The main part of the existing building probably dates from the mid-18th century, but who first occupied this substantial mansion remains a mystery.The house is mentioned in the Trent Navigation Act of 1772, and in the early 19th century it was offered for sale or rent.
From the Sales details it is clear that it was a dwelling ideal for a family with social aspirations: The house brought with it an established walled garden, stocked with fruit trees, stretching down to the River Trent, and two acres of pasture land – an area wich included that currently known as Millgate Field.
Whether the ornate Georgian-style internal fittings date from this period, or were part of a later restoration remains to be ascertained by further research. Nevertheless, the house was still thought to be ideal for a ‘private gentleman’ or some person engaged in ‘a great mercantile trade’.
John Clarke – Wharfinger
We know that the person who responded to this advert was indeed just such a mercantile trader, because for the first half of the 19th century the house was occupied by John Clarke – a farmer, coal merchant and wharfinger.
From his extensive riverside gardens he could have surveyed his empire, sprawling untidily northwards along the banks of the rivers Trent and Devon.
His wife, Mary Ann Clarke, was still living in the house as a widow in 1861, being described as ‘landed proprietor’.
Thomas Earp – Mayor and MP
But it was the next occupier who left the greater mark on history – Thomas Earp.
Earp was a maltster and partner in the Trent Brewery which lay just 100 yards or so down Millgate. Today, the housing development known as Cooper’s Yard stands on the site..
Not only was Earp commercially successful, he also had an interest in politics and was an alderman, three-times Mayor (1869, 1891 & 1892) and Liberal MP for Newark up until the General Election of 1885.
As Chairman of the Governor’s of the Magnus Grammar School, amongst a host of other appointments, he gave his name to Earp Avenue on which the present school stands.
Enos Smith – a steamboat on the Trent
The next owner of the white House was just as interesting as Earp, but in a different way.
Enos Smith, who was in residence by 1920, made a fortune from the manufacture of wire ropes in Sheffield, but chose to live in the genteel seclusion of Newark. Here he maintained an impressive household and a steamboat on the Trent. He even owned a vineyard in France and stocked the cellars of the White House with his finest vintages!.
Local residents recall how, once each year, his gardens were opened to the Boy Scouts for their jamboree, and how Mrs Smith provided funds to help the needy and deserving people of the neighbourhood.
The black and white photographs seen here date from the time of Mr & Mrs Smith.
It was a way of life that was to be shattered by the outbreak of war in 1939.
After the war the White House gradually sank into multiple occupancy since money was not now available to maintain residences on this grand scale and the servants who went with them.
In 1950 one of the occupiers was SPD Food Distribution Ltd, and in 1961 British Waterways and Trent Hire Cruisers were based there.
With these changes the old fabric of the building began to break down.