Newcastle under Lyme

Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

NEWCASTLE-under-LYNE, a borough and market-town and parish, having separate jurisdiction, though locally in the northern division of the hundred of Pirehill, county of STAFFORD, 16 miles (N.N.W.) from Stafford, and 149 (N.W. by N.) from London, containing 7031 inhabitants. This was a place of some note before the Conquest, though known by a different name; its present appellation being derived from a castle built here by Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, in the reign of Henry III., a former edifice, called Chesterton castle, having fallen into decay; and the descriptive affix, "under Lyne, or Lyme", denotes its proximity to a forest of that name, serving also to distinguish it from Newcastle in Northumberland.

The town is situated on a small branch of the river Trent, on the great road from Birmingham and London to Liverpool and Manchester, and consists of two principal and several smaller streets, which are paved (the foot-paths with brick), and lighted with gas, under the provisions of an act passed in 1819: the inhabitants are supplied with water by means of pipes leading from water-works in the town, which is raised by an engine; the houses are mostly ancient. There is a small theatre, also a concert and assembly room; and the races, held annually in the first week in August, on a course near the town, are well attended. The manufacture of hats is very extensive, and is conducted under an incorporated company of Felt-makers; and silk-throwing, cotton-spinning, tanning, malting, the manufacture of copperas, white lead, and paper, are also carried on: considerable business is done in the corn trade, and in the vicinity are some iron-works. Its commercial prosperity is much promoted by the neighbouring potteries, which occupy a district nearly eight miles in extent. A branch canal from this town, about four miles in length, joins the Trent and Mersey canal at Stoke; and another to Apedale is used chiefly for the conveyance of coal hither.

The markets are on Monday and Saturday, and on every alternate Monday is a great cattle market: fairs are held on Shrove-Monday, for cattle; Easter-Monday, Whit-Monday, and July 14th, for wool; Monday after September 13th, and the first Monday in November. The first charter of incorporation was granted in the 19th of Henry III., and was confirmed by subsequent monarchs: that now in force is dated in the 32nd of Elizabeth, and is a confirmation of all former grants, with several additions. Under it the corporation consists of a mayor, two bailiffs, and twenty-four capital burgesses, who form a common council, by which body the mayor and bailiffs are annually elected on the Tuesday next after Michaelmas-day; assisted by a recorder, town clerk, and two Serjeants at mace; the two former enjoy the office for life. By a confirmation of this charter, in the fifteenth of Charles II., the members of the common council are empowered to elect annually from among themselves two justices of the peace, who, with the mayor, bold general sessions for the borough quarterly, but have no power to try capital offenders.

A court of record is held every three weeks, for the recovery of debts not exceeding £50; the mayor and bailiffs are the presiding officers. Courts leet and baron are likewise held every three weeks. This borough has returned members to parliament from the 27th of Edward III.: the right of election is in the resident freemen, in number about eight hundred: the mayor is the returning officer. The freedom is obtained by birth (being extended to all the sons of resident sworn burgesses), by apprenticeship within the borough, by gift of the common council, and by purchase.

Newcastle was formerly a chapelry in the parish of Stoke upon Trent. The living is a rectory not in charge, in the archdeaconry of Stafford, and diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, and in the patronage of the Society for purchasing livings. The church, dedicated to St. Giles, was rebuilt in 1720; it is a modern edifice of brick, with a very ancient layer of red sandstone. A new church, or chapel, containing six hundred and seventy-one free sittings, was completed in 1828, the parliamentary commissioners having granted £4400 towards defraying the expense, the remainder being raised by subscription; it is intended as a chapel of ease during the incumbency of the present rector, after which the right of presentation will belong to the Society for purchasing livings. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Methodists of the New Connexion, and Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists.

The free grammar school originated in a benefaction from Richard Cleyton, Esq., in 1602, augmented by a bequest from John Cotton, and various other charitable contributions; the entire annual income is about £90; it is free for all the sons of burgesses, and poor inhabitants of the borough; the school-house has been rebuilt. An English school was founded, in 1704, by means of a bequest from the Rev. Edward Orme, for the instruction of the children of the poor in reading, writing, and arithmetic; the income is about £160 per annum, and there is a residence for the master, who instructs fifty children. About fifteen or twenty children are taught by a schoolmistress, for a salary of £8 per annum, paid by the corporation; there is likewise a National school.

Almshouses for twenty poor aged widows were erected and endowed under the will of Christopher Monk, Duke of Albemarle, dated July 4th, 1687. John Goodwin, an eminent Nonconformist divine and controversialist, was born here about 1593; and Elijah Fenton, the coadjutor of Pope in his translation of Homer's Odyssey, was also a native of the town. Newcastle confers the title of duke on the family of Clinton.

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