Object of the Week: The news sheets relating the King's surrender days after the fall of Newark in the English Civil War

| 27 April 2016

In May 1646, news sheets confirmed that Newark had been taken during a Civil War clash

A photo of a yellowed sheet of paper telling the story of Newark during the English Civil War
These news sheets, published days after the fall of Newark, relate the King's surrender© National Civil War Centre
Tracts are a pretty important source of information on the British Civil Wars. The ability to publish news reports and air ideas through print - often slanted towards the goals of a particularly side - is a revolutionary feature of the period.

News travelled quickly. You could read about the fall of Newark to the forces of Parliament and the Scots on the streets of London just five days after the battle. The headline "Great Fight at Newark" grabbed everyone's attention. One writer imparted reality-softening spin by stating that the King had "consented" to the stronghold's surrender – in reality, he had no choice.

Other tracts cover sermons that took place in Newark - capturing the religious fervour of the time - and ideas from the Scottish Covenanters and Prince Rupert's relief of the second siege of Newark in 1644, regarded as the Royalist commander's finest moment.

A photo of a yellowed sheet of paper telling the story of Newark during the English Civil War
© National Civil War Centre
The Parliamentary side was the most prodigious publisher, enjoying control of London with its numerous printing presses. Royalists did have underground presses, but these were eagerly sought out by agents and destroyed. Printing was also one of the few trades where women were prominent.

Tracts are kept in an acid-free and humidity-controlled environment. Most are in a good condition. They even detail the state of the Royalist's depleted larder at the time of the town's fall on May 8 1646.

  • 125 re-enactors from across the UK will garrison Newark Castle, Friary Gardens and the National Civil War Centre on May 1-2, firing cannons and parading to recall that tumultuous time. On May 8, Royalist troops return to the Castle to mark the actual date of the surrender with another day-long event. The centre, in Newark, holds about 20 tracts in its collection.

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We need to remember and fully understand the reasons for the civil war and why it has resonance today-post brexit. It is not remembered with any affection by the Establishment nor pride in the heroic people of the time. Yet it had an enormous impact on the world and not just Britain.
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