A New Museum For Newark

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'A New Museum For Newark' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'A New Museum For Newark' page

Site of the Newark Museum Appletongate

Transforming the former Magnus Grammar School buildings

By Nalhs Newark


April 1967 saw the start of Newark Archaeological & Local History Society, and its relationship with Newark Museum (a.k.a. the Old Magnus Buildings), holding its monthly meetings in the Tudor Hall.  Some of us were Bright Young Things, and provided the archaeological work for the Museum – we even had a separate committee, and our own wheelbarrow, riddle and shovel!  

So, for practically half of the building’s life as a Town, then District, Museum, the Society’s existence has been inextricably linked with the building, and therefore it was only right that we should support/cajole/beg and bully the ‘powers-that-be’ to save this building complex as a whole, following its closure as a Museum in 2005, and hopefully re-instate a Museum for the 21st Century!  

Mike Cox and I have been representing the Society on both the Culture Task & Finish Group (with District Council members) and also the Steering Committee, which is taking the project forward hopefully to forming a solid Friends and Volunteer Force (one step up from a Group!).  

We took the opportunity to explore fully the Old Magnus Buildings on two Saturday mornings in February/March 2011, and although the site is tired and seemingly run-down, there is still the air of optimism and hope, as if everything is holding its breath –waiting for the transformation.  

We explored the nooks and crannies (of which there are many) and tried to imagine what the building was like when a school.  There are so many layers of history over its 480-year life, that to absorb it as a whole is almost impossible.  

In the attic over the Tudor Hall, inscribed in the plaster near the fireplace there is the name “W. B. Darwin 1790”.  

  There are other names carved about the place, but this surname, instantly recognisable, fired my imagination to find out a bit more.  

William Brown Darwin was born at Elston Hall in 1726, the son of Robert Darwin and Elizabeth Hall.  I found a portrait of him at an early age with his mother, by Joseph Wright of Derby.  

The young William was educated at the Magnus School, and then on to Cambridge.  He became a Barrister, married Elizabeth de St Croix in 1817, had four daughters and two sons, and died in 1841.  

It is not known the circumstances of the inscription, but as these attic rooms were used as dormitories , it is not hard to imagine the circumstances when a bored, homesick schoolboy took his penknife to a blank piece of wall!

I have done some little research on William’s family and list a small tree below, with his relationship to his more famous cousin, Charles:


Robert Darwin – Elizabeth Hill





William Alvey Darwin m Jane Brown                                  Erasmus Darwin FRS MD

1726-1783                          1746-1835                                    1731-1802


WILLIAM BROWN DARWIN          Robert  Waring Darwin m Susannah  Wedgewood   1774-1841                                                                                 (daughter of Josiah)


                                                                                    CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN




There is potential for more research from this wonderful and complex building.  Many of its scholars went on to greater things – an idea for a research programme of its own!  

For example – who left the fragment of his Latin primer tucked away in part of the ceiling, in the early 1900s, only to be found in 2011.........?!



Jill Campbell

Newark Archaeological & Local History Society

This page was added by Jill Campbell, Nalhs Newark on 10/06/2011.

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