English Churches - Nottinghamshire

Church of St Mary Magdalene, Newark on Trent


A splendid perpendicular church


This is a big church, almost too big to photograph, and must be one of the biggest in the country. Its spire towers above the market place with its brightly coloured stalls.

Newark Church

It is worth walking round the church before entering. Not only does this give an impression of its size, it also gives chance to admire the workmanship of the nave and chancel with their carved battlements and crocketed pinnacles. Unfortunately the tower was partially hidden by scaffolding when we visited.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent

This is the third church on this site. The small Saxon church was replaced in the C12th. All that is left of this church is the crypt under the high altar reached by a stair from the south aisle. It now contains the treasury.

The present church was built in the C14th and took nearly 200 years to complete. The town guilds each had a chapel with an altar, although these were swept away by the Reformation. The church was restored by Sir Gilbert Scott in the C19th and the stained glass windows date from 1859-1930 as memorials to local people.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent

Entry is through the two storey south porch with its battlements and pinnacles.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent

The church is equally as impressive inside.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent

Tall slender pillars with carved capitals of foliage and heads, including a green man, support pointed arches separating nave and side aisles.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n Trent

Between the arches are carved angels holding musical instruments.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent

Above the wooden ceiling is painted deep brown and has painted angels and roses.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n Trent

Hanging on the wall opposite the south door is a huge painting of The Rising of Lazarus which was originally above the altar until it was removed in the C19th restorations and placed here.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent

At the back  of the south aisle is the font. This was damaged during the Civil War by the Iconoclasts who destroyed the bowl and broke the shaft. The base with the bottom of the angels is C15th. The join where the top of the angels and the bowl were replaced in 1660 is very clear.

On the south wall by the font is the Markham monument, with Anne Markham and her children, which was moved here from St Michael’s Church in Cotham.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent

The rood screen is Perpendicular and the pillars end in fan vaulting with gilded roundels.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent


St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n Trent

The C16th heavy dark wood choir stalls with their carved arms, fronts and sides are also Perpendicular as is the carved parclose screen separating chancel from the side aisle and chapels.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n Trent

On the chancel column are painted memorials to Thomas Atkinson d1691 and Robert Ramsey d1639.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                  Trent  St Mary Magdalene,
                  Newark 0n Trent

In the north aisle is a similar monument to John Johnson, an alderman and twice major of Newark who established a charity for poor widows as well as the maintenance of the church windows. 

The chancel floor is covered with Minton tiles and the wooden ceiling is painted  pale blue with more angels and Tudor roses.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n Trent

The golden reredos behind the high altar was designed by Sir Ninian Comper in 1937 and shows scenes from the life of Mary Magdalene and other saints.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n Trent

On either side of the chancel are small chantry chapels with a small altar. The chapel on the south side contains two panels with depictions of the Dance of Death. On the left a dancing skeleton flourishing a carnation (a symbol of mortality) and pointing to the grave. On the right is a well-dressed young man with his hand on his purse. The message “As I am today, so you will be tomorrow” was a popular theme in the Middle Ages.

On the north side is the Mering Chantry Chapel, founded by the will of William Mering who wished to be buried ‘where the sepulchre of Our Lord was wont to be set up at Easter.” He left a flock of sheep to pay for the chapel and priest to say prayers for him.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent

At the end of the north aisle is St George’s Chapel which was established as a memorial chapel after the First World War and contains the Roll of Honour and flags.

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent

On the floor nearby is the Fleming Brass dating from 1363 and one of the largest memorial brasses in England. It is in fact made up of smaller panels joined to form a whole. The image is now very worn and it is difficult to make out much of the engraving. The bottom part of the right panel has been restored giving an indication of what it once looked like. 

St Mary Magdalene, Newark 0n
                Trent

As you leave the church, look out for the tall brick chimney a few yards away which was part of the C19th church heating system.  

The church is open daily although may close at lunchtime. There is no parking by the church and the nearest car park is Mount Street Car Park, 200-300m north of the church off King Street.

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