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Newark Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Newark, Nottinghamshire

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Latitude: 53.0775 / 53°4'39"N

Longitude: -0.8124 / 0°48'44"W

OS Eastings: 479654.025869

OS Northings: 354027.113953

OS Grid: SK796540

Mapcode National: GBR CLM.5DD

Mapcode Global: WHFHH.HXC2

Entry Name: Newark Castle

Scheduled Date: 8 February 1915

Last Amended: 11 August 2016

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1003474

English Heritage Legacy ID: NT 3

County: Nottinghamshire

Civil Parish: Newark

Built-Up Area: Newark-on-Trent

Traditional County: Nottinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Nottinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Newark-upon-Trent with Coddington

Church of England Diocese: Southwell and Nottingham


The ruined and buried remains of an episcopal castle of the Bishops' of Lincoln, built c 1135-39 by Bishop Alexander on the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle which itself stands on a site occupied from the prehistoric period. The castle was rebuilt in the late C13/early-C14, with the final episcopal alterations undertaken c 1471-80. It was restored as an aristocratic residence in c 1587-88 but following the third siege of Newark in 1646 was left as a roofless ruin. Newark was again restored in 1845-48, 1899 and 1979-90.

Source: Historic England


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the ruined and buried remains of an episcopal castle of the Bishops' of Lincoln, built c 1135-39 by Bishop Alexander on the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle which itself stands on a site occupied from the prehistoric period. The castle was rebuilt in the late C13/early-C14, with the work initiated by Bishop Oliver Sutton and competed by his successor, Bishop John Dalderby. The final episcopal alterations were undertaken by Bishop Thomas Rotherham, c 1471-80. It was restored as an aristocratic residence by Sir William Cecil, c 1587-88. In 1646, following the third siege of Newark, it was slighted and left as a roofless ruin. It was restored by Anthony Salvin, 1845-48, Newark Corporation, 1899, and the Department of the Environment, 1979-90.

DESCRIPTION: the castle and remains of the bailey occupy a sub-rectangular plot on a river cliff on the east bank of the River Trent, covering an area of c 1.2ha. The north-east, south-east and south-west sides of the area under assessment are defined by roads; Castle Gate to the east and Beast Market Hill to the north. The River Trent bounds the length of the western side. The whole area forms Castle Grounds Public Park and encompasses Newark Register Office (listed Grade II), formerly the Gilstrap Centre, located adjacent to the eastern boundary.

The earliest features known to survive at the site are a sequence of early Anglo-Saxon ditches found lying beneath a later Anglo-Saxon cemetery during excavations in the 1990s. The discovery of Roman pottery within two of the ditches suggests that some may be of Roman origin while the unearthing of a significant number of Neolithic and Bronze Age worked flints in one of the ditches, along with a small quantity of Bronze Age pottery, provides evidence of prehistoric occupation. Later activity however has removed any associated features, with the building of the cattle market in the early C19 destroying a large section of the burial ground.

The extent of the Norman motte and bailey castle, which was built during the winter of 1068-69, has been established by a series of archaeological excavations and found to have occupied more or less the same area as the current Castle Grounds public park. Its eastern rampart and ditch was found in 1955 while part of the southern ditch was excavated in 1972 and again in 1984, with its associated rampart being discovered in 1995. Excavations in 1993 revealed the line of the northern ditch which was found to have silted up during the medieval period and then re-cut as part of the C17 Civil War refortification of the castle. Traces of the northern rampart were found to survive as a thin spread of clay, with a small section lying beneath the short stub of C12 curtain wall on the east side of the gatehouse. Similar rampart material was also found on the south side. Part of the bailey's stone-flagged courtyard has also been revealed. While the bailey would have accommodated several buildings, the excavations have not investigated any of these, but they are expected to survive as buried features.

