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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the May 2015 issue

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Excitement is building in the historic market town of Newark-on-Trent as it gets ready to welcome up to 60,000 visitors a year, through a new tourist attraction with national, if not international, significance.

Holiday weekends are always busy for businesses and retailers in the town but this year’s May bank holiday weekend will hopefully prove to be one for the record books and set the standard for the rest of 2015.

The UK’s first National Civil War Centre, located in the town centre, opens its doors to the public on 3rd May, bringing with it the promise of a regular influx of new tourists from all over the country and helping to increase footfall and add a much welcome boost to the local economy.

More than 1,000 Civil War re-enactors and a battery of cannons from across the UK will descend on Newark for the weekend, reviving memories of the three sieges it endured during the British Civil Wars in the seventeenth century.

The deadly struggle by the Royalists to hold the Queen’s Sconce earthen fort against Parliamentary and Scottish foes will be re-enacted, while other troops face each other over the River Trent at Newark Castle.

National Civil War Centre business manager, Michael Constantine, said: “The National Civil War Centre is a huge development for the whole area and will have a tremendous impact on the town.

“This will be an incredible bank holiday weekend and the biggest Civil War re-enactment held in the region. Such a major project deserves to be launched on a truly grand scale.” 

The £5.4m attraction by Newark and Sherwood District Council will open in the transformed Grade II* Old Magnus Building on Appletongate, next to the iconic Palace Theatre.

Other highlights of the opening weekend will include living history camps, seventeenth-century medicine, craft displays, arms drills, set-piece battles and a recreation of the final dramatic moments of the third siege, when the bedraggled Royalist garrison marched out with its flags flying after surrendering.

Groups taking part will include The Sealed Knot, the English Civil War Society and the History Re-enactment Workshop. 

The centre itself will house a collection which includes a number of nationally significant Civil War related items that will form the core of the Centre, such as a unique 1646 siege map of Newark on vellum, showing both the defenders and attackers’ earthworks and the layout of the town at this time.

There is also a collection of rare and distinctive Newark siege pieces, minted in the castle when the town was under siege for the third time in 1645–1646.

A number of important coin hoards found locally, along with personal items, swords, cannon and musket balls, and a notable collection of contemporary documents relating to the period, are also included.

Highlights of the collection include the stunning Newark Torc, a 2,000-year-old Iron Age torc found by a local metal detectorist; a breathtaking seventh-century Anglo Saxon gold and garnet cross, that is similar in construction to the Staffordshire Hoard; an art collection including works by local artists such as William Cubley and Robert Kiddey alongside such notable figures as Bridget Riley, Winifred Nicholson, Walter Sickert and the Newark-born Sir William Nicholson; and the printing press used to print the first two editions of Lord Byron’s poems in Newark.

“One of our first exhibitions in the small galleries is by Magnum Photos – a photojournalism collective founded by Robert Capa and others after the Second World War,” said Michael.

“They will be exploring the photography of civil war, strife and propaganda – the use of propaganda, censorship and images relating to modern civil wars, which relates back to the wars we are covering, because there was an awful lot of propaganda being circulated at the start of the civil war like woodcuts of babies being bayoneted.

“The centre will also feature a cinema showing up to six films telling the story of real local people involved in the siege of Newark. The cast are all played by actors and actresses from Newark and surrounding areas.

“There is also a Newark gallery with scribed walls and glass cabinets housing real objects, which tell the story of Newark in the Civil War.”

In addition to viewing the artefacts, displays and story in the centre, visitors can actually visit the areas where the action took place.

A new hi-tech history trail has been launched with lavishly shot costumed scenes using professional actors which have been melded with cutting-edge video technology and authentic locations to tell the epic seventeenth-century story of how King and Parliament clashed in the nation’s deadliest war. 

Downloading the app and holding up a smart device to a trigger image at key Civil War locations around Newark will enable visitors to see characters leap into life onscreen to relate their own stories – from a servant girl moaning about meagre rations and a man lamenting the devastation caused to his family by plague, to King Charles quarrelling with his ablest lieutenant, Prince Rupert.

“Newark has an immense potential to create a really world class visitor experience,” said Michael. “It is an exceptional preserved historic market town with an absolutely riveting story to tell. The civil war project will give the town a focus to promote itself across the UK and further afield.”

The opening of the Civil War Centre is not the only good news that Newark has received recently. Rail passengers using Newark Castle and neighbouring stations will soon be enjoying extra services and quicker journeys, following the confirmation of a new timetable for the Castle Line meaning it will be easier and quicker for visitors to reach the town.

