Ironmonger Lane was situated behind the parade of shops which now fringe the north side of the Market Place (Starbucks, Skipton Building Society etc) and was completely demolished between 1892 and 1894. In recent years a pleasant walkway and cycle park have been created here, but up to 1892 this narrow space was occupied by a second row of buildings, hard up against the south side of the church.
Ironmonger Lane is often referred to in documents from the Middle ages, although by the late 19th century it was no longer used as a thoroughfare (1). Instead it had become an access route to businesses and warehouses located there: a tallow chandlery, slaughterhouse, stables and a fish and rabbit shop owned by George Winn (pictured). In warm weather the smell from the slaughterhouse was said to be so pungent that it drove the church congregation to pews on the far side of the building.
On the night of 23rd December 1891 a disastrous fire broke out in the premises of James Knight, draper, in the Market Place. The windows of Knight’s shop at No.19 Market Place were decorated for Christmas and as the shop-boy lit the gas to illuminate them, some of the decorations caught fire. The flames spread rapidly threatening the whole block of buildings on the north side of the market place and those in Ironmonger Lane behind (2). In Wilkinson’s tallow chandlery in Ironmonger Lane there were large stores of fat and candles, and it was feared that if these caught fire then the church itself might be in danger.
Fortunately the fire engine from Warwick’s brewery soon arrived on the scene and poured water over the rear of the burning buildings, effectively halting the progress of the flames. The town fire brigade, meanwhile, tackled the blaze from the front in the Market Place, and together they succeeded in bringing the fire under control. The church was saved but damage amounting to about £5,000 was caused to shops along the Market Place. Almost immediately a public subscription was set up by William Newton (a local solicitor) to buy all the ramshackle buildings of Ironmonger Lane and demolish them to form a fire-break between the market place and the church. A public meeting was held at the Town Hall on 11th January 1892 to consider the situation, reported in The Newark Advertiser as follows (3):-
“The recent fire upon Mr Knight’s premises in the Market Place caused our grand old Church to be greatly in jeopardy, and before the vacant site caused by the fire is built upon it is considered desirable that the whole of the back buildings adjoining the Church, comprising the tallow chandlery belonging to Mr William Wilkinson (a dangerous manufactory so near the Church), Mr Knight’s back buildings, and the slaughter-house, cottages and buildings belonging to the Trustees of the late Mr Jackson should be purchased, and, if sufficient money can be raised, the front site of Mr Knight’s premises. With that view, a Committee consisting of the Mayor, ex-Mayor, the Vicar, Aldermen Pratt, Nicholson and Quibell, and Messrs. R Branston, Tallents, Knight, W.D. Warwick, Bishop, Willson and Oakden, with power to add to their number, has been formed to acquire the above-named properties, which can be purchased for £1,950. The front site of Mr Knight’s premises can be obtained for a further £650”. The price asked for the entire block was understood to be £7,500. Promises to date totalled about £1,500. Part of the buildings were actually encroachments. A week later subscriptions promised had reached £1,392, and the cost of the properties which it was hoped to purchase was put at £2,200 . On the 16th it was decided to purchase these properties (4). Early in March 1892 tenders were invited for “alterations to buildings in the Market Place recently occupied by Thomas Wright, grocer, and about to be re-opened by James Knight Jr., grocer (5). Later in the month tenders were further invited for “the removal of the chandlery buildings near the parish church” (6). It would appear that no contract for this was then let, as in August further tenders were invited “for taking down the warehouse and buildings known as the Chandlery in Church Walk” (7) Progress was slow, and as late as May 1893 it was reported to a Town Council meeting that “the piece of land near the church which is to be handed over to the Council is not yet cleared of buildings and will not be handed over until cleared”. Only in March 1894 was it possible to report that “a great change has been effected in the appearance of the Market Place by the removal of the old shop, once occupied by Mr Flower, and recently as a fish shop by Mr Winn….. This has opened up a fine view of part of the south side of the church” (8). The whole property was eventually bought for £1,850 and pulled down in 1892. The site was then conveyed to the Newark Corporation (9). NOTES
- Brown, C History of Newark Vol.1 p.41 & p.244 footnote
- Newark Advertiser 23rd June 1897 p7 c1 “Fire in the Market Place” & Newark Advertiser 13th November 1935 p2 c2 “Old Newark”
- Newark Advertiser 13.1.1892 p4 c2, p6 c1-2
- Newark Advertiser 20-1-1892 p4 c2, p5 c4
- Newark Advertiser 2-3-1892 p4 c1
- Newark Advertiser 30-3-1892 p4 c1
- Newark Advertiser 17-8-1892 p4 c1
- Newark Advertiser 14-3-1894 p5 c6
- Notes original compiled by G.Y. Hemingway and augmented by TW