Genealogy and Newark, Nottinghamshire, England
Jim Fisher's Genealogy and Family History Pages
Genealogy and Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England
This page is devoted to the town of Newark-on-Trent, England, and covers the origin of its name, an outline of its history and geography, links to other web sites concerned with Newark and genealogical resources relating to the town. In doing this, it is not my intention to duplicate unnecessarily, nor to compete with, any web pages which already do some of those things, but to complement such pages and provide links to them, with appropriate description of what they have to offer.
My interest arises because my wife, her paternal grandfather and many of his ancestors were born and spent much of their lives in Newark.
This separate page not only shows the map on two scales, but also describes some of the important but less obvious features and relates the old street names shown with the modern names for those same streets.
The name Newark means "new work", in contrast to an "old work", which is thought to have been either the Roman fort of Margidunum, about 10 miles away, or possibly a previous Saxon fortress at or close to where Newark is now. The "-on-Trent" addition was to distinguish it from another Newark near Peterborough.
Newark is now a small market town, with a little manufacturing industry, in an otherwise almost entirely rural area on the borders of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, but in mediæval times it was a walled town of great strategic importance. Known as "the Key to the North", it commanded the only crossing for many miles over the River Trent (and the nearest one to the distant estuary), Britain's third longest river. Not only that, two ancient long distance main roads cross here, the Roman Fosse Way from Bath to Lincoln, which stays on the south side of the river, and the Great North Road from London to York and Edinburgh, which crosses the river right beside Newark Castle.
Other major communication routes are the road from Nottingham, which joins the Fosse Way near here on its way to Lincoln, and the river itself, which enabled Newark to function as a port with access to the distant North Sea via the Humber estuary. It carried traffic inland to Nottingham, Derby and Stoke, with a canal link to Liverpool, the Mersey and the Irish Sea added in the 18th century. The 19th century saw the addition of the main railway from London to Edinburgh and the major industrial cities of Yorkshire and north-east England, as well as a smaller line, from Nottingham and points west, to Lincoln and Grimsby. This map (161,461 bytes) of the county shows the location of the town.
The River Trent in fact divides into two a little above Newark, with only the smaller of the two sections reaching the town. It is joined here by the pretty River Devon (pronounced Deevon). However, the other branch is blocked to navigation by a weir just below the split at Averham (pronounced Airum), so all river traffic must pass through the town's lock. When the road to the north crosses the bridge beside the castle it has to cross what amounts to a low-lying island, subject to much flooding, before crossing a second bridge after about a mile and a half. This section of the road was raised in about 1770 on a long series of low arches, so it remains passable at all times.
The land close to Newark is almost flat, with low hills a few miles to the south. Both gravel and gypsum (used in the food and drug industries and for the manufacture of plaster and plasterboard) are quarried in the area, and a sugar factory just north of the town uses locally grown sugar beet. There are small engineering works on edge-of-town industrial estates, and a fairly large factory making bearings, but otherwise the town relies on simply acting as a shopping area and cattle market for the surrounding countryside, supplemented by tourism, with a growing number of residents commuting to Lincoln, Nottingham, Peterborough and even London.
A short distance outside the town is a disused airfield, which in May houses a great agricultural (very widely interpreted) show, and about every three months it is the home for a three-day antiques fair which is said to be Europe's biggest.
The heart of the town is the old cobbled Market Place, a large open square surrounded by imposing old buildings, which still houses the outdoor market every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, as well as more specialised smaller markets on Monday and Thursday. Notable buildings here are the Town Hall and the Civil War Governor's House, as well as several old coaching inns, with the spire of the parish church looking down on it all.
This section has become too large, so it is now on a separate set of pages.
Family history researchers are likely to have a need to understand the current structure of local government in Newark, and how it relates to the more recent past. The general history of local government in Victorian Britain is described on my British Counties, Parishes, etc. for Genealogists page, so I will not repeat it here, but confine myself to the local details.
From the major restructuring in the late nineteenth century until the reorganisation of 1974, there were two levels of local government in Newark: Nottinghamshire County Council and Newark Borough Council. In 1974 most of the powers of the borough council were transferred to the new Newark and Sherwood District Council, whose offices are at Kelham Hall, a few miles north-west of the town, while a few very limited powers were left with Newark Town Council, which became effectively a mere parish council but continues to operate from the Town Hall in the Market Place.
Record offices and libraries are operated by the county council as they were before 1974, so most records remain where they were.
Researchers may also need to know that in earlier times (I don't know the dates at present) the Castle and its Liberty, with an extent of 1,138 acres, were in the parish of East Stoke, not Newark, although it was in Newark for Parliamentary election purposes. The village of East Stoke is about four miles south-west of Newark.
This section grew too large, so it is now a separate set of 12 pages with 110 photos plus a couple of maps and diagrams.
Newark remains the home of a number of controversies, some of them rather surprising. Which was the "old work" with which the "New work" (= Newark) was contrasted? Was Newark a Roman station? Were there only one, or two mediæval town walls? How many sieges did the town withstand in the civil war? Even the name of the river flowing past the castle is disputed. These points are discussed on my Newark Controversies page.