Passengers using Newark Castle will benefit from a more frequent service and journey times will be reduced to just over twenty minutes on fast services to and from Nottingham. The new services start on Monday 18th May.

The improved Castle Line will help support communities across Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire and is perfectly timed to support the opening of the National Civil War Centre.

Newark Business Club’s outgoing chairman, Michelle Allen said: “We welcome the improvement to the train service between Nottingham, Newark and Lincoln.

“Newark Business Club will continue to work with East Midlands Trains and other stakeholders to further develop the Castle Line. We see faster journeys as essential to drive further economic growth in the Nottingham, Newark and Lincoln corridor.”

Experience Nottinghamshire head of business development, Keith Laird said: “The new Castle Line development is very timely, improving transport links with Newark to coincide with the opening of the National Civil War Centre, a high-profile attraction set to deliver new visitors to the county.

“This is a welcome addition to our existing rail network, linking two of our major visitor destinations, Nottingham and Newark, and a great asset for the visitor economy.”

Businesses will just have time to recover from the Civil War Centre opening celebrations before an estimated 30,000 strong crowd descends on Newark’s Showground at nearby Winthorpe, for the 132nd Nottinghamshire County Show on 9th and 10th May.

It is one of three major events staged by the Newark & Nottinghamshire Agricultural Society, at the Showground, which attracts thousands of visitors to the area each year.

Show manager Jayne Olney said all the events helped to put Newark on the map: “The show plays an important part in the local economy. It is for the residents of the county but we have a lot of visitors from all over the country and they get to see Newark and what it has to offer.”

As well as the County Show, the Society organises a Vintage Tractor and Heritage Show – attracting a further 15,000 visitors to Newark – and introduced a Midlands Machinery Show for the first time last November, which proved highly popular amongst business from all over the region.

NEWARK AIR MUSEUM
Another major visitor attraction in Newark is the Newark Air Museum, which has been bringing people into the area for more than forty years.

The first airframe was secured in 1963, after which the museum was formally incorporated as a limited company and registered as a charity in 1968.

After a number of years spent preparing its permanent site on the Winthorpe Showground, a former Second World War training base, the museum was officially opened to the public in 1973.

Its latest plans for a new education room, cafe and toilet facility have just been given full planning permission from Newark & Sherwood District Council.

“This is a huge boost to the museum’s plan to construct this important new visitor facility on its Southfield Site,” said secretary and museum trustee, Howard Heeley.

“It is now even more important than ever that the museum steps up its fundraising activities to support this project.”

The wider fundraising appeal allows project supporters to make a donation towards a Photographic Panini, which will carry their name and brief message.

“These Photographic Paninis are being displayed in the current museum cafe; they will then be incorporated into a presentation folder that will be displayed in the new education/cafe building when it is completed,” said Mr Heeley.

During Second World War RAF Winthorpe was a major station providing vital training for aircrews destined for No 5 Group bomber squadrons operating in Lincolnshire. After several years of detailed research, Colin Savill (a graduate of Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln) has written the history of RAF Winthorpe, which has been published by the Newark (Notts & Lincs) Air Museum. The book is entitled RAF Winthorpe: The Story of an Airfield 1939–1959 and it is the story of RAF Winthorpe from its beginnings to its demise as an RAF station.

Museum staff and volunteers are currently making plans for Victory Days 2015; a two-day event in July (Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th ) that will commemorate the 70th Anniversary of VE and VJ Day at the Newark Air Museum.

Organisers are keen to hear from veterans of any of the military or civilian forces during the Second World War, as the museum would like to invite them along to the event as special guests. Details of a former service number, or membership of an appropriate armed forces veteran’s organisation, can secure free entry to the event.

For younger visitors, the museum is planning to operate a Second World War style sweetshop in the Dambusters Hut, where visiting children will be able to collect their free Second World War sweet ration. To collect their ration they will need to bring along some pre-decimal coinage – so parents and grandparents will need to look out for those sixpences, threepenny bits, pennies, half-pennies or even farthings – and make sure that they bring them along. However, the museum will have some available to make sure that everyone gets their ration.

Over the two days there will be a host of Second World War related activities and entertainment taking place around the site, including its famous Anderson Shelter and Dig for Victory Garden. Visitors will also be able to sample some wartime food, such as bread and dripping, spam, corned beef and jam sandwiches.

