Newport – the Market Town in the east of Telford and the original Shropshire New Town of Novius Burgus.
Following their invasion of England in 1066, subsequent occupation & subjugation of the population, the town was established by the Normans in an area of land within the manor of Edgmond. The Town’s name changed from Novius Burgus to Nova Porta to Newborough when it received its Borough Charter from Henry-I (the Conqueror’s fourth son) circa 1100-CE. It became Newport (New Market Town) around 1220-CE.
Unlike the other towns that make-up Telford, Newport is isolated from its brethren only butting up to the village of Church Aston. The housing developments that have taken place since Telford New Town was created mean that the other towns such as Dawley, Donnington, Hadley, Ironbridge, Ketley, Madeley, Oakengates & Wellington now all seem to merge into one or have, at least, tendrils of brick & mortar connecting them. Newport is an exception to this rule and thus a reminder that Telford is a Town of Towns.
The Benchmark Walk detailed below is the seventh in a series based around the Towns of Telford that I have put together. The idea of the Benchmark walks is to bring something new to established walks or to offer a chance to view Telford from a slightly different, even a niche, perspective.
This Blog should not be read as an in-depth history of Newport. For that you would be better placed looking at the work of the Newport History Society or people such as Malcolm Miles who have produced & written material on the Town to a higher standard and in greater detail than I could hope to do.
The Society’s webpage can be accessed here > https://newporthistorysociety.org/
I do however try to provide some historical detail along with Points of Interest to look out for as you walk through Newport using the Ordnance Survey Benchmarks as way-markers.
The location details of the Benchmarks are shown by photos & maps – the maps are taken from the Historic England Aerial Archaeology Mapping Explorer – and provided within the photos is the Grid Reference and What3Words location for each Benchmark. This means that should you wish to print the photos or save them to your mobile device before setting out on your Benchmark adventure you’ll also have some extra information to help find them & an idea of what your looking for.
The historical Ordnance Survey maps within this Blog are from the National Library of Scotland’s online library.
The six Benchmarks detailed below are primarily cut into buildings on Newport’s High Street, St. Mary’s Street and Lower Bar. There is one on Wellington Road and one on Salters Lane. The Benchmarks and Points of Interest can all be viewed or accessed from the Public Rights of Way without the need to encroach onto any private land.
A Short History of Benchmarks
Some details on the history of Benchmarks can be found here > https://rowleyanth.wordpress.com/2022/11/28/a-short-history-of-ordnance-survey-benchmarks-and-the-pheon/
The Ordnance Survey Historical Maps and their Benchmark archive show that the OS was present & active within Newport in 1857 – 59; the 1920s; 1937 and 1961.
Benchmark bagging can be become addictive. Be prepared to find yourself staring at walls or have people staring at you as you stare at walls. Teenage sons can be particularly scathing of any staring at walls when in their company.
While bagging the Benchmarks is self-guided, I have made some suggestions as to the route to take but it is not prescriptive.
I have made an assumption that people visiting Newport to bag the Benchmarks will do so by car. Therefore, the start & finish point is the same; the Water Lane Car Park in Lower Bar that is next to the Town Bridge aka the Canal Bridge. Other car parks are available.
However, if you are local to Newport and/or aren’t getting there by car, the route can tailored to suit your own preferences. The Water Lane Car Park has a couple of cycle racks onto which you can lock your velocipede – this is my preferred method of transport.
The Benchmarks can be easily visited in or about an hour walking at a steady pace – it could easily be described as a steady stroll.
The walk will take you through Newport’s townscape and past a significant number of buildings that are listed on the Historic England’s National Heritage List for England.
A townscape that in his 1958 book ‘The Buildings of England: Shropshire’ Nikolaus Pevsner described as there being “nothing better in North Shropshire.”
Why did the Normans choose Newport?
Newport’s isolation does raise the question as to why it is where it is and why did the Normans choose this site for their New Town?
Its possible that the Normans decided that this was the ideal site for their New Town because there was already an Anglo-Saxon town here – Plesc. This Anglo-Saxon name means Shallow Pool. In the Anglo-Saxon Charters of 963-CE, Plesc is recorded as being near to a heh straete. Within the Charters it records that King Edgar is granting land relating to Plesc and Eastun to his mate Wulfric.
