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At the centre of Medieval England

Shopping Museum


Newark Castle
Church of St. Magdalene
Town Hall
Millgate Museum
Antique and Collectors Fair
Newark grew up at the most important crossroads in the midlands of historic England. This was where the biggest Roman and Medieval roads crossed the River Trent; in other words, it was where the north of the country linked to the south. The combination of both water and land access brought Newark great wealth. It traded agricultural and industrial products, and made money from the constant flow of travellers. This growth continued even into the 1800s, with the development of the railways.

Trent warehouse
Photo Peter 2010
In the 17th century, however, the town's crucial location turned from a blessing to a curse. When the English Civil War broke out, it was stuck right in the middle of the Royalists in the south, and Parliamentary forces in the north. Newark turned into a warzone.
Most of the fighting was done in the shadow of Newark Castle. It was occupied by Charles I, who therefore commanded the all-important river crossing. His forces were subjected to three brutal sieges, in 1643, 1644 and 1646. Eventually, enough was enough, and they surrendered. The castle was mostly dismantled soon afterwards, but its ruins are still there. It's a pretty place, thanks largely to the fact that its grounds were turned into a garden, in celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Newark Castle
Photo Peter Tarleton
The centre of Newark is occupied by its cobbled marketplace. It's surrounded by former coaching inns and attractive half-timbered buildings. Looming overhead is the Church of St. Magdalene, whose tower reaches 76 metres up in the air. This makes it easily double the height of any of the neighbouring buildings. It's the largest parish church in Nottinghamshire, and much more like a cathedral than anything in Nottingham itself. If you look closely you can see a hole in the spire; local folklore says that this was the result of a stray musket ball in the Civil War.

Church of St. Magdalene
Photo Richard Croft
On the west side of the marketplace is Newark's Georgian Town Hall. It's still occupied by the council but, since 1999, a portion of the building has been open to the public. Its exhibits show how the local government have been taking care of their town. There's a display of official mayoral attire, and portraits of the mayors themselves. You can see the ceremonial silver objects they would have bourne, and the parlour they governed from. The Spotlight Gallery - also in the town hall - has work by regional artists and community groups.

Newark Town Hall
Photo Richard Croft
There are similar displays of local talent at the Millgate Museum, which lives inside a Victorian warehouse. The permanent exhibitions show the commercial and social development of Newark from the 19th century on. There are plenty of artefacts and photos, but the most immersive exhibit is the recreated pre-war street, which comes complete with a tobacconist, baker and pharmacy. You can get to the museum via an extremely pleasant riverside walk from Newark Castle.
A little way out of town, the museums become slightly more specialised. The Vina Cooke Museum, for example, has an expansive collection of dolls from as far back as the 18th century. The Newark Air Museum, meanwhile, presents 70 aircraft and cockpit sections inside a former WWII airfield.

Newark Air Museum
Photo Peter Langdale
It's probably clear by now, but Newark is a place with tremendous history. It's perhaps appropriate, then, that it has also become one of the best places in the UK to buy old things. The Newark International Antique and Collectors Fair, held on the nearby 84-acre showground, is the biggest event of its type in all of Europe.
Visitor Information
Newark Tourist Information Centre is open daily, 10am to 4pm. The Gilstrap Centre, Castlegate, Newark, NG24 1BG. Tel: 01636 655765.
Newark Castle's grounds are open daily, dawn to dusk. Guided tours are conducted Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends; tickets cost around £3 for adults, £2 children. Castlegate, Newark, Nottinghamshire, NG24 1BG.
The Town Hall Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10.30 am to 3.30 pm. Admission is free. Newark Town Hall, Market Place, Newark, Notts, NG24 1DU. Tel: 01636 680333.
Millgate Museum is open daily, 10.30 am to 4.30 pm. Admission is free. 48 Mill Gate Newark-on-Trent, Newark, Nottinghamshire NG24 4TS. Tel: 01636 655730.
The Vina Cooke Museum of Dolls and Bygone Childhood costs around £5 for adults, £3 children. Call in advance to verify times and admission charges. The Old Rectory Great North Road, Cromwell, Nottinghamshire, NG23 6JE. Tel: 01636 821364.
Newark Air Museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm. Entry is around £7 for adults and £4 children. The Showground, Winthorpe, Newark, Notts, NG24 2NY. Tel: 01636 707170.

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