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Newark Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Niwerc upon the Fosseway; Niwerca; Newercham

In the civil parish of Newark.
In the historic county of Nottinghamshire.
Modern Authority of Nottinghamshire.
1974 county of Nottinghamshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SK79635407
Latitude 53.07760° Longitude -0.81261°

Newark Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Palace.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Medieval motte and bailey castle built in about 1130 with much rebuilding and alterations carried out in C13. The gatehouse, part of the curtain wall and a tower are still visible. Excavations of the castle were carried out between 1954-1956 and in 1972. It is suggested the castle stands on the site of an earlier Saxon manorial centre.

Remains of castle. Gatehouse, including chapel and lodging, curtain wall and north west tower built for Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, c1133-1148. South west tower later C12. North west tower and curtain wall remodelled and river front central tower built, probably for Bishop Henry de Burghersh, c1320-1340. Hall undercroft mid C14. Hall altered and river front oriel window added for Bishop Thomas Rotherham, 1471-1480. Gatehouse, hall windows, central and south west towers altered and refenestrated for residence for Earl of Rutland, 1581. Slighted and left as a roofless ruin following siege of 1646. Restored 1845-1848 by A Salvin. Purchased and restored by Newark corporation, 1889. Restored and consolidated by DoE, 1979-1990. Squared dressed stone and ashlar with ashlar dressings. Oblong plan with the south east side demolished. Gatehouse, north west tower, river front, central turret, south west tower, curtain wall, undercroft. Ashlar faced square gatehouse, 3 storeys, has corner pilasters to north east entrance front, and mid C19 buttresses flanking the central gateway. Double-rebated round headed opening with dogtooth on hood mould. Above, two 2-light segment headed windows, late C16, in blocked and altered C12 openings. Above again, similar fenestration with a single 2-light cross mullioned window. South west side has a plain gateway and above it a rectangular opening to the right and above again, a central round headed opening. South east side has a polygonal stair turret with a round headed door at bottom and top. Above, to its left, a late C16 3-light window and above it a similar window, both with four centred arched heads. North east curtain wall has a garderobe chute to right, and above, to left, various broken openings, 2 of them with four centred arches. Polygonal north west tower has a battered plinth and small loops on 2 stages. North west face has a cross mullioned window with panel tracery and above it, a segment headed mullioned window, both restored. Interior has a bottle dungeon and a rectangular dungeon to west, adjoining the undercroft. River front has a central canted turret, 2 stages, with plinth. Single broken opening and above it, a restored 3-light cross mullioned window. Interior has a dungeon reached by a spiral stair. Curtain wall, 3 storeys plus basement, has remains of crenellation to right. To left, 3 unglazed windows, early C14, originally lighting the halls. To their right, a small mullioned window with cusped heads. Above the left window, a 5-light and a 2-light cross mullioned window. To their left, a late C15 2-stage canted oriel window with 3 traceried openings and above, an untraceried segment headed opening. Interior has a traceried vault. To the left of the oriel, a 4-light cross mullioned window with panel tracery and above it, a larger traceried 6-light window by Salvin. Below and to the left of the oriel, a double rebated round headed watergate. To the right, at basement level, a double garderobe chute. Rectangular south west tower, 3 stages, has battered plinth. To north west, single rectangular openings arranged one above another, that next to the top with C20 glazing. South west side has a 2-light mullioned window with a square opening below and a rectangular window above. Inner face has a reconstructed roll-moulded round headed doorway in the return angle, with shafts. Above, south and east faces have doors to the wall walk. East face has a four centred arched double lancet with hood mould. South face has a single C20 door on 2 floors. Consolidated remains of south west curtain wall have brick relieving arches. Early C14 undercroft, 4x2 bays, has octagonal piers without capitals and chamfered ribs to plain pointed barrel vault. In the undercroft, the remains of the doorway to the early C12 chapel. Because of its strategic situation at the crossing of the Trent and the north road, Newark castle has often been used as a staging point on royal journeys and as a rallying point. Built by the Bishop of Lincoln, it was taken into royal hands as early as 1135 by Stephen and restored to the Bishop only in 1218, after John had died there in 1216. Edward II took control of the castle in 1322, and it passed into the hands of Henry VIII in 1547. It was held for Charles I during the Civil War, and besieged in 1644 and 1646. It was also visited by Henry II (1180), Henry VII (1487) and James I (1603). In spite of its importance, the castle is not an outstanding example of fortification, the Trent being its main strength. Its defences were not updated after the early C14, and were allowed to deteriorate from the mid C16. (Listing description)

