Plans have been unveiled by the borough council in Newcastle-under-Lyme to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the Staffordshire town being granted a royal charter.
Council leader Simon Tagg said the anniversary was, “a once in a generation opportunity to bring our communities together in appreciation of the fantastic history of our town while giving the local economy a real boost.”
Newcastle-under-Lyme – a brief history
The town of Newcastle-under-Lyme grew up around a ‘new’ castle built next to the Lyme Brook and occupied an economically important position on the great trunk road linking London to the North.
The town has several historically important buildings including the 18th century Guildhall and has been home to a street market since the Middle Ages.
Newcastle was first mentioned in 1162 as a Norman settlement around the castle and by 1277 had a Dominican monastery nearby. Memories of the presence of the ‘black friars’ in the town is preserved in the name of a public house near to the marketplace.
Although less industrialised than its neighbours in the Potteries, Newcastle was the site of thriving hat-making and ironmongery businesses.
A programme of events described as ‘engaging and inclusive’ has been developed by an ‘850 working group’, members of which include councillors and local businesses.
Plans announced to date include celebrating famous and influential residents of the town past and present with talks, exhibitions, and other events. There will also be a theme for each month of the year to come including literature, sports, and the borough’s military connections.
In addition to one-off events, the council also plan to deliver a lasting legacy through publishing a new history of the town and using a blue plaque scheme to celebrate the contributions made by residents down the years.
As part of this, the council plans to plant 850 lime trees on the site of the former Keele golf course in the spring of 2023.
Simon Tagg said, “Trees not only enhance popular and much-loved green spaces; they’re vital to our very existence as they’re the ultimate carbon capture. They play a major role in our environment by providing oxygen, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife.”
He added, “the council are keen to involve local residents in the process of safeguarding urban green space and enhancing the local environment across the borough.”
In 2021, people living near to the former golf course launched a petition opposing a proposal by the council to give permission for 1,800 houses to be built on the site. It is unclear whether the new wood will change these plans.
Speaking about the planned celebration, Councillor Tagg said the aim was to showcase the history and culture of the town and to recreate the ‘buzz’ that surrounded its octocentenary in 1973.
The council has set aside £25,000 from the Borough Growth Fund and secured £35,000 in external funding; they are also seeking the backing of sponsors.