King Edgar – reign 959-CE to 975-CE
A transcript of the Charter (in Old English) relating to Plesc and Eastun
Did the Normans simply do what the Telford Development Corporation would do 900-years later and use the existing town as the footprint for their future developments? Maybe; probably; maybe even definitely.
Within the above text of the Anglo-Saxon Charter, Plesc is mentioned alongside Eastun; Eastun has been identified as Church Aston as it was on ‘Lilsaetna gemaere‘ which translates as the ‘boundary of the Lilleshall people‘. But Plesc’s location is open to some conjecture and it may not be safe to assume that Eastun and Plesc were physically near to one another just because they are referred in the text alongside one another.
The Doomsday Book does record the presence of the similar spelt village of Plesha (now known as Plaish), but places its location near to Church Stretton. It had one villager and one slave.
The Doomsday Book entry for Plesha > https://opendomesday.org/book/shropshire/10/
In their Transaction of 1911 (4th series, Vol-1, Part-1) the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society also have Plesc as being the village of Plaish.
But… heh straete also suggests a Roman connection. Both of these possible locations for Plesc have confirmed Roman roads nearby.
For Newport, the Roman Road of Via Devana is known to have been close-by, but there is no firm evidence that a Roman straete (paved route) ran through (what is now) Newport itself. This is despite the site of a Roman road being recorded (on the 1881 25-Inch Ordnance Survey map) north of Newport at Chetwynd Aston – it is a straight projection from Newport to Chetwynd Aston using the line of the Newport’s High Street.
The Anglo-Saxon heh (High), also suggests that the route was important. But it may instead convey that the route was raised above the surrounding landscape. It might also be worth considering whether the Romans ‘broke trail’ or simply, as they did with Watling Street, used & improved the existing road / trail network.
To support and confirm that Plesc and Eastun were neighbours, the Newport History Society have published two booklets ‘The History of the Church Aston Boundary’ (2007) and ‘The Saxon Boundary of Newport’ (2008).
For even if Newport isn’t on or near to the site of Plesc and the heh straete, its choice as a location for a town by the Normans is logical. It sits on top of a sandstone ridge above a lot of surrounding water . Much of this has been drained but the Weald Moors lie to to the west and Aqualate Meer (nearby & to the east) is the largest natural lake in the Midlands. That Newport has two lanes that refer to surrounding water can be seen in Beaumaris Road (beautiful marsh in French / Norman) Lane and Water Lane (Watery Lane on the OS maps from the 19th Century).
On his map of 1688, William Hill (not the bookmaker) records that the demarcation of Newport’s boundaries with Edgmond and Aston is determined by the Newport (Strine) Brook and Mundy Brook respectively with Newport Marsh showing to the east of the Town.
A convenient route through this marsh & wet land would have been used long before the Roman, Anglo-Saxon or Normans invasions.
All that water, maybe including the shallow pool of Plesc, also meant that there were numerous fisheries nearby (hence Newport’s Coat of Arms) and with the Via Devana close-by or underfoot, this would have been ideal for transporting food for the high tables of the Norman aristocracy and for commerce.
One of the services required by the Norman overlords of Newport’s Burgesses was to convey the fish taken in the Newport Vivary (fishing pond) to the King’s Court, whether that might be. In the late 13th Century the requirement was watered-down so that it was not necessary to transport the fish outside of Shropshire.
The Newport Coat of Arms – at least two of the Town’s sporting clubs (Cricket and Rugby Union) use three fishes on their badges.
On the Ordnance Survey maps of the 19th Century a fishing pool of some significant size is recorded south of Edgmond.
The Norman High Street
Looking north towards Lower Bar will highlight that Newport has a long (like a stretched letter S) & wide High Street that is typical of Norman planning with this type of high street designed to accommodate a market and church as important focus points. Also typical of the Norman planning are the narrow burgage plots set at a right-angle to the high street.
These burgage plots (set behind the high street frontages) were the home, gardens & work places of tradesman & their families. These plots would have a standard width of one Perch or Rod. This is nothing to do with the fish or angling but a Perch is an imperial measurement of 5.5-yards or 16.5-ft and is equivalent to a quarter of a Surveyor’s Chain (22-Yards).
