WHY NEWARK WAS IMPORTANT DURING THE CIVIL WARS?
The town was vital 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.
Parliamentary forces and their Scottish allies were desperate to oust the Royalist garrison. The last siege saw over 16,000 troops seal off the Nottinghamshire town and dam a river to stop water mills 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. A third of the inhabitants died and one in six buildings were destroyed. Despite this calamity, the Royalist garrison refused to surrender. They could expect no mercy if the walls were stormed. By the rules of war at the time, Newark's population would have been massacred, a fate which befell Drogheda in Ireland in 1649.
The six month siege ended in May 1646. With his fortunes at breaking point, a disguised King Charles escaped from his make-shift capital of Oxford and made contact with the Scottish army assailing Newark. By surrendering to the Scots he hoped to drive a wedge between them and their English Parliamentary allies. But they insisted that Newark must yield immediately. The King 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 12 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 catered for both sides.
Michael Constantine added: “Newark's capitulation signalled the end of what is often called the First Civil War – within three years King Charles was executed by Parliament. It is an extraordinary tale, reflecting both the bitterness, despair and bravery of the conflict. When the Royalists initially debated their King's order to surrender Newark, the defiant Mayor said it was better to “Trust in God and Sally Forth.” This is still remembered today and has become the town's motto. Amazingly, despite the huge significance of the British Civil Wars, there is nowhere in the UK which tells the complete story.