One of the most heart-rending relics from the English Civil War is set for its first public display when the UK’s first national centre of its kind opens in Newark.
Work is under way to create a £5.4m National Civil War Centre which will house scores of artefacts from the epic 17th century conflict between King and Parliament.
The flagship project by Newark and Sherwood District Council has been backed by £3.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Using a treasure trove of recently discovered archive material the story of civilians caught in the cross-fire will be told in unprecedented detail. Curators are now working to catalogue and conserve precious artefacts, including cannon balls, battle plans, swords and propaganda tracts.
Among them is an exquisite mid-17th century gold ring found by a local metal detectorist near Parliamentary earthworks at Shelton, south of Newark. Glyn Hughes Team Leader, Collections and Exhibitions at Newark and Sherwood District Council, said:”The ring is inscribed with the words ‘No calamity will separate our amity’. We know that some families had split Royalist and Parliamentary loyalties and brothers even ended up fighting against each other. One theory we are working on is that it was given by a friend or family member to someone who was on the opposite side of the conflict. It is not too fanciful to think that for the ring giver the bonds of love transcended differences of beliefs. It is a beautiful object and one which will go on display when the National Civil War Centre opens.”
Newark was a fulcrum of the civil war, enduring three deadly sieges before the King finally surrendered the town in 1646 to an army of Scots to the north of the town.
The National Civil War Centre will be housed in the Grade II* Old Magnus building, the oldest parts of which date to 1529. Local construction company Woodhead Heritage is carrying out the year-long works, which will involve conserving the building’s historic features, including schoolboy graffiti from the 1600s, and installing modern new galleries, lift, toilets, reception area and gift shop.
“It will allow us to display many historic items for the first time,” said Mr Hughes. “It is a massive project for us and the first centre of its kind dedicated to the tumultuous British Civil Wars.”