Plaque unveiled at Gilstrap Building

7 April 2017

A blue plaque to commemorate a renowned Newark philanthropist has been unveiled at the former library which carries his family's name. 

The work and legacy of Sir William Gilstap has been remembered at a short ceremony held at the Gilstrap Building which is locates in Newark Castle ground. Among the guests was Sir William's great, great, great niece, Baroness Miranda van Lynden MacRae.

The Grade II listed building is now leased to Nottinghamshire County Council which operates a Register Office from there and where weddings and civil partnership ceremeonies now take place.

In 1883, Sir William presented the building, a free public library, as a gift to the town in recognition of the great kindness shown to members of his family and to himself during his time in Newark in his early life.

Sir William bore the £10,000 cost of the library, equivalent in today's values to circa £2.5 million, himself.

He also offered financial support, among a number of other projects, to building a hospital in Newark and in 1887, in official recognition of his work, he was awarded a baronetcy in Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Honours List.

Last year, the Friends of Newark Castle marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir William and expressed their wish to mark his contribution permanently.

An approach was made to Newark Archaeological and Local History Society (NALHS) which readily agreed to assist, using its experience in erecting more than 30 plaques which are located throughout the town.

Finance was sought and the trustees of the Gilstrap Charity awarded a grant which enabled the project to proceed.

In his early life Sir William attended local schools before taking up work in his father's wine and spirits importing business as well as helping to run a hotel, trading as Joseph and William Gilstrap. 

The Chairman of the Gilstrap Charity, Councillor David Payne, said: "On behalf of the Trustees I am delighted that we are able to support this initiative to recognise the charity's benefactor and to mark his important contribution to the town which continues to this day through the work of the charity."

Baroness Miranda van Lynden MacRae said: "I am absolutely delighted with the plaque. He did so much good and he would be thrilled with the work that has been done here. I'm so glad he is being remembered for all the good he did in Newark."

Allan Towler, chairman of the Friends of Newark Castle, said: "I would like to thank all those who made it possible - Newark Archaeological and Local History Society and the Trustees, and to those who came to the unveiling. I would like to pay particular thank you to Councillor Payne, the chairman of the Gilstrap Charity, for his help and support."

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