Other events include a Tribute to our Training Aircraft on 16th and 17th May, which is an open cockpit style event based around the museum’s extensive display of training aircraft, cockpits and CIMs. There will be viewing opportunities and in some cases aircraft access. The Cockpit-Fest 2015 and Aeroboot/Aerojumble event on 16th and 17th June is a regular two-day event providing an opportunity for the public to view a diverse range of visiting aircraft cockpits.

ADORN AND ADORE YOUR STYLE WITH GRACEGENTLE
Gracegentle is nestled across the road from Newark Castle and is a stylish and welcoming emporium of home accessories and giftware.

From the moment you enter you can see the ethos they have brought to Newark, offering quality, classic, timeless luxury at an affordable price.

As well as offering leading brands from Parlane and SIA Home Fashion, Gracegentle are also exclusive stockists for Frith Sculptures, Culinary Concepts, Wrendale Designs, Sophie Allport and Dansk Smykkekunst fashion jewellery.

Why not call in when you are next in town and experience somewhere special, somewhere different, to adorn and adore?

JD OPTICIANS
JD Opticians on Appletongate is a family run independent practice that was established fourteen years ago to meet the eye care, and eyewear, needs of the whole community. Their friendly team of professionals includes four optometrists and two dispensing opticians, who bring many years of expertise and knowledge to the practice.

3D retinal scanning, fundus photography and visual stress testing are among the specialist clinical services offered, alongside private and NHS sight examinations. 

JD Opticians offer a full range of high fashion prescription and non-prescription eyewear. Prada, Silhouette, Oakley and Ray-Ban are some of the many collections available to you.   

They also offer a comprehensive contact lens service including daily disposable lenses ideal for occasional wear.

Eye examination appointments are available six days a week from 9am to 5pm. Should you wish to find out more about JD Opticians’ services please telephone 01636 611133. 

VILLAGE CHIC
A characterful Georgian townhouse is the perfect setting for a new shop that specialises in beautiful French painted antiques.

Village Chic, which opened on Castlegate, Newark in September 2014, is owned and run by Lucretia. This is her second shop, the first being located in the village of Sileby, Leicestershire. The shop has three floors of unique painted furniture displayed in more than a dozen individual room settings where you can purchase chandeliers, French armoires and interior home accessories.

Village Chic even offers a hand paint service for your own furniture items and is a stockist of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, which is used to transform the French antiques. A visit to Village Chic Newark is a must.

SHOW SEASON FIRST
One of Newark’s prestigious crowdpulling events is the Nottinghamshire County Show, which takes place on the Newark Showground every May. This year’s event marks the 132nd show and it promises to be better than ever.

Newark & Nottinghamshire Agricultural Society show manager, Jayne Olney is responsible for organising the event. Jayne, who is Lincolnshire born and bred, has headed up the show team at Newark since March 2013.

In addition to the County Show – which attracts 30,000 visitors to the Newark area every year – the team organises the Newark Tractor and Vintage Show, which attracts crowds of 15,000-plus in November. A new event introduced last year, the Midlands Machinery Show, proved highly popular amongst businesses around the region.

“The county show is the first show of the season so exhibitors use it to showcase themselves for the rest of the year,” said Jayne.

“I took on what is a very strong, sound county show and really just tried to continue to improve on it.”

New for this year’s event is the family zone, which is housed in the largest exhibition hall on the site, and there is more on offer in the countryside area as well.

“We are very conscious that what we are needing to provide is an all-weather show because the weather in May can be rain or shine.”

NEWARK’S IMPORTANCE
Newark played an important part in the British Civil Wars but paid a big price. The town was vital, not only because it lay at the crossroads of the Great North Road and the Fosse Way and provided an important crossing point over the River Trent, but also because it was the mainstay of the Royalist cause.

The Parliamentary forces and their Scottish allies were desperate to oust the Royalist garrison.The last siege saw more than 16,000 troops seal off the town and dam a river to stop watermills producing bread and gunpowder.

An outbreak of typhus and plague added to Newark’s woes as the population swelled to 6,000, creating near starvation conditions, as a result of which a third of the inhabitants died and one in six buildings were destroyed.

The six-month siege was brought to an end in May 1646 when King Charles, in disguise, escaped from Oxford and surrendered to the Scottish army in the hope of driving a wedge between it and its English Parliamentary allies. But they insisted that Newark must yield immediately, so he had no choice but to order the loyal garrison to lay down its arms.

Half-starved and disease-ridden, 1,800 Cavaliers marched out, leaving behind twelve artillery pieces, including a cannon known as ‘Sweet Lips’, from the Parliamentary stronghold of Hull, captured during Newark’s second siege and named after a prostitute who was involved with both sides.

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