Alderman’s Walk (also sometimes referred to as ‘Mayor’s Walk’ or ‘Governor’s Walk’) is a marked walkway across Newark Market Place, arranged diagonally from what became Hercules Clay’s House (today’s NatWest Bank) to the south door of the parish church.
It is said to have been the first part of the Market Place to have been paved (in 1621) so that civic dignitaries could process from the mayor’s house (Hercules Clay’s house) to services in the parish church without soiling their robes.
In his History of Newark (Vol.2, p.24), Cornelius Brown reproduces the following entry from the Journals of the House of Commons, dated 17th December 1585:-
“To-day was read for the third time a Bill, ‘An Act for the Paving of Newark-upon-Trent’, which is concluded with the common assent of all the nobles, and is given to Doctor Awberie and Doctor Barckeley, to be carried down into the House of Commons”.
Brown notes that it is believed that the work authorised by the Act was only proceeded with very slowly, for it was not until 1621 that the paving of the Market Place was begun by Henry Webster, who was Alderman of Newark in 1603 and 1613 – and even then it was only the 6ft wide walkway known as Alderman’s Walk that was commenced.
Brown concludes by remarking that carved in the stones of the walkway near the cross in the centre of the Market Place were the initials of Webster’s name and the date of his work, viz, H.W., 1619.
R.P. Shilton, in his History of Newark (1820, pp.486-7) – always one of the most entertaining chroniclers of Newark history – discusses the paving of the Market Place as follows:-
“In common with most if the town in England, Newark appears to have been immersed in mud or enveloped by dust till the 27th year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, A.D. 1585, when an act of parliament was passed for paving the streets of this place. Perhaps cleanliness, in those days, might have been looked upon as dangerous innovation, for the work went on so slowly that in the 18th of James I, thirty-six years afterwards, the paving of the Market-place was only begun, and at last but partially effected, there not being any more than a causeway, six feet in breadth, from the house at the west corner of the Market-place, afterwards occupied by Hercules Clay, to the south porch of the Church…..”
Following re-surfacing work in the Market Place in the 1960s(?), the route of Alderman’s Walk was marked by edging stones set within the cobbles.
In 2000 when the Market Place was again being re-paved (a process which took three years and cost £600,000), it was decided to dispense with the edging stones and mark the route instead with two lines of brass studs fixed 18 inches apart. (See Newark Advertiser 6th October 2000, p.3).
Newark Archaeological & Local History Society (NALHS) commissioned a stone plaque to mark and interpret the walk (see photo above). The plaque was unveiled on Sunday 20th October 2002 by Mrs Marjorie Clay Dove, the widow af the descendant of Hercules Clay who was Mayor of Newark during the Civil War. (See Newark Advertiser 25th October 2002, p.6).
What’s in a name – Alderman’s Walk, Mayor’s Walk or Governor’s Walk.
In its edition of 31st January 2003 (p.11) the Newark Advertiser carried a letter from Jill Campbell, secretary of NALHS, which looked at the correct naming of the walkway.
“Alderman” says the letter, “was the title of the chief citizen of the town following its incorporation in 1549, and continued until the grant of the Charter by King Charles I in 1626…..”
At the time of the Civil War (1642 – 1646) Newark was under the control of four military Governor’s, although the civil affairs of the town were still administered by the senior Alderman (now called the Mayor) and his deputies.
From this succession of dates it is clear that the walk was originally created and used by the Aldermen, and should, therefore, be known as Alderman’s Walk.