The  Story of "Newcastle"

Where did Newcastle-Under-Lyme get its name?

The origins of our town and its name are unclear. There is no direct entry for the town in the Domesday Book of 1086 but there appears to be a double entry for Trentham that suggests there was a pre-Norman settlement here.

It was thought that the ‘New’ castle was so called to distinguish it from the Roman fort at Chesterton. It is now believed that the word new means ‘novel’ – it would have been new when it was built! The ‘Lyme’ refers to the huge Lyme Forest that covered North West Staffordshire and South Cheshire at this time.

The History of the Castle

The castle was built in the 1140s during a time of civil war. The Lyme Valley was an important junction between east and west, north and south. It was, therefore very important to control this area for strategic defence reasons. A mound was formed in the valley and a moat was created around the castle to defend it from attacks by damming the Lyme Brook at Pool Dam and Rotterdam. This created an artificial lake. It would have been an impressive sight on approach.

The first castle was a Norman style motte and bailey castle built of earth and timber. In the early 13th century the castle walls were rebuilt in stone.

(Artist’s impression of how the castle may have looked in its prime.)

Did you know that the town has had a market for over 800 years?

Once the castle had been built, a settlement naturally grew up outside the gates to supply the garrison with food and supplies. The earliest market may have been in the Upper Green area and it later moved to higher ground – where it remains today

Original held at the British Library

Looking at this early plan of the town centre (1691) you can see that Newcastle’s medieval market town design still remains with its wide market places.

Why not make a quick visit to the castle site and St Giles’ church for a taste of our medieval roots.

St Giles’ church was first built in the late 12th century. The medieval tower survives today.

The town grew fast with High St and the Ironmarket having wide streets that traders could drive their livestock through. Movable stalls would be set up on market days. Later, these stalls became more permanent forming ‘islands’ of buildings. Did you know that the Ironmarket gets its name from the ironworking industry making items including nails and frying pans between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries!

Shops originally started off as little workshops that would have a wooden window shutter. This was lowered down to form a counter facing the road during trading hours. The shops would have gardens at the back and the town was surrounded by fields.

(Red Lion Square, 1854 showing St Giles church tower. By Henry Lark Pratt (1805-1873), © Borough Museum & Art Gallery )

This image shows the High Street during the 1900’s with market stalls and its own tram system!

Taken from a postcard showing artist’s impression of High Street and Guildhall 1900 © Borough Museum & Art Gallery

For centuries Newcastle town centre hosted the most important market in North Staffordshire and also held many annual fairs that included races, circus acts, fairground rides and lots of live and loud music

(Borough Museum & Art Gallery)

The Guidhall

The current building was built in 1713 and replaced an earlier one. The Hall was used as a meeting place for the Corporation ( now the Borough council ) until the 1880's when it was replaced by the Municipal Hall.(Ironmarket & Municipal Hall 1900 Borough Museum & Art Gallery)


You can find out more about the history of Newcastle at the Borough Museum and Art Gallery on Brampton Park! www.newcastle-staffs.gov.uk

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