nine beers currently on sale.
- The Old Kings Arms, Kirkgate. a traditional British pub
- The Old Post Office, Kirkgate.
- The Castle Barge. Newark's Floating Pub on the Wharf
- The Sir John Arderne (Wetherspoons), 3 Church St NG24 1DT.
- The Springhouse, 15 Farndon Road NG24 4SA.
Mid-range places in Newark include Premier Inn, Best Western Deincourt, and Compton House. The more luxurious and characterful hotels are a few miles out.
- Premier Inn, Lincoln Rd NG24 2DB (north end of town near Northgate Station), ☎ .
- 1 Compton House, 117 Balderton Gate NG24 1RY (central, off B6236 London Road), ☎ . B&B
- 2 Deincourt Hotel (Best Western), London Rd NG24 1TF (central, on B6326), ☎ , . Victorian-style 32-bedroom hotel
- Grange Hotel, 73 London Rd NG24 1RZ, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 3-star hotel near town centre
- 3 Kelham House, Main St, Kelham NG23 5QP (on A617), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Edwardian country manor, built by the owners of nearby Kelham Hall (see below).
- Kelham Hall & Country Park, Main Road, Kelham NG23 5QX (on A617), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Now in its third incarnation, a pocket-sized edition of St Pancras designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. The Hall and its predecessors have variously served as King Charles I’s initial place of confinement, a country manor, a school for monks and missionaries, and a sugar beet farm. Currently it’s being used as council offices. So you can camp there or use the self-catering apartments, but the main hotel and spa won’t open until the council move out, probably in 2018.
Newark is relatively safe. Places to avoid at night include Yorke Drive (near Northgate Railway Station), Devon Road (on Hawtonville Estate) and Sconce Hills Park.
Newark is 11 miles from Sherwood Forest, home of Robin Hood, the legendary (okay, let’s be frank, fictional) outlaw. What’s factual is that this is the last stand of primeval forest in England. Everything else is a later planting, so the eco-system is unique, with the gaunt ancient oaks.
Lincoln is a must-see, with its cathedral and castle enclosing a picturesque historic city centre. If you want a day at the seaside, the most accessible is Cleethorpes. Major cities within an hour or so by train include Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds and York.