Friday, 27 March 2009

St Mary Magdalene, Newark

Newark is a lovely market town in eastern Nottinghamshire, located on the navigable section of the River Trent. Despite its history, castle and church, it is often by-passed by visitors rushing northwards to Yorkshire and Scotland. This is a pity, because it is a lovely town, and one not over-run by tourists.

The church of St Mary Magdalene is one of the most imposing parish churches in England, reflecting Newark's importance in mediaeval times. It's spire, at 236ft (72m) is the fifth highest for a parish church in England, and is visible for miles around.

Little remains of the original Saxon foundation, and only the crypt and the crossing piers survive from the Norman church of 1180. It was much rebuilt in the later middle ages: the lower part of the tower dates from 1220, and the spire and south aisle were added in the early 1300's, in the decorated gothic style.

The remainder of the church is an elegant composition in the 15th Century perpendicular style. The wide aisles combine with delicate arcade columns and a high clerestory to give a wonderful sense of height and space.

The fittings are also of interest: the Holy Spirit Chapel has a window of 14th-15th century glass; the 16th century choir stalls have carved misericords and 17th century graffiti; the striking 20th century gilded reredos behind the high altar by Comper is regarded as one his best; a fine 14th century brass of a wool merchant; and a rare mediaeval 'Dance of Death' wall painting is located next to the south chantry chapel.

The church is tucked away in the centre of town, surrounded by alleyways which reflect the mediaeval street plan . There are some fine pubs in the surrounding streets, but on a fine day, why not consider a picnic on the banks of the nearby River Trent, with its narrow-boats and pleasure craft?

Church Walk
, Newark, Nottinghamshire NG24 1JS

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