English Civil War - Newark besieged
There were three sieges of Newark during the English Civil War. Newark was an important crossroads and important to the Royalists as it connected their headquarters in Oxford to Royalist centres in the northeast.
The first siege lasted between February 27th and 28th 1643, the second from February 29th to March 21st 1644 while the third siege lasted from November 26th 1645 to May 8th 1646.
Sir John Digby, the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, had seized Newark on behalf of Charles I in late 1642. He was assisted by Sir John Henderson, a Scottish soldier, who it was felt would bring military expertise to the Royalists cause. Henderson was appointed Governor of Newark.
Parliament realised the strategic importance of Newark and on February 27th 1643 Major-General Thomas Ballard besieged the town. It quickly became clear that Ballard did not have the ability to take Newark and he and his men left the next day.
Although Parliament controlled much of the Midlands, the Royalists had eight major garrisons in the area and they did a great deal to undermine Parliament's full control of the Midlands.
One of these strong centres was Newark. . However, when the Scots joined the Parliamentarian cause, the Marquis of Newcastle was ordered to repel the force advancing from the north along the east coast. Troops from the Newark garrison were sent to help him, which greatly reduced Newark's ability to defend itself. Parliament took advantage of this and besieged the town for a second time at the end of February 1644. The leader of the siege was Sir John Meldrum, a skilled soldier.
The Royalists were badly outnumbered. However, Loughborough, who commanded the garrison at Newark, called on Prince Rupert to assist him whilst launching small-scale attacks on Meldrum's men. Meldrum did his best to cut off Newark and occupied the main area of grazing land for the town - an island in the River Trent just to the north of Newark - in order to try to starve out the remaining Royalists in the town.
On March 21st, under cover of darkness, Rupert attacked Meldrum's men to the east of Newark. Taken by surprise, Meldrum was pushed back onto 'The Island'. Rupert's men captured the only bridges connecting the island with the mainland. Surrounded, Meldrum had no choice but to surrender.
Soldiers from the Newark garrison fought at Marston Moor where the Royalists were defeated. The Royalists were also defeated at Naseby, south of Newark, meaning that the town was effectively trapped by Parliament both to the north and the south.
On November 26th 1645, troops from Scotland started to besiege Newark from the north while Parliamentary forces did the same from the south. The garrison defended the town but during a harsh winter the Scots built up siege works manned by 16,000 men. They also tried to dam the River Deven so that the grain mills in the town were deprived of any form of power. Regardless of this, Newark held out. It was during this period that siege coins were minted from church plate and the like. Food was so scarce that the townspeople had to eat horses and dogs. Plague was also a problem in the town. However, the town held out until it was ordered to surrender by Charles who was made to order it as part of the conditions of his own surrender. Newark surrendered on May 8th 1646.