The origins of the town are possibly Roman due to its position on an important Roman road, the Fosse Way. In a document which purports to be a charter of 664, Newark is mentioned as having been granted to the Abbey of Peterborough by Wulfhere. An Anglo-Saxon pagan cemetery, used from the early 5th to the early 7th centuries, has been found in Millgate, in Newark, close to both the Fosse Way and the River Trent in which cremated remains were buried in pottery urns.
In the reign of Edward the Confessor Newark belonged to Godiva and her husband Leofric, Earl of Mercia, who granted it to the monastery of Stow in 1055, who retained its incomes even after the Norman Conquest when it came under the control of the Norman Bishop Remigius de Fécamp. After his death it changed to, and remained in the hands of, the Bishops of Lincoln from 1092 until the reign of Edward VI. There were burgesses in Newark at the time of the Domesday survey, and in the reign of Edward III, there is evidence that it had long been a borough by prescription. The Newark wapentake in the east of Nottinghamshire was established during the period of Anglo-Saxon rule (10th to 11th centuries AD).
Newark Castle "was originally a Saxon fortified manor house, founded by King Edward the Elder. In 1073, Robert Bloet, bishop of Lincoln founded an earthwork motte and bailey fortress on the site. From 1123–33, Bishop Alexander the Magnificent completely rebuilt the castle, when founding a prominent stone structure of ornate construction." The river bridge was built about the same time under charter from Henry I, also St. Leonard's Hospital. He also gained from the king a charter to hold a five-day fair at the castle each year. He gained a charter under King Stephen to establish a mint in the town.
The town became a local centre for the wool and cloth trade, certainly by the time of Henry II a major market was established. Wednesday and Saturday markets in the town were established during the period 1156–1329 when a series of charters granted to the Bishop of Lincoln made them possible. King John died of dysentery in Newark in 1216. Following his death as Henry III tried to bring order to the country the mercenary Robert de Gaugy refused to yield Newark Castle to the Bishop of Lincoln, its rightful owner, leading to the Dauphin of France (later King Louis VIII of France) laying an eight-day siege on behalf of the king, ended by an agreement to pay the mercenary to leave. Around the time of Edward III's death, and excluding beggars and clergy, in "1377 – Poll tax records show adult population of 1,178 making Newark one of the biggest 25 or so towns in England".
In 1457 a flood swept away the bridge over the Trent and, although there was no legal requirement for anyone to replace it, the Bishop of Lincoln, John Chaworth, financed the building of a new bridge, built of oak with stone defensive towers at either end.
In January 1571 or 1572, the composer Robert Parsons fell into the swollen River Trent at Newark and drowned. There is no record of his body ever having been retrieved from the river following his death.
Following the break with Rome in the 16th century, the subsequent establishment of the independent Church of England, and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII had the Vicar of Newark, Henry Lytherland executed when he refused to acknowledge the king as head of the Church. The dissolution affected Newark's political landscape heavily, and even more radical changes came in 1547 when the Bishop of Lincoln exchanged ownership of the town with the Crown. Newark was incorporated under an alderman and twelve assistants in 1549, and the charter was confirmed and extended by Elizabeth I.
Charles I, owing to the increasing commercial prosperity of the town, reincorporated it under a mayor and aldermen, and this charter, except for a temporary surrender under James II, continued to be the governing charter of the corporation until the Municipal Corporations Act 1835.
During the English Civil War, Newark was a mainstay of the royalist cause, Charles I having raised his standard in nearby Nottingham. It was attacked in February 1643 by two troops of horsemen, but beat them back. The town fielded at times as many as 600 soldiers, and raided Nottingham, Grantham, Northampton, Gainsborough, and others with mixed success, but enough to cause it to rise to national notice. At the end of 1644 it was besieged by forces from Nottingham, Lincoln and Derby, the siege was only relieved in March by Prince Rupert.
Parliament commenced a new siege towards the end of January 1645 following more raiding, but this was relieved by Sir Marmaduke Langdale after about a month. Newark cavalry fought with the king's forces which were decisively defeated in the Battle of Naseby, near Leicester in June 1645.
