Contributed by J.T. Worgan
According to the historical records and the directory of Newcastle-under-Lyme (2nd edition 1881) in order to ascertain the origin of Newcastle-under-Lyme it is necessary first to refer to Chesterton, a village about 2 miles to the North. It appears beyond doubt that the name given to the former was derived from a new castle erected in the 12th C in lieu of the then decayed old castle or fortress at the latter place. This has never been proved despite numerous Roman coins being found on a farm close to Chesterton which strengthens evidence that there was formerly a Roman station at that place.
It is interesting therefore that Newcastle-under-Lyme never featured in the Doomsday Book, commissioned by William the Conqueror. The work was carried out quickly because it was brought to the king before the end of 1086 but in an unfinished state. Work on the Doomsday Book came to an end shortly after the death of William in 1087 and was never completely finished.
In an article entitled Medieval Newcastle-under-Lyme – A Hidden Doomsday Borough (Staffordshire Studies Vol. III (1990-1991) pages 1-21 Robin Studd states that In 1086 the territory occupied from the middle of the 12th C by the town of Newcastle-under-Lyme lay within the manor of Trentham approximately 3 miles to the north of the vill. It is therefore to the Trentham entry in the Staffordshire Doomsday account that we should look for possible evidence of the settlement’s earliest days.
I append the following Trentham entry :-
THE LAND OF THE KING In Seisdon Hundred
The King holds Trentham //There is 1 hide.
There is land for three ploughs. In demesne is 1(plough): and 5 villains with a border and a reeve have 3 ½ ploughs.
There is a priest and 1 freeman have 2 ploughs and (there are) 3 villains and 6 borders with 1 plough. There is a woodland 1 league long and a half broad. TRE it was worth 100sh: now 115sh.
In the above mentioned article, Mr Studd argues that the entry for Trentham is most unusual and in fact comprises a double entry – that is for 2 locations, one of which because of the feudal geography of the area is almost certainly Newcastle, not as a town but as a vill (the other relates to Trentham clearly) It would be easy to dismiss this as a clerical error or further evidence of the haste with which the Doomsday was compiled, but neither explanation seems to be the case. However tantalisingly brief, the details given are deliberately provided and as such constitute a very unusual entry indeed. There is no comparable entry in the Staffordshire Survey.
Finally Mr. Studd states that the Newcastle entry predates other references to Newcastle by about 50 years but explains why in the 12thC, when records of Newcastle first appeared (and Newcastle is recorded in the very first Pipe Roll) it appears as a going urban settlement. This then could explain why the old township was renamed Newcastle-under-Lyme with the building of the castle.
[The Author wishes to thank Mr. Robin Studd for his permission to quote from the above named article. Any other comments are those of the author.]