The rear access to the burgage plots would have been via Beaumaris Road and Water(y) Lane.
Most of these burgage plots or Yards have been lost but their footprint can be seen on the 1880 Ordnance Survey 6-inch map below and the aerial photos of Newport taken by the RAF in 1930.
OS 6-inch from 1880 – the narrow burgage plots are shown at a right-angle to the High Street.
An RAF aerial photo of Newport from 1946 – RAF 09_05_1946 109G_UK_1483
Burgage plots to the east of the High Street and St Nicholas’s Church in 1930. EPW034051 – https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/archive/collections/aerial-photos/record/EPW034051
The burgage plots shown in this aerial photo from 1930. EPW034052 – https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/archive/collections/aerial-photos/record/EPW034052
The Newport History Society have a blog about the burgage plots and the people who lived on them that can be accessed here > https://newporthistorysociety.org/2022/05/newport-yards/
The Great Fire of Newport
Despite being nearly 900-years old, there are only a handful of medieval timber framed buildings within Newport and only two that are immediately recognisable as medieval; Smallwood Lodge and the Old Guildhall. Many of the timber framed buildings were lost in the Great Fire of Newport.
On Friday 19th May 1665 an uncontrolled fire caught hold in the Smithy of Richard Shotton. The fire quickly spread across the closely packed timber framed houses of the central area of the Town.
By noon of the next day, the houses of 163 families had been burned out with another ten buildings pulled down to create fire breaks so to prevent the fire spreading further.
Also destroyed in the fire was Newport’s wooden Butter Cross (or Buttercross). A Butter Cross was a covered market for the sale of (you’ve guessed it) butter, but also cheese.
In a letter encouraging charity to those impacted by the fire, Charles-II wrote that the damage amounted to a £23,948 – this is around £12-Million in today’s money.
Charles-II would, sixteen months later in September-1666, watch the flames that started in Pudding Lane sweep across London.
The need to re-generate the lost buildings plus the constant rejuvenation of the High Street resulted in a considerable changes to the townscape during the Georgian and Regency periods. Subsequently, there are a plethora of Grade-II and Grade-II* buildings within the scope of the benchmark walk.
Those buildings that do not host a Benchmark are detailed in the table below. I have tried to detail them in the order that you will pass them but some may be out of sequence. A number of the buildings also have Blue Plaques detailing their historical significance – keep an eye open for them.
Some of the Blue Plaques to keep an eye open for
The Listed Buildings that are not host to a Benchmark
If the numbering within the above list appears confusing, rest assured it is. The demarcation lines between Lower Bar, St Mary’s Street & the High Street and Upper Bar aren’t always clear.
Despite the large number of Listed buildings, do not expect to experience a walk through something akin to Bath’s Georgian or Regency streets. Newport, like many towns, has felt the hand of the 1960s & 70s architects with some of the subsequent designs, builds & refurbishments now appearing unsympathetic. But these can also be seen as attempts to keep Newport relevant & modern in the last quarter of the 20th Century, especially with the rejuvenation & modernisation of the other Towns of Telford taking place to the west of Newport.
It is however also a shame that the appearance of some of the Georgian buildings such as the Grade-II Beaumaris House and its neighbour Roddam House, have been allowed to deteriorate to look sad & unloved.
For an idea of how the High Street looked in the early 19th-Century see the representation of the Ziegler watercolour of 1838 that is hosted on the Newport History Society’s website > https://newporthistorysociety.org/2022/09/newport-high-street-in-1838-by-henry-ziegler/
The Newport High Street in 1921. EPW005739 – https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/archive/collections/aerial-photos/record/EPW005739
The Start of the Benchmark Walk
Benchmark (Cut Datum Line) – The Town Bridge aka the Canal Bridge
The Benchmark consists of a thin Datum Line with Pheon that have been cut into the roadside facing side of the eastern parapet.
Looking north towards & over the bridge the position of the Benchmark is indicated by the arrow
The bridge has recently been repaired following the attentions of a misdirected Horseless Carriage. During these repairs, the Pheon also received some TLC resulting in it becoming sharper & deeper. Previously the Datum Line & Pheon had been quite faint & easily missed.
