Newcastle-under-Lyme is a market town in Staffordshire, England, and is the principal settlement in the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme. It is part of The Potteries Urban Area and North Staffordshire. In the 2001 census the town had a population of 73,944. It is not to be confused with the city of Newcastle upon Tyne.
The "Newcastle" part of the name derives from being the location of a new castle in the 12th century. The "Lyme" section could refer to the Lyme Brook or the extensive Forest of Lyme that covered the area with lime trees in the mediæval period.
Newcastle is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, as it grew up around the 12th century castle, but it must early have become a place of importance, for a charter, known only through a reference in a charter to Preston, was given to the town by Henry II of England in 1173. The new castle was built to supersede an older fortress at Chesterton about two miles to the north, the ruins of which were to be seen up to the end of the 16th century.
In 1235 Henry III constituted it a free borough, granting a guild merchant and other privileges. In 1251 he leased it at fee-farm to the burgesses. In 1265 Newcastle was granted by the Crown to Simon de Montfort, and subsequently to Edmund Crouchback, through whom it passed to Henry IV. In John Leland's time the castle had disappeared "save one great Toure".
Newcastle did not feature much in the English Civil War, save a Royalist plundering. However, it was the hometown of Major Thomas Harrison a Cromwellian army officer and leader of the fanatical Fifth Monarchy Men.
The governing charter in 1835 which created the Newcastle-under-Lyme Municipal Borough absorbed the previous borough created through the charters of 1590 and 1664, under which the title of the corporation, was the "mayor, bailiffs and burgesses of Newcastle-under-Lyme."
When Stoke-on-Trent was formed by the 1910 amalgamation of the "six towns" (Stoke, Hanley, Fenton, Longton, Burslem and Tunstall) Newcastle remained separate. Despite its close proximity, it was not directly involved in the pottery industry, and it strongly opposed attempts to add it in 1930 with a postcard poll showing residents opposing it by a majority of 97.4%. Although passed by the House of Commons, it was rejected by the House of Lords. Newcastle sent two members to parliament from 1355 to 1885, when it lost one representative.
Following the Local Government Act 1972 it became the principal settlement of the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Like neighbouring Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle's early economy was based around hatting trade, silk and cotton mills. Later coal mining, brick manufacture, iron casting and engineering rose to prominence. Very fine red earthenware and also soft-paste porcelain tableware (the first such production in Staffordshire) was produced in Newcastle at Samuel Bell's factory in Lower Street between 1724 and 1754 when all production ceased. With the exception of a failed enterprise between 1790 and 1797, which then switched to brewing, there was no further commercial production of pottery within the town of Newcastle. Production of earthenware tiles however continued at several locations within the borough. Manufacture of fine bone china was re-established in the borough in 1963 by Mayfair Pottery at Chesterton.
The manufacture in the borough of clay tobacco smoking pipes started about 1637 and grew rapidly and was second only to hatting within the borough. Nationally, the town was ranked with Chester, York and Kingston upon Hull as the four major pipe producers. This industry continued until the mid-19th century when decline set in rapidly and by 1881 only one tobacco pipe maker was left.
In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries the town had a flourishing felt hat manufacturing industry, which was probably at its peak locally in the 1820s when a third of the town's population were involved in the industry in over 20 factories but by 1892 there was only one manufacturer still in production in the town.
The town has been the birthplace of several notable politicians and activists. Fanny Deakin was a campaigner for better nourishment for babies and young children and better maternity care for mothers. The former chairwoman of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Janet Bloomfield (née Hood) is a peace and disarmament campaigner. Vera Brittain writer, feminist (and mother of Liberal Democrat Shirley Williams) was born in the town.
There have been two particularly notable Members of Parliament (MPs). Josiah Wedgwood IV was a Liberal, Independent and Labour Party MP, who served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the cabinet of Ramsay MacDonald, in the first ever Labour government. He was an MP from 1909 to 1942. John Golding was elected as a Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme at a by-election in 1969. He served in the governments of Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, as PPS to Eric Varley as Minister of Technology, a Labour whip in opposition, and Minister for Employment, stepping down in 1986. The current MP is Paul Farrelly.
The town was once served by the North Staffordshire Railway, its station being on a branch line from Stoke-on-Trent via Newcastle, Silverdale and Keele, to Market Drayton in Shropshire. Newcastle station opened in September 1852, after numerous construction difficulties involving the two tunnels of 605 yards and 96 yards respectively at Hartshill. There were also two halts to the west of Newcastle station, located at Brampton and Liverpool Road. The section from Silverdale to Market Drayton closed to passengers in May 1956 and the rest of the line in March 1964. Only a small section remained from Madeley to Silverdale, and from Silverdale to Holditch and this was for coal traffic from the local collieries. The line from Newcastle Junction to Silverdale has been removed, with the site of Newcastle station and the Hartshill tunnels being filled in.
Newcastle was on the national canal network, but the canal, running from the Trent and Mersey Canal at Stoke-on-Trent to Sir Nigel Gresley's Canal has been disused since 1935 and most of it filled in.