The moat of Newark Castle was discovered during a project to upgrade the town’s sewers. (IMAGE: Trent & Peak Archaeology)

The long-lost moat of Newark Castle has been rediscovered during a £60m project led by Severn Trent to upgrade Newark’s sewers. The discovery was made while the engineers were working in Castlegate Street, just to the south-east of the remaining castle ruins. Subsequent excavations by Trent & Peak Archaeology showed that the moat, found at a depth of 3m below the current street level, contained animal bones and green glazed pottery, broadly dating to the 13th and 14th centuries. The fill suggests that the moat was probably dry, with only seasonal wet periods. This aligns well with many other contemporaneous castles in the area – Nottingham Castle being the most notable of these. Pottery suggests that the moat began to be filled in around the time that the castle started to fall into decay, which, according to documentary evidence, was around 1218.

‘Documents indicate that the stone castle at Newark was founded by c.AD 1135 by Bishop Alexander with the permission of King Henry I,’ said Vicky Owen, project supervisor from Trent & Peak Archaeology. ‘The resulting castle with a ditch [or moat] and rampart large enough to divert the Fosseway would have dominated this part of the town.’

Perhaps best known as the place where King John ultimately succumbed to dysentery, which he contracted during his campaign in the First Barons’ War, the castle was originally constructed in wood. The present stone castle is thought to have been in existence by the end of the 12th century. During the Civil War, the fortifications were abandoned and left to become derelict – it was not until the 19th century that the castle was restored, becoming a Grade I-listed building in the 1950s.

Floss Newman, the Castle warden at Newark and Sherwood District Council, said, ‘This is an incredibly important find for Newark and the Castle. We have read about there being a moat and mention it as part of tours, so to have this find confirming the existence of the moat brings it to reality.’

This article appeared in CA 341.

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