The final siege began in November 1645, by which time the town's defences had been greatly strengthened. Two major forts had been constructed just outside the town, one, called the Queen's Sconce, to the south-west and another, the King's Sconce to the north-east, both close to the river, together with defensive walls and a water filled ditch 2¼ miles in length, around the town. In May 1646 the town was ordered to surrender by Charles I, which was still only accepted under protest by the town's garrison. After the surrender most of the defences were destroyed, including the castle which was left in essentially the state it can be seen today.
Around 1770 the Great North Road around Newark (now the A1) was raised on a long series of arches to ensure it remained clear of the regular floods it experienced. A special Act of Parliament in 1773 allowed the creation of a town hall next to the Market Place. Designed by John Carr of York and completed in 1776, Newark Town Hall is now a Grade I listed building. In 1775 the Duke of Newcastle, at the time the Lord of the Manor and a major landowner of the area, built a new brick bridge with stone facing to replace the dilapidated one next to the castle. This is still one of the major thoroughfares in the town today.
A noted advocate of reform in the late 18th century at Newark was the local-born printer and newspaper owner Daniel Holt (1766–1799). He was imprisoned for printing a leaflet advocating parliamentary reform and selling a Thomas Paine pamphlet.
In the milieu of parliamentary reform the duke of Newcastle evicted over a hundred tenants at Newark whom he believed supported directly or indirectly the Liberal/Radical candidate (Wilde) rather than his candidate (Michael Sadler, a progressive Conservative)at the 1829 elections. See the report in Cornelius BROWN 1907, ii, 243 following; and the report in the Times for 7 October 1829. A report in the Times of 10 September 1832 lists ten of the evicted people by name and address.
J.S. Baxter, who was a schoolboy in Newark from 1830 to 1840, contributed to The hungry forties: life under the bread tax (London, 1904), a book about the Corn Laws: "Chartists and rioters came from Nottingham into Newark, parading the streets with penny loaves dripped in blood carried on pikes, crying 'Bread or blood.'"
During the Victorian era a lot of new buildings and industry were established, such as Independent Chapel (1822), Holy Trinity (1836–37), Christ Church (1837), Castle Railway Station (1846), Wesleyan Chapel (1846), the Corn Exchange (1848), Methodist New Connexion Chapel (1848), W.N. Nicholson Trent Ironworks (1840s), Northgate Railway Station (1851), North End Wesleyan Chapel (1868), St. Leonard's Anglican Church (1873), Baptist Chapel (1876), Primitive Methodist Chapel (1878), Newark Hospital (1881), Ossington Coffee Palace (1882), Gilstrap Free Library (1883), Market Hall (1884), Unitarian Chapel (1884), the Fire Station (1889), Waterworks (1898) and the School of Science and Art (1900). These changes and the other industrial expansion that went with them saw the population of the town grow from under 7,000 in 1800 to over 15,000 by the end of the century.
During the Second World War there were a number of RAF stations within a few miles of Newark, from many of which operated squadrons of the Polish Air Force. A special plot was set aside in Newark Cemetery for RAF burials and this is now the war graves plot, where all but ten of the ninety Commonwealth and all of the 397 Polish burials were made. The cemetery also contains 49 scattered burials from the First World War. A memorial cross to the Polish airmen buried here was erected in the plot and was unveiled in 1941 by President Raczkiewicz, ex-President of the Polish Republic and head of the wartime Polish Government in London, supported by General Sikorski, head of the Polish Armed Forces and wartime Polish Prime Minister. When both men subsequently died, General Sikorski in 1943 and President Raczkiewicz in 1947, they were buried at the foot of the memorial. General Sikorski's remains were returned to Poland in 1993, but there is still a memorial to him at Newark.
The clothing, bearings, pumps, agricultural machinery, pine furniture making and sugar refining were the main industries in Newark in the last 100 years or so. British Sugar still has one of its sugar beet processing factories to the north of the town near the A616 (Great North Road). There have been several factory closures, especially since the 1950s. Breweries in the town in the 20th century included James Hole and Warwicks-and-Richardsons.
Estimated population (mid-2007, via NSDC Stats & Info) is 26,330 for the Newark Parish. Newark is 93 per cent white British, according to the 2011 census. It is also prosperous: 77 per cent of people are employed, according to the latest ONS data, compared with the national average of 72 per cent, and earnings are 7 per cent above those in the surrounding East Midlands.
