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History of Newcastle-under-Lyme

Newcastle is named after a ‘new castle’ that was built in the area in the twelfth century. The ‘lyme’ part of the name derives either from the Lyme Brook that flows through the town or from the lime forest that covered a large part of land in the medieval period.

In prehistoric times, the area was very sparsely populated. The Cornovii tribe populated the area during the Iron Age and there was a hill fort settlement at this time at Berth Hill, near Maer.

In the first century, the Romans established a fort at Chesterton, a settlement at Holditch and a villa at Hales. There is evidence of Saxon settlement in the Borough during the 6thto 9thcenturies.

Madeley was granted a royal charter in 975 by King Edgar and the area was also mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Bradwell, Wolstanton, Clayton, Knutton, Hill and Chapel Chorlton and Maer also appear in the Book, although Newcastle itself is not mentioned.

The castle in Newcastle was constructed to defend the area against attacks from the Welsh borders and to protect Royal lands from claims to the throne.

The town of Newcastle was planned and established by King Henry II and its first charter was granted in 1173. The King encouraged the growth of Newcastle’s market, which attracted traders from far and wide. The area flourished because of the rapidly expanding market and Newcastle became the most important market town in the area.

In 1235 the town’s leading traders formed a Guild Merchant, which later led to the establishment of the Guildhall, a notable landmark in the Borough.

By the fifteenth century, many medieval castles were converted or rebuilt as stately homes. Powerful and wealthy families such as the Lords Audley of Heighley Castle and the Sneyds of Bradwell and later Keele wielded absolute political control over Newcastle for more than two centuries.

A 1590 Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I confirmed many of the Borough’s existing rights and led to the setting up of a more formal system of local government, comprising a Mayor, bailiffs and burgesses.

The Borough has been a centre for various industries, including the hatting trade, which prospered from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. The town also boasted a number of silk and cotton mills and more recently the area has been known for coal mining, marl extraction and brick-making. The emphasis now is on light industry, with several national and international firms moving to the area.

Many historic items are kept in the Borough, including the 1590 charter at the Borough Museum and civic regalia in the Mayor’s Parlour at Newcastle’s Civic Offices. Two silver maces dating back to 1680 are still used at every Borough Council meeting.

Major local government reforms that took place in the 20th century saw the Borough’s boundaries extend to include Wolstanton, rural villages to the west and Kidsgrove to the north-creating an area of around 81 square miles.

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