The Benchmark and its position within the Bridge’s parapet
Map showing the position of the Benchmark – circled
Though the current bridge was built in 1835-36, the Benchmark was first recorded on the OS 25-Inch map that was surveyed in 1924 & published in 1926, meaning that the Benchmark may be nearing its Centenary.
The OS 25-Inch Map published in 1926 – the first showing the prescence of a Benchmark
The bridge’s parapet was either first added or it was re-built in 1891, which may explain the Benchmark appearing 90-years after the bridge was built.
Dated stone within the Parapet
The Canal Bridge Bridge stands at the northern end of the Town on Lower Bar; carrying the road over both the former Newport branch of the Shropshire Union Canal and the Strine Brook. It was built in 1835 to 1836 alongside the construction of the canal. The canal, its lock & wharf would have brought, if not a new prosperity, new money and jobs into the Town. The railway to the south of the Town would later do the same.
But this isn’t the original Town Bridge (nor did it function just as a bridge) and the ability to cross the Strine here may have been another factor behind the Norman’s decision as to the site of the Town.
In Samuel Bagshaw’s 1851 ‘History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Shropshire‘ an Indenture of 1749 is referenced “By an Indenture, dated 5th May, 1749… granted… all those parcels of lands lying waste, but formerly covered with water, called the Strine, or Newport Pool, and the Flags, with the appurtenances, in trust, that, with the rent, issues, and profits thereof, the Pool Dam, at the lower end of the town, should be repaired and kept in good order.”
This ‘Dam Bridge’ was also a Mill Dam which had previously held back the waters of Newport Pool. The referenced Indenture and William Hills map of 1688 (see below) indicate that Newport Pool was drained between the late-17th and early-18th Centuries.
Newport Pool as shown on the William Hill’s map of 1688 – the bridge & dam is shown on the left-hand side.
The Strine would have powered any adjacent watermills and maybe Newport Pool, as well as being a fishery, was evidence of a mill pool similar to that in Wombridge. In Volume-9 of his ‘Antiquities of Shropshire‘, Robert Eyton noted that “at the Inquisition of the Hundreds in 1255 twelve jurors gave account of the joint manor of Edgmond and Newport. They valued the mill at Newport at 20-marks“. A mark was a silver coin of 8-ounces or 250-grams in weight.
The town / canal bridge is now part of a scheduled monument (that includes the Canal Lock) as an example of a Roving Bridge & Lock. The Roving Bridge allowed horses to cross the canal without being unharnessed in order to use the tow path on the opposite side of the canal. Newport’s Roving Bridge is regarded as one of the best on the canal system and possibly the best in the West Midlands.
The Town Bridge in 1921 – around the date the Benchmark was cut into the parapet. EPW005737 – https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/archive/collections/aerial-photos/record/EPW005737
Point of Interest – Milestone
From the Bridge, head south towards Newport’s High Street keeping to the left-hand pavement. The High Street was part of the local Turnpike Trust that was formed by statute in 1773 with the route of this particular Turnpike Road running between Chester and Birmingham – someone else taking advantage of Via Devana?
Set into the wall of Tranters Funeral Directors is a Milepost. The Turnpike was dissolved in 1879 but the presence of the Milepost is a reminder of the Turnpike Road.
Benchmark (Cut Datum Line) – St Nicholas’s Church
Up & across from the Milestone, St Nicholas’s Church is the dominant presence. It would have been important to the Normans to have the Church within the Town even if it was originally a chapelry of Edgmond Church.
The ‘broad, not high’ tower of St Nicholas’s Church, Newport
St Nicholas is one of three Patron Saints for Fisherman – the other two are Peter and Andrew). This may be a connection to Newport’s fishing heritage and the reason for the Church being associated with St Nicholas.
It is possible that there was a Norman Church in Newport from the 12th Century which itself had an Anglo-Saxon Church as a precursor. The oldest part of the Church is its 14th Century Tower that was described by Pevsner as “broad, not high.”
The Benchmark is cut into base on the Tower’s south-west face.
The Benchmark and its position within the base of the Tower
Map showing the position of the Benchmark – circled
This Benchmark was cut into the Tower’s base between 1857 – 59, during the Ordnance Survey’s First Geodetic Survey of Great Britain. This means it is one of the original & oldest Benchmarks in both Shropshire and Great Britain. With much of Church being re-built & reinstated over the years and in particular during the mid to late-19th Century, the Benchmark is older than most of the exterior of the building with which it is associated.
