Newark’s Civil War history uncovered thanks to Severn Trent

Severn Trent’s £60 million investment in Newark has unearthed key information regarding the town’s history during the English Civil War.

Work carried out on Queens Road revealed new evidence of a defensive ditch that was built to protect Newark during the 17th century.

Severn Trent engineer Nick Wallace says: “When planning this project, we were very much aware of the rich history of Newark that lies beneath the ground, and that the nature of our work may reveal key information about the town’s history. The evidence of the ditch was found in a shaft that is being dug to allow us to replace the sewers, and this has also shown the line in which the defensive wall would have run.”

Before Severn Trent began work, plans were developed with Nottingham County Council and Historic England to deal with any archaeological findings.

“We were aware of the potential for historic finds and we have a resident Archaeologist overseeing the works, the project was carefully planned to have the lowest level of disturbance possible to anything that might be of historical interest, we also wanted to make sure that any historical finds were handled in the most appropriate way” said Nick. “So we stopped all work to allow the archaeologists in and they were able to tell us that finds from the ditch include 17th century salt glazed pottery and a single piece of lead shot, either from a pistol or carbine. Hopefully the more we uncover, the more evidence will be revealed about this crucial period in the town’s history.”

Severn Trent is currently working in Newark to completely overhaul the waste and water network for the town, with work being carried out by BNM Alliance.

“Our work in Newark is progressing really well, and we will be continuing to work in Newark for the next few years,” said Nick. “We’re ready for any more discoveries as we carry out these vital improvements to the town, creating our very own history for Newark by leaving a lasting legacy.”

Nottinghamshire County Council archaeologist Ursilla Spence adds: “The ditch is cut into heavy clay and is massive; it would have been hard work to dig. This is first rate tangible evidence of what Newark and its people went through 370 years ago, right under our feet.”

Stuart Jennings, from Warwick University and academic adviser to the National Civil War Centre, located just a few hundred yards from the find, added:“This is a truly exciting discovery. During the British Civil Wars the town was one of the most heavily defended in England and we have substantial surviving earthworks from the period like the Queen's Sconce fort. But we know that much more awaits discovery under the ground. After King Charles lost the north of England at the Battle of Marston Moor the chief threat to Newark would come from this direction. So to find such substantial defences and deep ditches to the north of the town is not surprising.  We also know from documentary evidence that local people were conscripted to do much of the work.  The trench was part of a massive network of fortifications which by 1645 kept at bay a vast Parliamentarian and Scots army numbering 16,000. It will be fascinating to see what emerges from a detailed analysis of the objects recovered."

Severn Trent’s work in Newark is due to be completed in 2020.