Restoration dig uncovers oyster shells and 12th century walls

11 October 2018

Oyster shells and the remains of 12th century walls have been uncovered during the latest phase of archaeological investigations at Newark Castle.

Generally perceived in present day as a food of affluence, the discovery of oyster shells in the castle highlights a significant cultural shift from 12th century to 21st century lifestyles.

Centuries ago, oysters were accessible to everyone and generally symbolic of the diet of those among the poorer sections of society.

Furthermore, the discovery of the shells in a central location such as Newark also makes assumptions about the trade routes that may have been in place in 12th century Britain.   

Kevin Winter, Exhibitions and Collections Assistant at the National Civil War Centre, said: “The oysters must have been reasonably fresh and will have been transported from the coast from places like Boston and even Lincoln, which was accessible from the sea - most likely by river – to Newark.

“As well as giving us a fairly clear idea of what the diet will have been at the time, in a religious context, there were traditionally many holy days in which meat could not be consumed and therefore, fish was eaten instead.”

Archaeologists from the University of Salford are currently investigating an area in between the Gatehouse and the North West tower to help inform new plans for the Newark Castle Gatehouse transformation project which won backing from Newark and Sherwood District Council councillors last month.

It proposes the restoration of the ancient gatehouse, the addition of an impressive new moat bridge entrance, new rooms in the North West tower and a learning centre.

The plans are subject to funding approval by the Heritage Lottery Fund but, if approved and brought to reality, would bring in an expected £1.3 million per annum in tourist revenue. The castle is seen as a key strategic site to the further development of tourism in Newark and wider district.

Councillor Keith Girling, the council’s Economic Development Committee Chairman, said: “The new redevelopment plans for the castle mark a truly exciting time for Newark and, if brought to reality, will potentially bring an enormous boost to the local economy.”

The castle is renowned for its links to the infamous King John and the Magna Carta and three sieges during the British Civil Wars.

A priority is to convert more day-trippers into overnight visitors who spend more locally, meaning more trade for businesses. Joint ticketing offers for visitors and local people, to include the different town attractions, are also being explored.

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