There is also an undated & rogue Pheon (the broad arrow) near to the Benchmark. There is no known reason why it is there or when it was cut.
The Rogue Pheon – circled
Point of Interest – The Tower; an Ordnance Survey Trigonometrical Station
The Church’s connection to the Ordnance Survey is not limited to the Benchmark. The Church has been a Trigonometrical Station since the 19th Century. There was first a Bolt that acted as the Trig Station, which was then superseded by the Tower’s Weather Vane; which was itself superseded by the Flagstaff before finally the Tower’s pyramidal roof took on the role. The official OS reference is TP15151.
The OS Map surveyed in 1879 showing the Benchmark and familiar Trig Station triangle symbol over the Church Tower.
From the Church, return to the the cobbles of St Mary’s Street – you might notice Ozzy Osbourne’s former gaff. The Street was named after the College of St Mary’s (referred to on the above map). The College was created as a Chantry with it being established & in place by the mid-15th Century. It was dissolved in 1547, with Edward-VI continuing the work of his father, Henry-VIII. The site of the College was, over the years, subsequently built upon and no remains of it have ever been confirmed.
Leaving St Mary’s Street will bring you out into the Market Square with the Market Hall to your left and Main Street (aka Central Square) nightclub to your right – I occasionally ventured to the latter in the 1990s but is was only occasionally as it use to be a bit of a pain getting to & from Newport – taxi fares were extortionate.
The club’s frontage is one of those examples of an unsympathetic 1970’s rejuvenation. But, to give some balance, Pevsner (yes, him again) described the Market Hall (built in 1860 to replace its demolished predecessor) as ‘debased Italianate‘ – he clearly wasn’t impressed.
The Market Hall (on the right) and Main Street Nightclub (on the left)
From the Square continue past Boughey House (hint – look for the blue plaque) heading towards Boots the Chemist and the bus shelter.
Point of Interest – the Boughey Memorial
The picture below is from 1947 and shows Boughey House, the Barley Mow and the Market Hall. It also shows the Boughey Memorial (in the middle of the road) that was erected in the memory of Sir Thomas Fletcher Boughey (fourth Baronet Fletcher) who died in 1906.
The Boughey Memorial standing in the High Street – from the clothing & lack of cars I’m guessing the photo was taken before WWI
The Memorial was moved in the 1950s (it was a hazard to motorists). After a couple of subsequent chassés south, it now stands on Station Road (What3Words location = dozens.wobbles.assist). Under the scope of the Benchmark Walk this would put it out of bounds, but I thought it worth including.
The Boughey Memorial on Station Road
The Boughey Trust was also created in 1906 by Lady Boughey at the bequest of her late husband with the goal of “promoting the healthy and beneficial occupation of the inhabitants of Newport and district”.
Details of the Boughey Trust can be found here > https://bougheytrust.co.uk/
Benchmark (Cut Datum Line) – No.54 High Street – Boots the Chemist
The Benchmark is cut into the shop wall facing the bus shelter. However, the Datum Line & Pheon are very faint, doing their best to keep their heads above the waterline of multiple layers of masonry paint.
The Benchmark and its position within the pavement side wall of Boots the Chemist
Map showing the position of the Benchmark – circled
The Benchmark is a peer of the one cut into the Town Bridge, first appearing on the OS 25-Inch map published in 1926. But, if a few more coats of paint are applied, it will disappear.
Continue along the pavement, heading towards the two Public Houses of the Pheasant and the Shakespeare; two neighbouring Inns that take the effort out of a pub crawl. Both are 19th Century buildings and both are Grade-II Listed – I think the Pheasant is the better looking of the two.
