On what proved to be a slightly more blustery day than I had expected I decided to head out to Newark Castle. I didn’t know much about the site other than it was now ruins so I would highly recommend taking advantage of the guided tour. It doesn’t happen every day so you do have to ring Newark Tourist Information in advance but I found it very interesting and it does give you the opportunity to enter areas which are usually closed to the public, such as the towers and undercroft.
Newark Castle is nearly 900 years old, having been built by Alexander the Magnificent, Bishop of Lincoln, between 1123 and 1133. Before that the site had housed a motte and bailey earthwork castle and before that a Saxon fortified manor.
Unsurprisingly many royals visited the castle over the years. King John of Magna Carta fame, for instance, died in the castle in 1216 and the tour takes you up to roughly what room he would have stayed in at the time. Also worth mentioning is that 2016 is the 800th year since King John’s death, which will apparently be commemorated in some style at the castle.
The Castle was eventually taken out of the hands of the church and given into private ownership. It was an important stronghold with the royalists during the English Civil War because of its place on the banks of the River Trent which provided the ability to control the main route to the North. The Castle was the site of three sieges until eventually Charles I told them they should surrender in 1646.
Parliamentarian forces gave orders for the Castle to be destroyed, but this was never fully carried out. As well as the damage from the sieges over the years, stone from the walls was removed and used in the building of local houses.
Over the years since then the Castle passed through many hands and has been put to some intriguing uses, including as the site of a cattle market and for public baths.
In 1887 it was decided that the grounds should be made into public gardens for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. Landscape gardener H E Milner finished the gardens in time for Queen Victoria’s 70th birthday in 1889, though I feel most of the current garden owes more to the work done in 2000 which included the installation of a lovely bandstand as shown below.
The Castle without the tour doesn’t take very long to look at (the Tour takes about 1 hour) but I would also recommend taking the path at the bottom of the Castle to the river side to get a good sense of the Castle’s scale.
More photos can be found at my flickr here.