Newport1 is a small market town with a population of about 10,000, located on the Shropshire/Staffordshire border. It was founded as a new town in the 12th Century in the reign of Henry I - however there has been a trading settlement on the site since Roman times. Many people see it as a typical English market town - it has a wide High Street designed for a market, with smaller streets running off it at right angles and has a church in the centre. There are many Regency and Georgian buildings, but few older structures remain due to the Great Fire of Newport, which swept through the town in 1665. The Guildhall - a Tudor building - is one of the few pre-17th Century buildings still standing.
Why is Newport called Newport?
Newport might seem an odd name for a town that is about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK, but there is actually a very good reason behind it. Newport once contained many lakes which supplied the Norman kings of England with fish, and so it gained its name. The town crest, in fact, depicts three fishes.
St. Nicholas' Church
Newport Parish Church was named after the patron saint of fishermen, St. Nicholas, showing another link to the history of the town. It was built in the reign of Henry I, and restored in 1886 and 1890 to the condition we can see it in today. The church forms a focal point of the town, sitting on an island in the middle of the road, with the High Street to one side and the cobbles of St. Mary's Street to the other. St. Nicholas' Church has a tower, from which bell-ringing can often be heard. Tours of the tower are often available on special occasions, such as the day of the Old Tyme Market. St. Nicholas' Church is a Church of England church, however Newport also boasts Catholic and Baptist churches.
Next to the church is an old, and very decayed, stone market cross, known locally as the buttercross.
One of the features of Newport is the disused canal, which runs perpendicular to the High Street and passes under it at one point. It is actually part of the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal, and there is currently a campaign to restore at least part of the canal to full working condition2. Much of the canal has been filled in, but there is still a towpath along a part of it, meaning those who live in the north-east of the town can walk along it to get to the High Street.
Although quite overgrown, the canal is still a nice place to walk. There's plenty of wildlife to be seen, including a pair of swans who make their nest on the canal each year. A photo of part of the canal, looking east from near the High Street, can be seen here.
Transport in Newport
There was once a train station in Newport, unfortunately that is now long gone. However, the town lies on the Roman road to Chester (now the A41), and Wattling Street (the A5) passes close by. There are also buses available to places such as Telford, however these are often a slow way of getting around as they visit all the surrounding villages and suburbs before getting anywhere.
What is there to do in Newport?
Although Newport is a small town, it boasts a wealth of activities so that the visitor or inhabitant need never be bored.
Newport has a good selection of shops providing most things you could want. The majority are located on or around the High Street, meaning you don't have to walk very far to do your shopping. There are supermarkets, banks and small branches of national chain stores alongside locally owned shops including book shops, jewellery shops and hairdressers to name but a few.
However, if you can't find what you want in Newport, the new town of Telford is only 10 miles away, with its Town Centre which has all the shops you could want plus a cinema, ice rink, bowling alley, library and a town park full of play equipment.
Newport is arguably one of the best places in the UK to visit if you are a sporty person, due to its proximity to the Lilleshall National Sports Centre. The Sports Centre is only a few minutes drive out of Newport and caters for most sports from gymnastics to archery, at all levels from recreational to Olympic standard. The Sports Centre was also once home to the FA Centre of Excellence, and has produced such stars as Nick Barmby and Michael Owen.
Newport itself has many sports clubs, from lawn bowls to cricket, and it also has a swimming pool and a cycling club. Newport plays host to the Newport Nocturne cycling race annually, which, as can be guessed from the name, is held after dark and is, in fact, Britain's only floodlit bike race.
There are so many social clubs and groups in Newport that you'd be very unlucky if there wasn't one you fancied joining. The Guides, Scouts and Women's Institute all have Newport branches, as does the Rotary Club. If these don't tempt you, how about joining one of the numerous choirs, the Wine Circle, the Bridge Club, or even the Meditation Group?
There is also a thriving Agricultural Society in Newport, due to its rural location and its proximity to Harper Adams University College, one of the best establishments in the country for studies relating to agriculture and farming.
Newport has plenty of infant, junior and primary schools, including Church of England and Catholic schools. It also boasts three secondary schools. The Burton Borough School is a comprehensive which has its own recording studio. Newport Girls' High School is a selective girls' school complete with 6th form, which attracts pupils from all around the county and further afield. Adams' Grammar School, founded in 1665, is a boys' selective school, again with 6th form3. It has a certain number of places for boarders, and as such attracts pupils from as far away as London.
Events in Newport
Newport hosts a few annual events, one of which is the Carnival. All the local groups and societies are encouraged to enter a float in the parade along the High Street to the carnival field where you will find fairground rides and sideshows, live entertainment and stands from the local societies and charities.
Another annual event is the Old Tyme Market which takes place on St. Mary's Street, which is closed for the day. The street is lined with stalls and sideshows, and all the stallholders are asked to dress in old-time music hall type clothing. There are also a few fairground rides at one end of the street.
Newport has plenty of pubs of different sizes and styles, however it only has one night club, Mainstreet4, so it isn't the best place to be for a wild night on the tiles. However, Stafford and Shrewsbury are both less than an hours drive away, and both of these places have a little more in the way of nightlife.