If you view this castle from the nearby bridge over the River Trent or from the west bank of the same river, it looks like a fine 12th-century castle, but go around the other side and you will see that the castle has been largely destroyed and that only one curtain wall and a gatehouse remain.
Ruined by Cromwell’s troops in 1648 after one of the most important sieges of the English Civil War, the Newark Castle Remains are an integral part of the “Civil War Trail,” a guided walking trail around the city which covers many features of this tumultuous event.
However, the importance of this castle is not limited to the Civil War. In 1216, this was also the site where King John of Magna Carta fame, died of dysentery. The tower where he perished is still standing in the corner next to the gatehouse, and there is a small but informative display on King John’s reign and subsequent death.
As you enter the tower, you will also have the opportunity to book tickets to the dungeon tour, which gives you the opportunity to see both the castle’s torture chamber and the cells where some English members of the Knights Templar (a Catholic military order) were held as prisoners in the 14th-century after being declared heretics by Pope Clement. One of these cells houses carved Templar symbols (read: medieval graffiti), and another cell holds carved prayer niches carved by the seven notable prisoners held in an adjacent cell.
This cell was originally built as an oubliette, which is a dungeon only accessible via a hatch in a high ceiling, intended to deposit prisoners in forever. However, the Knights held here were able to use bribery to get the jailer to let them walk around the castle courtyard during the day. It is said that the jailer made enough money in bribes that his family didn’t have to work for several generations. Accessible only by lowering yourself down a steep ladder, discover this tiny chamber that held seven Templar Knights.
The remains of this famed castle are surrounded by a lovely Victorian garden and offer fantastic views across the river.
Know Before You Go
Admission to the castle and surrounding gardens is free, as is the King John display. The charge for the Dungeon Tour is roughly £5.50. It lasts one hour and involves climbing two steep ladders.