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Newcastle-Under-Lyme (St. Giles)

NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME (St. Giles), a borough, market-town, and parish, having separate jurisdiction, and the head of a union, locally in the N. division of the hundred of Pirehill, N. division of the county of Stafford, 16 miles (N. N. W.) from Stafford, and 149 (N. W. by N.) from London; containing 9838 inhabitants. It is supposed that this place was of some note even before the Conquest, but known by a different name, its present appellation of Newcastle being derived from a castle built here by Ranulph, Earl of Chester, probably about the year 1180, and so called in reference to an older castle, then fallen into decay, at Chesterton, within two miles. Its descriptive affix of Under Lyme, distinguishing it from Newcastle in Northumberland, appears to have arisen from the proximity of the place to the ancient and very extensive forest of Lyme, so designated from being on the limes or borders of Cheshire. A charter, now lost, was granted to Newcastle under its present name by Henry II. In the reign of John, the town had a market, and in 1203 was amerced for changing its market from Sunday to Saturday. It suffered much in the barons' wars, at which period the castle was demolished.

The town is situated on a small stream tributary to the neighbouring river Trent, on the great road from London and Birmingham to Lancashire, and consists of several principal with smaller streets, which are paved (the foot-paths with brick), and lighted with gas, under the provisions of an act passed in 1819. The inhabitants are supplied with water by means of pipes leading from an ancient well called Browning's Well, near the Castle pool, the water being raised by a steam-engine: an act for a better supply of water was passed in 1847. Under the provisions of an act obtained in the year 1816, for inclosing the open town fields by which the town was then surrounded, extensive public walks or promenades, for the use of the inhabitants, were laid out and planted, which are under the management of trustees. The streets are wide; and the houses are generally good, but being mostly built of blue brick, they have rather a dull appearance. There are, a small handsome theatre, a concert or assembly room, a permanent subscription library, and a reading society: in the year 1836 a literary and scientific institution was established. The races are held in the first week in August, on an excellent course about two miles from the town, and are well attended. Among the manufactures of the place is that of hats. Silk throwing and weaving, cotton-spinning, tanning, malting, brewing, and the manufacture of tissuepaper for the potteries, are also carried on; considerable business is done in corn, and in the vicinity are extensive iron and coal works. Its commercial prosperity has been much promoted by the neighbouring potteries, which occupy a district above eight miles in length, whose centre is within a mile and a half of Newcastle. A branch canal, about four miles long, connects the town with the Trent and Mersey line at Stoke-upon-Trent; and another branch, communicating with a private canal, belonging to R. Edensor Heathcote, Esq., is chiefly used for the conveyance of coal for the supply of the town from the collieries of that gentleman, at Apedale. The Liverpool and Birmingham railway passes within five miles of Newcastle; and in 1846 an act was passed for a railway through the Potteries, with a short branch to Newcastle. The markets are on Monday and Saturday. Fairs are held on the first Monday after Twelfthday (or New Market), Shrove-Monday (for cattle), Easter-Monday, Whit-Monday, the Monday before July 15th (for wool), the Monday after September 13th, and the first Monday in November; and five additional fairs have been lately established.

The earliest charter of incorporation that has been preserved was granted in the 19th of Henry III., and was enlarged by several subsequent monarchs. Under the recent Municipal act, however, by which the borough was divided into two wards, the corporation now consists of 6 aldermen and 18 common-councilmen, out of whom the mayor is elected; the council is assisted by a town-clerk, two sergeants-at-mace, and a crier. The freedom, since the passing of the act, is confined to the sons of resident sworn burgesses, and to persons serving an apprenticeship of seven years within the borough. The town has returned members to parliament from the 27th of Edward III.; the elective boundaries were enlarged by the act of the 2nd and 3rd of William IV.: the mayor is returning officer. The borough has a court of quarter-sessions, of which the recorder is sole judge, with a clerk of the peace appointed by the council; the mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace, and there is a coroner. The powers of the county debt-court of Newcastle, established in 1847, extend over the registrationdistrict of Newcastle, and part of the two districts of Stoke, and Wolstanton and Burslem.

Newcastle was formerly a chapelry in the rectory of Stoke, but the incumbencies were separated by an act of parliament in 1807. The living is a rectory not in charge, in the patronage of the Trustees of the late Rev. Charles Simeon; net income, £285. The church, prior to the dissolution of monasteries, had a chantry annexed to it: the body is a modern edifice of brick, having been rebuilt in 1720, but the tower is of red sandstone, and very ancient. A handsome district church, in the same patronage as the parochial church, and dedicated to St. George, was completed in 1828, the Parliamentary Commissioners granting £4400 towards defraying the expense, the Rev. C. Simeon £1000, and the corporation £500. There are places of worship for Wesleyans, Methodists of the New Connexion, Primitive Methodists, Independents, Particular Baptists, and Unitarians; and a very large Roman Catholic chapel. The free grammar school originated in a benefaction from Richard Cleyton, Esq., in 1602, augmented by bequests from John and William Cotton, Esqrs., and others; the income is about £90, and the house has lately been rebuilt. An English school was founded in 1704, by means of a bequest from the Rev. Edward Orme; it has a revenue of about £160 per annum. A national school, in the Elizabethan style, was erected some years since, at an expense of £1400; and a commodious British school was built more recently on a spacious piece of land presented by the Duke of Sutherland, at a cost of about £1000. Almshouses for twenty aged widows were erected and endowed under the will of Christopher Monk, Duke of Albemarle, dated July 4th, 1687. The poor-law union of Newcastle comprises nine parishes or places, containing a population of 19,476. There was a small monastery at the bottom of Friars'-Lane, near a part of the town called the Friars' Wood, but no vestige of it can be traced; its site forms part of the southeastern corner of the Lower Street. John Goodwin, an eminent nonconformist divine and controversialist, was born here about 1593. The town also gave birth to the republican Major-Gen. Harrison, one of the regicides, who possessed the manor, and whose residence yet stands on the west side of the market-place; John Bradshaw, who presided at the trial of Charles I., was recorder of the borough. Newcastle confers the title of Duke on the family of Clinton.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.