The Biographical notes on my novels say that I live in Nottingham. Actually I live near Nottingham, but I do have another town on my doorstep and it's the one I visit most often because I do my grocery shop there. It's Newark On Trent, and it's still a fairly unspoiled, bustling market town with much of its history intact. In the Medieval period, it's famous as being the place where King John died. I'm always saying to my husband that I'll bring my camera on our next outing, and finally I remembered it! I'm not the world's best photographer, but I'm enclosing a few shots of the castle and the magnificent church of Saint Mary Magdalene.
Newark Castle stands on the banks of the River Trent. The first building there was a Saxon palace dating to the reign of Edward the Elder 870 -924. In 1073, Robert Bloet, bishop of Lincoln built a timber motte and bailey castle on the site. Fifty years later, bishop Alexander began work on a substantial stone fortress and this was again enhanced in the reign of Henry III.
In the 15th and 16th centuries the castle became more of a palace, but during the English Civil War in the 17thC, once more returned to military status. Following Oliver Cromwell's triumph, the castle was slighted i.e. reduced to a state where it could neve be a defensive fortress again. Today all that remains is the gatehouse, curtain wall and North West tower. There is a very pleasant riverside walk and a small attractive park attached to the castle. Whenever we drive into Newark intent on replenishing the store cupboards, I always take a glance at the castle as we drive past and wonder if one of those window remaining was once part of the chambere where King John died. He had arrived in Newark in a state of great physical distress. Earlier he had been borne on a litter because he was no longer able to ride a horse. The litter itself was made from willows cut from the side of the road by the swords of his knights, and with a horse cloth thrown over. For the entry into Newark, he forced himself back onto a horse, an 'ambling nag' (Kate Norgate, John Lackland) Here, at the castle, he lingered, dying, for three days, attended by the abbot of Croxton, who, despite his medical skills was unable to do anything. As John died at midnight on October 18th, apparently a whirlwind swept through the town with such violence that peope feared for their houses, and with the storm departed the soul of King John.
On the first picture, the two small arches in the middle of the wall at the base are latrine chutes. At one time the river would have come right up to the base of the castle wall.
A romanesque window from the time of King John
Taz investigates a mysterious dark hole in case there are rabbits!
The Church of St Mary Magdalene stands almost on the town square and is the third on the site. A previous Saxon church would have seen Leofric of Mercia and his famous wife Lady Godiva (presumably with clothes on!) amid the congregation. There was a late 12th century church, but very little of this remains. The existing church dates from the 1230's onwards. In 1227, Henry III gave permission for six oaks from Sherwood Forest to be felled for repairs to the church.
In 1310, another building programme was embarked upon and was to last 200 years.
Although not a cathedral, it is the size of one. The spire rises 236 feet and was built in several stages, beginning in the thirteenth century and continuing into the fourteenth. The trade guilds in the town each had a chapel dedicated in the church and at one point there were sixteen altars in additon to the High Altar. Each chapel would have been highly decorated and adorned with riches.
One of the remaining treasures of the church is an early sixteenth century pair of painted panels depicting the Dance of Death. One panel shows a young man in the prime of life, the other a skeleton holding out a carnation to him, the message being 'As I am, so shall you be.'
I will need to revisit for a more thorough look. My time was limited as I had to get my frozen stuff home and I had other appointments, but I'll be back. There's a medieval chest I didn't get a chance to look at, and I didn't have time for the misericords either (bum supports during long services, often with ornate carving beneath them). I also want a closer look at the chancel floor tiles.
Two ceilings in the church of St. Mary Magdalene Newark.
Newark is a great place to spend a few hours - historic, but modern enough so that you can buy most things. The history is right there with you every step of the way and there are plenty of good eateries and refreshment places too.
I apologise for the formatting. Blogger is having an idiosyncratic moment and the layout I see when editing is not the same as what appears on the finished blog!