Newark lies on the River Trent, with the River Devon also running through the town. Standing at the intersection of the Great North Road and the Fosse Way, Newark originally grew around Newark Castle – now ruined – and a large market place – now lined with historic buildings.
According to the 2001 census, it had a population of 25,376. The ONS Mid Year Population Estimates for 2007 indicate that the population had then increased to around 26,700.
However Newark forms a continuous built-up area with the neighbouring parish of Balderton to the south. "The population of Newark is approximately 35,000 and the rural area of Newark and Sherwood to the west of the town has an additional population of 75,000 in the small towns of Southwell and Ollerton and the numerous villages of the district." To the south of the town, along the A46 road, is Farndon, and to the north is Winthorpe.
Newark's growth and development have both been enhanced by its possession of one of the few bridges over the River Trent, the navigability of the river, the presence of the Great North Road (the A1), and later the advance of the railways bringing a junction between the East Coast Main Line and the route from Nottingham to Lincoln. "Newark became a substantial inland port, particularly for the wool trade," though it industrialised to some extent during the Victorian era, and later with an ironworks, engineering, brewing, and a sugar refinery. It was a major town standing for the Royalist cause during the Civil War, "Newark was besieged on three occasions and finally surrendered only when ordered to do so by the King after his own surrender."
The A1 bypass was opened in 1964 by the then Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples. The single-carriageway £34m A46 opened in October 1990. The junction with the A1 is very busy.
Newark returned two representatives to the Unreformed House of Commons from 1673. It was the last borough to be created before the Reform Act. William Ewart Gladstone, later Prime Minister, was MP for Newark in 1832, and re-elected in 1835, 1837 and 1841 (twice), but possibly due to his support of the repeal of the Corn Laws and other issues he stood elsewhere after that time. Recently, Newark elections have been central to two interesting legal cases. In 1945, a challenge to Harold Laski, the Chairman of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, led Laski to sue the Daily Express when it reported him as saying that Labour might take power through violence if defeated at the polls. Laski vehemently denied saying this but lost the libel action. In the 1997 general election, Newark returned Fiona Jones of the Labour Party. The defeated Liberal Democrat candidate questioned her election expenses and the police investigated and eventually prosecuted. Jones and her election agent Des Whicher were convicted of submitting a fraudulent declaration of expenses, but the conviction was overturned on appeal. Had the conviction stood, Jones would have been disqualified from Parliament.
Newark's former MP is Patrick Mercer, Conservative. Mercer held the position of Shadow Minister for Homeland Security from June 2003 until March 2007, when he was forced to resign following racially contentious comments made to The Times.
Following a by-election on 5 June 2014, brought about by the resignation of former MP Patrick Mercer, Conservative Robert Jenrick was elected as the new Member of Parliament for Newark and re-elected at the General Election on 7 May 2015.
Newark has three tiers of local government – Newark Town Council, Newark & Sherwood District Council and [Nottinghamshire County Council]. Thirty-nine Newark and Sherwood district councillors are responsible for services such as waste, planning, environmental health, licensing, car parks, housing, leisure and culture. The District Council opened a new national Civil War Centre and Newark Museum in May 2015. Ten county councillors are elected to Nottinghamshire County Council to represent the Newark & Sherwood area. Nottinghamshire County Council provides Children's services, Adult Care and Highways and transport services. The town has a locally elected council of eighteen members from four wards. Newark Town Council has taken on some responsibilities devolved by Newark & Sherwood District Council including local parks, open spaces and Newark Market. It is also responsible for local events such as the LocAle & Weinfest, as well as looking after a small museum in the Town Hall, and the allotments.
British Sugar PLC runs a major factory on the outskirts of the town and began operating in 1921. It employs 130 permanent staff. The factory processes 1.6 million tonnes of sugar beet produced by about 800 UK growers, at an average distance of 28 miles from the factory. Of the output, 250,000 tonnes of sugar is processed and supplied to food and drink manufacturers in the UK and across Europe. At the heart of the Newark factory's operations is the combined heat and power (CHP) plant. With boilers fired on natural gas, it produces the site’s steam and electricity requirement. Enough electricity to power 800 homes can be exported into the local electrical grid. The installation is rated under the government CHP environmental quality assurance scheme.