The buried and standing remains of Bishop Alexander's episcopal castle of c 1135 illustrate how it retained the perimeter plan of the Norman castle but had a substantially rebuilt interior. A double ward design, in keeping with other contemporary bishops' castles, has been put forward as the most probable interpretation for the buried remains of the foundations of a Lias limestone wall at the northern side of the site; the rest of the wall being robbed in the C19. The standing remains of Alexander's early-C12 castle comprise the northern gatehouse, with short stretches of curtain wall on each side, and the tower in the south-west corner. The gatehouse is of three storeys and roofless, with semi-circular archways at its outer and inner ends. In the centre is a third arch which originally contained massive gates. Its north-east entrance front is ashlar faced with corner pilasters, below which are massive, late-C13/early-C14 buttresses flanking the archway which is of two square orders with a dogtooth ornamented hoodmould. Above, there are two, two-light windows to the first floor and a single cross mullion to the second floor, all inserted into original openings in the late-C15. The inner (south-west) face has a round-headed gateway and above it a doorway to the right-hand side and above again, a plain, round-headed window opening. On the south-east side is a projecting staircase tower, square in its lower stages, but recessing into an octagonal turret above, with a heavy roll mould or string course above the hip of the junction of the two orders. Projecting at an obtuse angle from the north-east side of the stair turret, and following the line of defence laid out for the Norman castle, is a short section of early-C12 curtain wall. It stands to almost its original height of 20m and utilises the reduced clay rampart of the Norman castle as its foundation. A larger section of early-C12 curtain wall adjoins the north-west side of the gatehouse, again standing to almost its original height of 27m. The loss of its ashlar outer face has revealed two doorways, one above the other, set high up in the wall, with a fireplace to the right-hand side of the lower doorway. They were inserted here in the late-C15 when a timber-framed extension was jettied out from the wall; the joist-holes are also evident. At the base there are three garderobe chutes. To the right, an almost vertical line of ashlar masonry marks the end of the curtain wall, abutted by the ashlar work of the late-C13/early-C14 curtain wall. It terminates against the late-C13/early-C14, four-storey tower at the north-west corner, which is polygonal with a battered plinth. Running the entire length of the north-west river front is a late-C13/early-C14 curtain wall of sandstone and limestone ashlar construction, with a with a battered plinth covering the early-C12 scarp to the original curtain wall. It is of three storeys with a double rebated, round-headed watergate at the left-hand side and a double garderobe chute at the right-hand end. A two-storeyed oriel window of the late-C15 is the principal feature, with three traceried lights to the lower section and a broken segmental-headed opening above. Its apron has a shield bearing three stags trippant, the arms of Bishop Thomas Rotherham. A four-storey polygonal tower stands at the mid-point and at the right-hand end there is a small section of crenellated parapet adjoining the south-west tower; one of the merlons is loop-holed, while the others that remain are solid. The early-C12 south-west tower is rectangular, being of four storeys with a battered plinth. The C18-C19 artificial raising of the ground level now means that the tower is entered at first floor level on the north-east from through a C19 round-headed doorway, while the early-C12 doorway is now reached by descending a flight of stone steps. Abutting on the north-east base of the tower is a fragment of the contemporary curtain wall with brick relieving arches.

The north-west tower has a single room on each floor with the floor levels being altered in the C18. Both ground floor and first floor rooms have late-C15 stone fireplaces while the second floor room is a complete hexagon, achieved by a squinch arch, but its floor is missing. In the basement there is a bottle dungeon. It adjoins a square, brick-lined dungeon lying beneath the north-west curtain wall. The four-storey south-west tower has barrel vaults to the three lower rooms. From the doorway in the north-east wall, reached by descending a flight of stone steps from the now artificially raised ground level, there is a passageway leading to a basement dungeon with a sheer drop into it and a thick barrel vault over. Above there are single rooms to each floor, with traces of a garderobe in the first-floor room. The oriel window in the curtain wall has a traceried vault. To the basement of the middle-tower there is a stone-line dungeon, beneath which is a second dungeon, accessed by a trap door in the dungeon floor.

Excavations in the castle courtyard, now laid out as a public park, have revealed the eastern line of the hall range which was built against the west curtain wall in the late C13/early-C14. It comprises a stone plinth which would have supported a timber-framed wall above. Other timber-framed buildings of the same date were found in the southern half of the site. Also found were a series of floor surfaces, one of which was cobbled, and traces of three C12 buildings of unknown function.