It was in the Shakespeare Inn that the author Walter White stayed while on his travels that informed his 1860 book ‘All Around the Wrekin‘. Travelling from Tong to Newport, White wrote “on coming to the town I turned into the first inn on the way, which proved to be the Shakespeare, and very willing to supply my wants. It was a Saturday night, and while eating my supper, I heard the singing of the large party of working people in the tap-room, who were making a hole in their wages as a happy finish to the week. The liveliest singer sang something pathetic, and one stanza so very touching, that I made a note of it:
‘Come all you ladies drest in white,
Come all you sailors drest in black,
From the cabbing boy to the mainmast high,
Pray shed a tear for my sailor boy‘”
In August-1485, if you had been standing in the same place, you would have caught sight of the future Henry-VII marching with his army towards Pave Lane & Chetwynd Aston and Woodcote before venturing on to Bosworth Field to defeat Richard-III. At Woodcote, Henry’s army made camp before being joined by local sympathisers. The hill in Woodcote on which Henry stood to encourage his army onto battle is still called Muster Hill.
On the same corner at 6:00-am on Christmas Eve, 1944 you would have heard the very loud bang from the V1-doodlebug that crashed & exploded in a field to the east of the Railway Station on Station Road. The V1, the first of Hitler’s terror weapons, was an early example of a cruise missile. It was one of forty-five V1s that had been launched from over the Humber estuary from underneath the fuselage of a modified Luftwaffe (the German air-force) Heinkel-III bomber.
Its intended target was the urban areas of northern England, but being unguided & susceptible to course changes through the influence of the weather, the flying-bomb crashed outside Newport. Its only reported victims were a rabbit (which probably ended in someone’s pot) and a frog (which probably didn’t end up in someone’s pot). There were also reports of windows being blown out on Station Road.
How was it identified that the intended target was Northern England? The V1 normally had a explosive payload of 2000-lb. However, Newport’s Doodlebug’s nose-cone was partially filled with letters from British Prisoners-of-War addressed to their families in & around Leeds, Leigh & Liverpool. This wasn’t a case of the Germans being nice, but if the families had received the letters & replied, the Germans would have been able to confirm if the V1s had reached their target.
If the V1 had been airborne for a few more seconds & crashed into the High Street, even with the reduced explosive payload, the damage & number of victims would have been far more serious.
A Heinkel-III carrying a V1-Doodlebug
There is a V1 on display at the RAF museum at RAF Cosford; there may also be remnants of Newport’s Doodlebug there (to be confirmed).
Benchmark (Cut Datum Line) – Congregational Church, Wellington Road
Crossing over the High Street from the Shakespeare, it is a short distance to the next Benchmark, one that is cut into Congregational Church on Wellington Road. The Church is Grade-II listed; it dates from 1817.
The Benchmark and its position in the Church’s exterior facade.
Map showing the position of the Benchmark – circled
This, like the Benchmark on St Nicholas’s Church, was cut by the Ordnance Survey between 1857 – 59 to support the First Geodetic Levelling of Great Britain.
From the Church cross over Wellington Road to return to the High Street to walk down its opposite side.
Point of Interest – Smallwood Lodge
This Grade-II Listed building dates from circa-1600 (making it one of the oldest buildings in Newport) with 19th Century extensions & alterations. It consists of a timber frame which is filled in with plaster & brick and painted white.
Smallwood Lodge is currently a licensed Tea Room (www.smallwoodlodge.com) meaning that if you didn’t need a pint in the Pheasant or Shakespeare you might pop in for a piece of cake with caffeine to fuel your travels further down the High Street.
Point of Interest – The Old Guildhall
After brushing the crumbs from your chin, neighbouring Smallwood Lodge is the Old Guildhall which is second oldest building in Newport (after the St Nicholas’s tower). It is Grade-II* Listed. The original single-room building that was used by the Guild of St Mary is thought to have been built circa-1400 with dendrochronology dating the beams in the roof to 1486.
The building had an extension added (acting as a separate dwelling) in the 16th Century with dendrochronology dating this to circa 1546.
The Old Guildhall
The two dwellings became one in the 19th Century.
The Guildhall’s Blue Plaque
In the early 1990’s the Boughey Trust purchased the Old Guildhall with the aim to preserve it for posterity. The Trust subsequently leased the Old Guildhall to the Town Council for its use for 99 years charging a peppercorn rent.
Benchmark (Cut Datum Line) – The Town House / Literary Institute
Continuing down the High Street will bring you to the next Benchmark that is cut into the Grade-II Listed Town House which is also known as the Literary Institute. The latter is because of the Newport Literary & Social Institute moving into the building in 1927. A similar Institute existed in St. Georges (the building still stands on Church Street) where along with access to books & reading material there were rooms for billiards and other recreations.