Another employer in the town is a bearings factory (part of the NSK group) with around 200 employees. A further notable employer is Laurens Patisseries, part of the food group Bakkavör since May 2006, when it was bought for £130m. It employs over 1,000 people. In 2007, Currys opened their £30m national distribution centre next to the A17 near the A46 roundabout, and Dixon's moved its national distribution centre there in 2005, with over 1,400 staff employed at the site during peak times. Flowserve, formerly Ingersoll Dresser Pumps, have a manufacturing facility in the town. Project Telecom on Brunel Drive was bought by Vodafone in 2003 for a reported £163m. Since 1985 Newark has been host to the biggest antiques fair in Europe, the Newark International Antiques & Collectors Fair, held bi-monthly at Newark Showground. Newark has plentiful antique shops and centres.
The town is home to many people who commute to the city of Nottingham (around 20 miles (32 km) away) and to London and other cities such as Leicester, Leeds, Doncaster and York. Newark is home of Newark Rugby Union Football Club, which has produced past players such as Dusty Hare, John Wells, Greig Tonks and Tom Ryder. The leisure centre is in Balderton at the Newark Academy, formerly the Grove School. Construction of a new Leisure Centre on Bowbridge Road began at the end of 2014 and is expected to be open in the Spring of 2016.
Newark and Sherwood Concert Band is a thriving concert band based in Newark which has in excess of 50 regular members. It has performed at numerous events in the area over the last few years.
The Palace Theatre is Newark's main entertainment venue, showcasing a variety of drama, live music, dance and film.
The National Civil War Centre and Newark Museum is adjacent to the Palace Theatre on Appletongate in the town centre. It was opened in 2015 to interpret Newark's part in the English Civil War in the seventeenth century and to explore the wider implications of this important period of the nation's history.
Newark's new police station opened in October 2006. The Palace Theatre is in Appletongate. The Market Place is the focal point of the town. The Queen's Head is an old pub.The Church of St. Mary Magdalene is a Grade I listed building, notable for the tower and the octagonal spire (236 feet (72 m) high), the tallest in the county. It was heavily restored in the mid-19th century by Sir George Gilbert Scott. The reredos was added by Sir Ninian Comper.
Newark Castle was built alongside the Trent by Alexander of Lincoln, the Bishop of Lincoln in 1123, who established it as a mint. Of the original Norman stronghold the most important remains are the gate-house, a crypt and the tower at the south-west angle. King John died at this castle on the night of 18 October 1216. In the reign of Edward III it was used as a state prison. During the English Civil War it was garrisoned for Charles I, and endured three sieges. Its dismantling was begun in 1646, immediately after the surrender of the king.
The 16th-century Governor's House, named after Sir Richard Willis, Governor of Newark Castle at the time of the English Civil War, is in Stodman Street. Now a bread shop and cafe, it is also a Grade I listed building.
The Newark Torc, a major silver and gold Iron Age torc, the first found in Nottinghamshire and very similar to those of the Snettisham Hoard, was uncovered in 2005 in what is now a field on the outskirts of Newark, and in 2008 was acquired by Newark and Sherwood District Council. The Torc was displayed at the British Museum in London until the opening of the National Civil War Centre and Newark Museum in May 2015. It can now be viewed in the Museum galleries.
There are several churches in Newark, including the Grade I listed parish church, St. Mary Magdalene. Other Church of England buildings include Christ Church in Boundary Road and St. Leonard's in Lincoln Road. The Catholic Holy Trinity Church was consecrated in 1979. Other churches include the Baptist Church on Albert Street, and the Church of Promise, founded in 2007.
Newark has two railway stations linked to the national network. The East Coast Main Line runs through Newark North Gate railway station providing links to London, Leeds, Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh and is served by Virgin East Coast. Newark Castle railway station lies on the Leicester–Nottingham–Lincoln line, providing cross-country regional links. The two lines cross on the level, at the last flat crossing in Britain. A grade separation has been proposed by Network Rail.