Lying beneath the site of the hall range is a late-C13/early-C14 rebuilding of the Norman vaulted undercroft. It is four bays in length and two in width, with quadripartite vaulting with plain, chamfered ribs, supported by a central arcade of four round-headed arches on three octagonal piers. The arcade ends and the eastern side of the vaulting are carried on pilaster responds of Norman date, while on the west wall the responds rest on simple corbels with knot or twist ornamentation.

Also included in the scheduling is an arch comprised of around 140 early-C12 carved stones which is on display in Newark Register Office (listed Grade II), formerly the Gilstrap Centre. All the stone is heavily ornamented with 12 having a moulded string course with bead ornamentation, 46 with a chevron or zig-zag ornament, 54 with a Greek key ornament, 25 with a circle of pellets surrounding a sunken circle with scallops, and two fragments cut for voussoirs. They were moved from the undercroft and reassembled in the Register Office as a single arch in 2008-09.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the scheduled area is designed to protect the standing and buried remains of Newark Castle. It is bounded on its east, north and west sides by Castle Gate, Beast Market Hill and the River Trent respectively. Its southern extent utilises the northern building line of properties standing on Riverside Walk along with a boundary wall to the rear of Nos. 14 and 16 Castle Gate.

EXCLUSIONS: a number of features within the protected area are excluded from the scheduling. These include the boundary walls, railings, gates and gate piers to Castle Gate and the Beast Market Hill, along with Newark Register Office (listed Grade II), formerly the Gilstrap Centre, all modern vehicular and footpath surfaces and the brick-built riverside wall to the River Trent. Also excluded are the fixtures and fittings associated with the use of the former castle courtyard as a pleasure garden. These include bins, benches, signs, steps, interpretation boards, lighting, flower beds, modern footpath surfaces and the bandstand. However, the ground beneath all these features is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The buried and ruined remains of Newark Castle, an episcopal castle built c 1135-39 by Bishop Alexander of Lincoln, with later alterations and additions, including a Parliamentary slighting in 1646, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Archaeological interest: for its importance in the study of medieval England and the development of the feudal system;

* Architectural interest: as a significant example of the use of castle architecture as a visual expression of wealth and power. The gatehouse is the most complete example of a Romanesque gatehouse in England, while the late-C13 river curtain wall is an impressive set piece of polychromatic masonry;

* Survival: it survives as a well-preserved group of buildings and archaeological remains which represent the growth and development of the site from a Norman motte and bailey caste to a fashionable Tudor residence;

* Innovation: as one of the few exceptional sites which show systemisation in the planning of domestic buildings, while its use of corner towers displays an early appreciation of the science of fortification;

* Period: although one of a considerable number of monuments characteristic of the medieval period, it contains evidence of, and relates to, an important sector of society;

* Rarity: as one of only 150 episcopal residences to have been identified in England;

* Potential: limited excavation has revealed that the site has significant potential to reveal evidence of structures and occupation along with valuable environmental information;

* Documentation: the existence of archaeological documentation and documentary sources further contributes to our understanding of the castle and its significance;

* Historical associations: it was the residence of leading magnates under the King from the C11 to the C17, including its founder, Bishop Alexander of Lincoln, and was the death place of King John in 1216;

* Historic interest: it was the first historic monument to be consolidated at government expense in 1845-48;

* Group value: it has a strong functional and spatial relationship with the town of Newark, along with Newark Register Office (listed Grade II), and the listed buildings standing on Castle Gate and Beast Market Hill;

* Amenity value: the adaptation of the castle as a visitor attraction illustrates its continuing value to the community and adds to its importance.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Marshall, P, Samuels, J, Guardian of the Trent: The Story of Newark Castle, (1997)
Braun, H, 'Notes on Newark Castle' in Transactions of the Thornton Society of Nottinghamshire, , Vol. 39, (1935), 53-91
Barley, MW, 'Newark Castle Excavations 1953-56' in Transactions of the Thornton Society of Nottinghamshire , , Vol. 60, (1956), 20-33
Courtney, TW, 'Newark Castle Excavation 1972' in Transactions of the Thornton Society of Nottinghamshire , , Vol. 77, (1973), 34-40
Marshall, P, Samuels, J, 'Recent Excavations at Newark Castle' in Transactions of the Thornton Society of Nottinghamshire , , Vol. 98, (1994), 49-57

Source: Historic England

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