With the launch of the Newent Initiative and recent major redevelopment work within the town and lake, Newent is looking forward to moving into the next phase of its chequered life. Earmarked as a new tourist centre, the lakeside town has much history to draw on alongside its variety of attractions, facilities and shops for the new millennium.
'Noent' was first mentioned in the Doomsday Book as a sizeable town, but indications suggest there was a settlement here many centuries earlier, perhaps even in Roman times. Through Roger Earl of Hereford a monastic priory was established in the town which in turn applied to King Henry III to hold a number of fairs and a market. Dealing in Welsh cattle the market town soon prospered and the Market Hall was built along with a number of similar grand buildings. Many of these buildings were later 'clad' in brickwork, as fashion and the usage of them changed, giving the impression that the town was established at a much later date.
Around the 1600s Royal permission was granted to hold two more fairs each year and the beginnings of industrialisation saw a glassworks, a mill and the first signs of coal mining. Soon after followed an iron works; all adding to an already busy farming community which was now also diversifying in to the fruit market. The town's wealth at this time was apparent with the construction of many large brick houses and the church being rebuilt in stone quarried from Culver Street.
Unfortunately the 18th century saw Newent in recession. The roads approaching the town were worn, industry had declined and the market was a smaller affair. The local coalmines were seen as an answer with an interested party wishing to construct a canal from Ledbury via Newent to the docks at Gloucester. The work was completed and later extended to Hereford, however, the mines were soon discovered to be uneconomical and the effort of canal building was in vain as the country was embracing the latest mode of transport, the railway. Newent canal is currently being restored at Oxenhall.
In 1885 the Great Western Railway was extended to include Newent on the line to Ledbury, much of it being built over the canal, especially on the approach to Newent Station. The buttresses of the Station Bridge can still be seen, intact on station road on the northern edge of the town. This railway was to become known as the daffodil line, as acres of wild daffodils could be seen on the route through Newent. For many years people would volunteer to pick the flowers that were in turn sent by train to be donated to the hospitals of London.
As with many rural areas Lord Beeching's closure of branch line railways in 1966 left Newent isolated bar the roads. In recent years the main route to Gloucester has been upgraded and provides good access to Ross and Gloucester and part of the Newent bypass follows the same route as the canal and railway before it. As car traffic has increased the M50 motorway has taken the load off this valuable route and has provided Newent with an easily accessible link with Britain's motorway network.
Until the mid 1970s, the town's magistrate court was attached to the old police station, which now has become one of Newent's more unique attractions, The Museum of Crime. Previous to this the court was held in the building which is now the Cost Cutter supermarket. Rebuilding and land clearance over the years has meant some key buildings have been lost in the town. A large house named Holts used to sit where the health centre and new police station are now and Newent Court, a large house with its own grounds, private driveway and lake used to be located where the Lakeside estate now is. The lake, new car park and gardens were extensively redeveloped in 1998 and are a credit to Newent Town Council and the Gloucester Regiment who worked long and hard with other organisations to make this area the towns most beautiful and restful public space.
Along with the lake a several other Millennium projects have been undertaken including fourteen acres of land being planted with 4000 trees to create the Bradford's Lane Arboretum and a town centre building being converted to a Youth Cafe for local young people. Despite the redevelopment in the post war years most buildings in the town survive and are maintained well. The Council Offices became private residences after Newent was realigned under the Forest of Dean District Council. The former Parish Rooms, the Market Square, Church Street and High Street are very attractive and feature many diverse shops. Culver Street maintains its historic charm and many delightful countryside walks are featured on local maps available in the town.
Newent is a small traditional market town and a focal point for the north of the district. It is located just nine miles from Gloucester and nearby towns are Hereford, Ledbury and Ross.
Newent has a population of around 5000, serving 13 small hinterland parishes, bringing it total population to 13,293.
Please click below to view details of current Newent regeneration projects