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The History of Newcastle Under Lyme

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Karina Bartlam

“Between 1st and 19th century AD Newcastle under Lyme was more important locally than nationally.” Explain how far you agree with this statement.

The romans first invaded Britain in AD43; with them they brought the roman road construction. They constructed a network of main road throughout Britain that ran through all of the major towns and cities for trading and supplies. These roads had forts placed at 10 mile intervals that the army used to stop at after a march from one place to another.  In addition, there were 3 main legionary forts: Cheshire, York and Caerleon(wales).

One of the forts was called Chesterton fort; it gained national and local importance throughout the 3 century’s it was occupied. The location of Chesterton fort was nationally important as it was built in the late first century to protect a road called Rykneld Street:” the fort stood aside a roman road which ran from Derventio (little Chester, near derby) via Rochester.” (Apedale visitor centre website). The location of the fort gave it national importance as the road it was situated on, ran to Chester; 1 of the 3 main legionary forts. When army’s marched out of Chester to the east they would stop off at Chesterton fort before they moved on therefore it helped to aid the army and their supplies. Evidence of the fort was found in 1969:” excavations in the summer 1969 revealed the south-eastern defences of the fort…” These excavations showed the only remaining evidence of the forts defences and pottery shards. Local importance was gained as the fort hosted a nearby settlement called Holditch. The civilian settlement was one of the first in the Newcastle area. Evidence of Holditch is shown in the Brampton museum where they have pottery on display. Holditch depended on the fort for protection when they were under attack and to buy their supply’s for an economic income to keep the town from falling into poverty. The fort depended on the town for its numerous supplies such as blacksmiths.

The castle of Newcastle was built in the 12th century. One of the main roads ran from London to Carlisle, two of the main trading cities in Britain, along that road there was a T-junction that led off to Chester, another main trading city, which was not protected by any fort or castle. Therefore Newcastle castle was built to protect and maintain it. Kings such as king john stayed at the castle when in distress from parts of the British Isles giving it national importance as a safe place. In the 13th century, the wooden Motte and baily castle was replaced with a stone Motte and baily castle as it remained nationally important for over 1 century. However, when the castle fell in the 17th century it lost this national importance and fell to ruins. Evidence of the castles stone remains were discovered in 1935. The picture of the castle excavations from 1935 shows the stone wall of the gate house from the castle. In addition, the modern picture of the castles wall foundation shows the layered stone that formed the basis of the gatehouse on John o’ Gaunt road. The artists impression shows how the castle would have looked when it was first built in wood; the castle was an original Norman Motte and baily castle. However this evidence is limited due to it only being an impression and not an actual picture. Further evidence of the Motte and bailey castle is shown by the mound from the original Motte on Silverdale road that we saw whilst on our trip to Newcastle. In addition, local importance was gained through the development of the market town. The market started within the castle walls and ten grew outside of it. The town was protected by the castle as it gave them soldiers and workers when needed.

During the 18th century Newcastle became a central location for major towns; at least 40 coaches passed through a day. This is because Newcastle was along the main road from London to Birmingham and Manchester; the main trading towns. Evidence of coaches in Newcastle is shown through many pictures. The first picture is of a coach waiting outside of the Castle Hotel on the high street in 1870. Secondly, there is a picture of a coach outside of The Globe Hotel in Red Lion Square, Newcastle. However, this source is limited as it was taken in the 20th century. Finally, there are pictures of both the Castle Hotel and The Globe Hotel which shows the arch ways where the coaches were taken around back to be taken care of when travellers stayed within the town. We infer from these pieces of evidence that the town had numerous coaches passing through; enough that two hotels were built within close proximity to each other. These coaching inns provided local importance through the economic rise they provided for the market and the town from the payments received. The amount of people passing through meant that the market had numerous visitors each day that brought the items along with the other traders. In addition, Newcastle was the first of many towns in Staffordshire to get turnpike roads however this soon ended in 1839 when Stoke-on-Trent a nearby town had a railway station and Newcastle lost its travel importance.

The Newcastle has always been a market town; it originated within the bailey of the castle in the medieval period. The market was built with wide streets so that livestock and traders could get down either side; this is shown in the picture of the high street and guild hall 1890-1900. It mainly provided local importance, although there were aspects of national importance, this is shown in the map of Staffordshire from 1577 by Christopher Saxton where Newcastle is shown in bold letters compared to the other neighbouring towns. The existence of Salter’s lane suggests that during these periods salt carriers came to trade and sell in salt towns such as Nantwich. In 1235 a grant was passed called the “Grant of the Guild Merchant” by King Henry the Third. This meant that the town was able to buy and sell goods across Britain tax free, except for London. This gave local importance as it was the first town in Staffordshire to gain one from the reigning king. Many trade products were produced as a result of the market grant such as hats. The hat industry gained national importance when started in the 17th century and ended in the 19th century: It was one of the longest franchises of Newcastle. This gained national importance as Newcastle was connected to a major hat company in London called “Christy’s”: they supplied raw materials that helped Newcastle to make the different sections that were then transported back to London, pieced together and exported around the world. Evidence of hats in Newcastle is displayed at the Brampton museum where they have a hat on display. In addition, they also display a Mock Mayer painting that has numerous noble men within it wearing the felt top hats. In addition, it gained local importance as by 1790 there were twenty-seven hat manufacturers within the town and a third of the town were some way involved by 1822. Therefore, it provided numerous jobs for the working class and recognition from neighbouring towns. Furthermore, another item that gained local importance were clay pipes. There were seventeen pipe makers within the town in the 17th century meaning that it provided many jobs. Mass amounts of pipes were made using machinery because of this it became one of the major pipe producers in Britain: this gained national importance. It became the second best industry in Newcastle after hats due to the jobs and economic rise that it gained. However, this franchise declined in the 19th century due to the rise in cigarettes because of advertisements.

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