Newark in Bygone Times


Market Place. Showing saracen's Head, Clinton Arms, "Governor's House", and Town Hall.

Leaving the church, the visitor steps into the Market Place, in old time called the Market-stead, a fine square space upwards of an acre-and-a-half in area, of which all Newarkers are justly proud. A few yards north of the lamp in the centre may still be seen the square curb in the paving cobbles in which was formerly a sunk post holding a ring, to which the bull was tethered in the good old "baiting" days. Several of the buildings on both the north and south sides of the square have their upper storeys projecting and supported on a row of pillars, as on Long Row, Nottingham, adding a touch of quaintness to what is otherwise plain enough. Undoubtedly the best time to see the market place is on a market day (Wednesday), when the rows of canvas-topped stalls are set out, sundry sorts of ware and produce displayed, and the whole scene assumes somewhat of the animation and colour of a mediaeval town of Normandy or the Rhine.


Old White Hart (front).

In the south corner of the square stands what is, after the Castle and Church, the oldest building in the town, and one of the oldest domestic houses in this part of England. This is now occupied by Messrs. Bainbridge & Co. as business premises, and was formerly the White Hart Inn, and now adjoins the modern inn of that name. Along its top storey has run a continuous open gallery or cloister, now glazed in; while on the front of the first floor is a rich series of canopied niches of plaster work, those over the cart-way still retaining their figures, holding emblems, their feet supported upon hogs' masks. This house, by the character of its details, may be assigned to the middle of the fourteenth century. It is illustrated in Parker's Domestic Architecture 1859, part ii., p. 225. The visitor should step into the spacious inn yard in the rear to view the gallery, &c., from that side. The accompanying illustrations better convey its quaint and picturesque appearance.


Old White Hart (rear).

Next to this building stands the Saracen's Head, where has been an inn under that name from at least the year 1341. From 1590 to 1720 it belonged to the Twentyman family, and was then the principal inn in the town. King Charles I. is said to have slept here during one of his visits to Newark, and the "blind" window in the yard, decorated with a fine example of "pargetting," or ornamental plaster work, is traditionally said to mark the bed-chamber used by the monarch. If this is so, the commemoration was executed some seventy years later, for the design of the panel is French in feeling, and of the time of Queen Anne.

The "Saracen's Head " is mentioned by Sir Walter Scott in "The Heart of Midlothian" as the inn where Jeanie Deans stayed when on her journey to London.

Next to the Saracen's Head comes the Clinton Arms, formerly the Kingston Arms, where Lord Byron used to stay during his visits to the town in 1806-8, when his first slender volumes of poems were printed for him by Messrs. S. and J. Ridge, who occupied the premises at the Bridge Street corner of the Market Place, now used as a grocer's shop, with the Masonic Hall above. From the windows of the Clinton Arms the late Mr. Gladstone addressed the electors during his first Parliamentary contest, in 1832, and the right honourable gentleman has stayed at the hotel on many occasions— business in connection with the extensive property of the Duke of Newcastle, whose trustee he was, bringing him to the town, in addition to political affairs.


Hardy's Yard. (Rear view of the Governor's House).

A little further on from the Clinton Arms, at the entrance to Stodman Street, stands a timber-fronted house with overhanging storeys, nicely coved. This was the Governor's house at the time of the sieges of the town during the Civil Wars, when Newark was held for the King under Sir John Henderson, Sir Richard Byron, Sir Richard Willis, and the Lord Bellasis successively. If the visitor walks up the passage marked "Hardy's Yard" at the end of this house, he will be pleased with the long wing running out at the back, with its steep-pitched gable. The old white-washed yard is a favourite subject with local artists, as is also that under the Queen's Head, the other timbered building, near the northwest corner of the square—a quaint courtyard, which should not be missed, and of which we give an illustration.

The Queen's Head Yard
The Queen's Head Yard.

The building on the north side of the Market Place, with its front carried on pillars, is the Old Town Hall, or "Market House," as it was at one time called. It was also the Moot Hall, where the courts of the important Manor of Newark were held. The achievement of arms on its front was placed there in 1708, and is that of John Holles, Duke of Newcastle, charged with that of his wife, Margaret Cavendish, on an escutcheon of pretence.

The present Town Hall, in the middle of the west side of the square, was erected on the site of the old Shambles, in 1773. Its elevation appears somewhat heavy, but is dignified, and characteristic of the period.