Ibi quidem construxerat episcopus super flumen Trente in loco amoenissimo vernantissimum florida compositione castellum. There was built, in the bishop's place on the River Trent, the finest Springtime flowery composition of a castle. (Henry of Huntingdon translation by Philip Davis)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 103, 108, 231, 391
      Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 269, 326
      Wright, James, 2008, Castles of Nottinghamshire (Nottinghamshire County Council) p. 68
      Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of the East Midlands (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 88-91
      Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 270-2
      Marshall, Pamela, 1998, 'The Twelth-Century Castle at Newark' in Jennifer Alexander (ed), Southwell and Nottinghamshire: Medieval Art, Architecture and Industry (Leeds: British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions 21)
      Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 97-9, 178
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 201-2
      Philip Dixon et al, 1994, Newark Castle Studies
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 380
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 264
      Pevsner, Nikolaus; revised by Elizabeth Williamson, 1979, Buildings of England: Nottinghamshire (London) p. 188-190
      Todd, M., 1977, 'Newark-on-Trent' in Archaeological Excavations 1976 (HMSO) p. 144
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 252-3
      Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 81
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Blagg, T.M., 1911 (2edn), A Guide to Newark
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 449-54 online copy
      Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 38-40 online copy
      Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 224-5 online copy
      Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 226
      Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 4 p. 166-8
  • Periodical Articles
    • Guy, Neil, 2011-12, 'The Rise of the Anti-clockwise Newel Stair' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 25 p. 113-174 online copy
      Speight, Sarah, 2008, 'Castles as Past Culture: Living with Castles in the Post-Medieval World' Château Gaillard Vol. 23 p. 385-94 (slight)
      Marshall, P., 2006, 'Three urban castles and their communities in the east midlands: Lincoln, Nottingham and Newark' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 259-65
      Marshall, Pamela, 2004, Improving the image: the transformation of Bailey into Courtyard at the 12th-century Bishops' castle at Newark, Nottinghamshire'' Château Gaillard Vol. 21 p. 203-214
      Marshall, Pamela, 2000-2001, 'Refurbishment at Newark Castle' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 14 p. 25+26 online copy
      Marshall, Pamela, 1998-99, 'More Digging at Newark Castle (SK796540)' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 12 p. 31-2 online copy
      Samuels, John, 1998 March, 'Newark - castle' Current Archaeology Vol. 156 p. 458-
      Marshall, Pamela, 1994, 'Recent excavations at Newark Castle, Nottinghamshire' Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire Vol. 98 p. 49-57
      Marshall, Pamela, 1993-94, 'Recent Work at Newark Castle' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 7 p. 21-23 online copy
      Allen Brown, 1989, 'A list of Castles 1154-1216' in Brown, R.Allen, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121
      Todd, M., 1977, 'Excavations on the medieval defences of Newark, 1976' Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire Vol. 81 p. 41-54
      Courtney, T.W., 1973, 'Newark Castle excavation 1972' Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire Vol. 77 p. 34-40
      Barley, M.W., 1956, 'Newark Castle excavations 1953-6' Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire Vol. 60 p. 20-33
      Perks, J.C., 1939, 'Newark Castle and the Great Tower' Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire Vol. 43 p. 22-26
      Braun, Hugh, 1935, 'Notes on Newark Castle' Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire Vol. 39 p. 53-91 (plans sections) online copy
      Walker, 1933, Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 39 p. 85-91
      Trollope, 1871, Association of Architectural Societies Vol. 11 p. 48-57 (unimportant)
      King, Edward, 1782, 'Sequel to the observations on Ancient Castles' Archaeologia Vol. 6 p. 316-21 (Reprinted in Ancient Castles )
  • Guidebooks
    • Marshall, P. and Samuals, J., 1997, Guardian of the Trent: the story of Newark Castle (Newark)
      1980, Newark Castle; a short guide (Newark)
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • Johnson, C. and Cronne, H.A. (eds), 1956, Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum, 1066–1154 Vol. 2 Regesta Henrici Primi 1100-1135 p. 264 no. 1770 online copy
      Foster, C.W. (ed), 1931, Registrum Antiquissimum of Lincoln p. 23, 33-5, 38, 191 online copy
      Arnold, Thomas (ed), 1879, Henrici Archidiaconi Huntendunensis Historia Anglorum (London: Rolls series 74) p. 266 online copy
      Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 379-80
      E317 Notts./19 (Survey of Commonwealth) The National Archives reference
      SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference
      SP14/54/50 i (Survey of 1610) The National Archives reference
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) available via EThOS
      Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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