The Benchmark and its position on the Town House.
Map showing the position of the Benchmark – circled
This is a replacement Benchmark for the one that dated from 1857 – 59 and was cut during the First Geodetic levelling of Great Britain into the neighbouring Newport Provident Bank. This building was demolished in 1937 to be replaced by a new building that subsequently housed a branch of the NatWest bank. It is now home to the BOD Cafe Bar – you’re not going to starve or die of thirst in Newport for want of opportunities.
The 1882 OS 25-Inch map showing the Benchmark cut into the Newport Provident Bank
The Newport Provident Bank – demolished in 1937
Point of Interest – The Puleston Cross
Further down from the Literary Institute and across the road near to the Church stands the Puleston Cross which is a monument to Sir Roger de Puleston who died in 1272. It was erected by his son, also Roger, in circa-1280. It is Grade-II Listed and is the oldest known structure in Newport.
The Puleston Cross – What3Words location = What3Words: captures.sculpting.rejects. The red bricks running round the Cross show the footprint of the 17th Century Butter Cross
It is approximately 5-metres high but is missing its cross- Puleston Shaft doesn’t quite have the same ring. What happened to the cross? No-one knows for sure but it is possible that Iconoclasts during periods of the English Reformation (16th Century) or during the English Civil wars and subsequent Interregnum mutilated the Cross.
It is often mistakenly called the Butter Cross or Market Cross which stems from the replacement Butter Cross (market hall) that was erected following the Great Fire in replace the wooden one that was burnt down.
The new Butter Cross was build around & over the Puleston Cross – many people subsequently conflated the two. The photo below shows the Butter Cross with two subsequent images showing the Butter Cross along with the original Market Hall.
A 19th-Century photo of the Butter Cross
From William Hill’s map of 1688 showing both the Buttercross and original Market House / Hall.
From Ziegler’s 1838 Watercolour – taken from the Newport History Society website
Both the Butter Cross and Market House / Hall were demolished in 1859 – the footprint of the Market Hall can be seen on some of the aerial photos of Newport. The latter was built circa-1662 and was replaced by the Market Hall built in 1860.
Of the original Market Hall, Samuel Bagshaw wrote “is an ancient structure, standing upon pillars, and situate nearly in the centre of the High Street. The area between the pillars is appropriated to a corn market and here the farmers assemble on a market day for the sale of corn and other grain, which is sold by sample. The market is held on a Saturday, when the town has a busy and animated appearance. Above the corn market is a spacious room, which is used for magisterial purposes.“
Of the Puleston Cross he wrote “near to the Market Hall is a Butter Market, a covered area, which is of more modern construction. Under the covering is a Market Cross of considerable antiquity, consisting of four steps, and a fluted pillar broken at the top, the whole much dilapidated by time.”
Bagshaw was right that the Butter Cross was ‘of more modern construction’ to the Market Hall. It was built later five years later in 1668.
The footprint of the Butter Cross was discovered a few ago. This is now shown by the red bricks that run round the Puleston Cross.
Point(s) of Interest – Haberdashers Adams Grammar School and the Almshouses
Across the road and down from the Puleston Cross are the Grade-II Listed buildings of the Haberdashers Adams Grammar School (better known locally as Adams Grammar) and the two Almshouses that stand either side of the school’s gates.
Looking towards the School building
The School and the Almshouses were established by William Adams. The school in 1656 and the Almshouses in 1657. Adams also donated £550 for the building of the Market Hall. The two Almshouses were ‘beautified’ (refurbished & renovated) in 1821.
One of the two Almshouses that stand either side of the School’s Gates
Benchmark (Cut Datum Line) – Salters Lane School
From Adams Grammar continue down Lower Bar turning onto & walking down Salters Lane to Salters Court School. The school is only 200-metres or so down the Lane on the right-hand side as you walk.
The date that the Benchmark was cut into the school’s wall isn’t known. The school is present on the OS historical maps from the 1880s through to 1937 (which is the latest map that is available in the National Library of Scotland’s archive) but no Benchmark is recorded. This indicates that the Benchmark was cut after 1937 probably around the same time as the Benchmark that was cut into the Town House / Literary Institute.