A fair (and steadily increasing) amount of very interesting information about Newark and its history can be found on the Newark Advertiser (local newspaper) site, as well as the news, entertainment and commercial information to be expected of such a site.
Newark heritage is stoutly defended, and its enhancement encouraged, by Newark Civic Trust. Their web site is well worth a look if you have any interest in the town and its buildings.
The local government sites, which are quite useful, are:
Newark and Sherwood District council.
Newark Town council.
Clive Henly has published extracts from White's Directory of Nottinghamshire 1853, giving a description of the town and its castle, and an account of its history, as well as a description of the Newark Hundred.
The local history section in Newark Public Library has microfiche copies (not transcriptions) of parish registers as well as registers of electors, registers of burgesses, directories, old maps, census records (microfiche), etc. and very helpful and knowledgeable staff. They are located at:
Phone: (+44) (0) 1636 703966.
There are also many useful resources (and very helpful staff), such as trade records and photos, at:
Phone: (+44) (0) 1636 655740.
The archives of Nottingham University contain huge numbers of historical documents of interest to genealogists. Of special interest to Newark researchers are the records of transactions concerning Newark people and property from the estate of the Dukes of Newcastle (under Lyme), who once owned much of the town. These occupy three large web pages at http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/mss/online/online-mss-catalogues/cats/ne_1_deeds_part_8.html, http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/mss/online/online-mss-catalogues/cats/ne_1_deeds_part_9.html and http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/mss/online/online-mss-catalogues/cats/ne_1_deeds_part_10.html.
I thought it might be of interest to mention a few local place name pronunciations which are not what the casual visitor might expect. There are probably others that I am not aware of. Please tell me if you know of any. In each case the emphasis is very much on the first syllable, as with most two-syllable English words (strange that "pronounce" is an exception!).
Averham (nearby village) is pronounced "Airum".
Belvoir (nearby village and castle) is pronounced "Beaver"
Blidworth (nearby village) is pronounced "Bliduth" by some people (including my locally-raised wife), but others maintain it is always pronounced as spelled.
Devon (river) is pronounced "Deev'n" (unlike the English county with the same spelling, where the "e" is pronounced as in "met").
Norwell (nearby village) is pronounced "Norrell" by locals (thanks to Derek Wileman for drawing my attention to this one)
Rainworth (nearby village) is pronounced "Rennuth" by locals.
Southwell (nearby small town/large village) is pronounced "Suth'll" by many people, but even natives cannot seem to agree about it.
Tom Hedefine has kindly sent me a photo of the Newark Castle Rovers football team of 1911-12 which is shown on this separate page.
I have created a small page of photos/postcards of various processions and displays in Newark.
The following books are recommended for anyone interested in Newark, and especially in its history. Except for the first two, they consist almost entirely of old photographs:
- Cornelius Brown: A History of Newark-on-Trent, (2 volumes) published by S. Whiles (Newark) in 1904 and republished by Nottinghamshire County Council in 1995 (ISBN 0 900943 70 X), both as limited editions (100 and 500 copies respectively). The standard reference book on Newark history.
- John Samuels: History Around Us, published by The Cromwell Press, Newark (ISBN 0 9511385 7 8). This covers snippets of interest in Newark and in a number of nearby villages.
- Tim Warner: Newark - Aspects of the Past published by Nottinghamshire County Council in 1994 (ISBN 0 900943 54 8). A useful booklet with numerous old photos and stories.
- Tim Warner: Around Newark in Old Photographs published by Nottinghamshire County Council in 1991 (ISBN 0 86299 890 5). Around 200 old photos of Newark.
- Tim Warner: Britain in Old Photographs: Newark published jointly by Nottinghamshire County Council and Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd. in 1995 (ISBN 0 7509 0788 6). About another 250 old photographs of Newark.
- David Ottewell: Newark on Old Picture Postcards published by Reflections of a Bygone Age in 1991 (ISBN 0 946245 46 0). About 40 pages of reproduced picture postcards, mostly two to a page.
These and others are also given on my Newark History page.
These two people lived in Newark when they wrote their wills, but died in the year shown in Derbyshire, where the wills were proved:
GOULD Mary 1897
HALL Joseph 1859
My thanks to Jayne Clayworth, who supplied the first of these, and to Mike Spencer who supplied both.
Found the following entry in the Leicestershire 1861 census:
RG9/2260 Folio 14 Page 21 Schedule 137
Wood Street, Hinckley, Leicestershire
HARDY, Isaac I. / Lodger / 22 / Primitive Methodist Minister / bn Newark, Nottinghamshire
My thanks again to Jayne Clayworth
This section has become too large, so I have now made it into a separate set of pages.
Mr. Tim Warner, Newark Public Library
Mr. Glyn Hughes, Newark Museum
Cornelius Brown: A History of Newark-on-Trent, (2 volumes) published by S. Whiles (Newark) in 1904 and republished by Nottinghamshire County Council in 1995 (ISBN 0 900943 70 X)
John Samuels: History Around Us, published by The Cromwell Press, Newark (ISBN 0 9511385 7 8)
Adrian Room: Dictionary of British Place Names, 1988, Bookmart Ltd. (ISBN 1 85605 1775).
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