There are several main roads around Newark. The A1 and A46 roads have bypasses around Newark. The A17 runs east from Newark to King's Lynn in Norfolk, and the A616 runs north from Newark to Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. The town is served by several bus companies, including Stagecoach in Lincolnshire (branded as "Newark busabouttown"), Marshalls and Travel Wright, under the governance of Nottinghamshire County Council,
The Newark Advertiser, founded in 1854, is the town's weekly newspaper; it is owned by Newark Advertiser Co Ltd, who also publish local newspapers in Southwell and Bingham.
Community station Radio Newark'' began broadcasting on 107.8fm in May 2015 after three successful trials in 2014 and 2015. The station replaces the towns former community station, Boundary Sound, which ceased broadcasting in 2011.Gonville Bromhead (1845–1891), army officer and Victoria Cross recipient, educated at Magnus Grammar School
John Cartwright (1740–1824), naval officer, militia major and political reformer, educated in Newark
William Caparne (1855–1940) – botanical artist and horticulturalist, born in Newark
William Cubley (1816–1896) – artist, settled in Newark
William Nicholson (1872–1949) – painter and illustrator, born in Newark
George Allen (1832–1907) – engraver and publisher, born in Newark
John Barnard (died 1683) – biographer and religious writer, died in Newark
Cornelius Brown (1852–1907) – journalist and historian, Newark Advertiser
Henry Constable (1562–1613) – poet, born in Newark
Winifred Gales (1761–1839) – novelist and memoirist
T. W. Robertson (1829–1871) – playwright
John Blow (1649–1708) – composer and organist
Ian Burden (born 1957) – keyboard player, the Human League
Jay McGuiness (born 1990) – singer, band The Wanted
Richard Alexander (1934–2008) – Conservative politician
William Robert Bousfield (1854–1943) – Conservative politician, lawyer and psychologist, born in Newark
Sir Bryce Chudleigh Burt (1881–1943) – administrator in the British Raj, born in Newark
Robert Constable (1522–1591) – parliamentarian and soldier
Robert Heron (1765–1854) – Whig politician
Robert Jenrick (born 1982) – Conservative politician, MP for Newark, since June 2014
King John of England (1166–1216) – died in Newark
Fiona Jones (1957–2007) – Labour politician, MP for Newark.
Patrick Mercer (born 1956) – Conservative politician, MP for Newark, 2001–14
Arthur Richardson (1860–1936) – Liberal–Labour politician who had attended Magnus Grammar School
Alexander of Lincoln (died 1148) – Bishop of Lincoln, who founded a hospital for lepers in Newark
Annette Cooper (born 1953) – Anglican Archdeacon of Colchester, educated at Lilley and Stone Girls' High School in Newark
John Burdett Wittenoom (1788–1855) – pioneer cleric and headmaster in Swan River Colony, Australia, born in Newark
John Arderne (1307–1392) – notable surgeon, lived in Newark in early life
Basil Baily (1869–1942) – architect
Francis Clater (1756–1823) – farrier and veterinary writer
Godfrey Hounsfield (1919–2004) – electrical engineer, Nobel Laureate in medicine, inventor of the CT scanner
Rupert Sheldrake (born 1942) – biochemist and parapsychology researcher born in Newark
Giovanni Francisco Vigani (c. 1650–1712) – chemist from Verona who first settled in Newark in 1682
Frederick Smeeton Williams (1829–1886) – writer on railways
Willie Hall (1912–1967) – Notts County, Tottenham Hotspur and England footballer holding the record for the fastest international hat trick ever scored (4 minutes against Northern Ireland, 16 November 1938)
Steve Baines (born 1954) – League footballer and referee
Craig Dudley (born 1979) – professional association footballer
Harry Hall (born 1893 – death date unknown) – professional association footballer
Dusty Hare (born 1952) – rugby union international
Phil Joslin (born 1959) – League football referee
Mary King (born Thomson, 1961) – Olympic equestrian sportswoman
Sam McMahon (born 1976) – professional association footballer
Shane Nicholson (born 1970) – League footballer
Mark Smalley (born 1965) – professional association footballer born in Newark
William Streets (born 1772, fl. 1792–1803) – cricketer
Arthur Leslie (1899–1970) – actor and playwright, born in Newark
Norman Pace (born 1953) – actor and comedian
Terence Longdon (1922–2011) – screen actor
Donald Wolfit (1902–1968) – Shakespearean actor
Since 1984 Newark has been twinned with: Emmendingen, Germany