The Benchmark and its position within the School’s roadside wall.
Map showing the position of the Benchmark – circled
Point of Interest – St Peter’s & Paul’s Roman Catholic Church
From the School, turnaround to head back towards Lower Bar but take a left-turn onto Waterside Mews – you’ll see the Fire Station (which obviously wasn’t there in 1665) on the junction into the Mews.
You will also see the high walls of the Roman Catholic Church of St Peter’s & Paul’s – it is into the grounds of the Church that I suggest you head. Though you may see closed gates, I haven’t yet found them locked and been unable to proceed through them.
The Grade-II Listed Church of St Peter’s & Paul’s
Built in 1832 on the site of the 15th-Century Salter’s Hall, this Grade-II Listed building is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Shropshire. This may seem surprising, but after the 16th-Century Reformation, severe restrictions on Roman Catholics were introduced in the country that continued from the monarchy of Henry-VIII through to the Hanoverians of the 18th-Century. Only during the very short reigns of (the Catholic) Mary Tudor and James-II were these restrictions temporarily lifted.
With severe censure, Roman Catholics were able to practice their religion but it was illegal to practice in public and the building of Catholic churches was prohibited. Small missions, mainly in the houses of the gentry who were Catholic, were maintained. An example of one was at the nearby Longford Hall which was the home of the Talbot family, the Earls of Shrewsbury.
By the late-1700s much of the paranoia & prejudice against the country’s Catholics was slowing ebbing away with many of the laws & restrictions against Catholics being rescinded or not being applied. As such, a small number of Catholic Churches for public worship were being built.
But following the 1800 Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland momentum to repel the restrictions on Roman Catholics continued to gather pace. This resulted in the passing in 1829 of the Catholic Emancipation Act (also known as the Catholic Relief Act)
It was no longer illegal to practice Roman Catholicism in public with a subsequent acceleration in the building of new Catholic churches of which St Peter’s & Paul’s is a prime example.
The War Memorial within the grounds of St Peter’s & Paul’s for those members of its congregation who fell in the two World Wars.
Longford Hall was sold by the Talbot’s in 1789. The family’s Catholic chaplain was provided with a new home within in the 16th-Century Salter’s Hall. Salter’s Hall (and the lane on which it stood) was named after Sir John Salter who was High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1520. Though he lived in Oswestry, Salter had a house on the site.
With a chaplain now in residence at Salter’s Hall it became the point of worship for Newport’s Catholic community and, following the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act, it was the obvious site for a new Catholic church. The construction was funded by John Talbot, sixteenth Earl of Shrewsbury and it was designed in a Gothic style by Joseph Potter of Lichfield. When finished, some remnants of Salter’s Hall were included within the Church though they are not visible from the outside or easily found inside.
Point of Interest – Hallcroft Gardens
Continuing down Waterside Mews you will pass on your left the houses of Hallcroft Gardens. The houses are not the Point of Interest; the POI is that this was in 1651 (during the last throws of the English Civil Wars) the site of a skirmish between the Royalists and the Parliamentary supporting Regiment of Scottish Horse.
Ordnance Survey 25-inch map from 1882 showing site of the Hallcroft Gardens skirmish. It also shows St Peter’s & Paul’s and Salter’s Hall as one.
This is second of two known sites in or near Newport where skirmishes between the Royalists and Parliamentarians are known to have happened. The other was at Longford where between 25th March & 2nd April 1645 the Battle of Longford took place. The Royalists won that battle but it is not known who had the ascendency during the Hallcroft Gardens skirmish.
Maybe one of the Puritan Scots took offence at sight of the memorial to Roger de Puleston and lopped off the cross.
Point of Interest – The Canal
Exiting out of waterside Mews will bring you to the canal. The Water Lane carpark can be found by turning left to walk under the Canal Bridge where this adventure started.
You could however choose to turn right to wander along the towpath or, at the car park, continue onwards along the canal on that side of the bridge. There is plenty to see & enjoy.
And that is it. If you intend to try out the Newport Benchmark Trail I hope you find it of interest & enjoyable. I would welcome any comments or recommendations for improvement or correction.
Many thanks for your time & curiosity.