Newark might only have a population of under 30,000, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in intrigue, proving that dynamite comes in small packages.
This charming market town and its surrounds, has some facts that most of us didn’t know about – from being the birthplace of a famous variety of apple to being home to a priceless Iron Age necklace.
Ever stood outside the imposing Victorian façade at London’s St Pancras and thought it looked familiar? Well, you thought right because the stately edifice of Kelham Hall, three and a half miles from Newark, was recreated by its architect Sir George Gilbert Scott when he designed the Midland Grand Hotel in the capital in 1865. Both have remained virtually unaltered since then. Kelham Hall is now a business centre and popular venue for weddings. The Midland Grand has been renamed the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Neither have lost their wow-factor.
A solid gold necklace, dating back to 250BC, found in a field outside Newark 15 years ago returned home five years ago after a decade on display in the British Museum. The necklace, made up of an eye-watering 45m (150ft) of gold wire was found by a Newark resident, Maurice Richardson, in 2005 while he was “treasure hunting” in a field near his home. It is only one of two Iron Age torcs of its kind in the country. The National Civil War Centre, close to Newark’s town centre, bought it for £350,000 in 2015 and it is now on display at the centre.
Mice in the minster
Newark might have a castle, but nearby Southwell has a magnificent minster, which has not only played host to the likes of Cardinal Wolsey, who commissioned Hampton Court Palace in the 1500s, but also has other interesting occupants, which are still there to this day. Twelve wooden mice, trademarks of famous furniture designer Robert “Mouseman” Thompson, occupy the 12 pieces he was commissioned to make for the cathedral in the 1930s. Thompson’s pieces, which form part of the Arts and Crafts Revival, can be seen in more than a few churches in the UK. His mice still scamper up the alter rails and pews of his parish church in Kilburn, Yorkshire and in nearby Kirby Overblow.
Not even a 100 years after Isaac Newton’s Law of Gravity was inspired by an apple falling from a tree in his garden in Colsterworth, just 30 miles up the road in Southwell, Mary Ann Brailsford grew a new variety of apple for the first time. When she sold the cottage to Matthew Bramley, he allowed a neighbour to take cuttings from the tree and sell the apples, as long as he called them Bramley. The tradition is honoured to this day with a Bramley Apple Festival in Southwell every October.
Regal Sherwood Forest
Only 20 minutes away from Newark is Sherwood Forest, with its 420 acres of woodland to explore. In the 10th century the forest was conceived as a Royal hunting ground. Only the King and very influential, rich people, such as the Archbishop of York, were allowed to hunt there. The King introduced strict decrees against building in the forest or removing any wood. Individuals caught would be fined, jailed or even executed if they were caught more than once.
River Trent monster
Scotland’s got their Loch Ness monster and, Newark, in a way, has its own too. Who would have thought that there would be sightings of grey seals so far inland, but over recent years these shy creatures have been spotted on more than one occasion. A wildlife enthusiast managed to capture one on camera in 2011 at Besthorpe Nature Reserve. This is no mean feat because this area is 75 miles from the North Sea. It is thought that the grey seals go swim-about from Lincolnshire’s Donna Nook, a part of shoreline famed for its seal population.
So, Newark is not just a pretty face with bespoke boutiques and elegant eateries, it has a side to it that we never knew existed!