Somerset Urban Archaeological Surveys (EUS) The Somerset EUS

Newport by Clare Gathercole

This is one of a series of reports on the archaeology of the urban (and formerly urban) areas of Somerset commissioned by English Heritage as part of its Extensive Urban Survey (EUS). The reports were prepared by Somerset County Council in 1994-98. There is a brief history of the town extracted from the report or you can download the whole report and maps in Portable Document Format (PDF).

Download Newport report

A brief history of Newport

Newport is situated on a low promontory, rising just above flood level, at the edge of the Somerset Levels. The site formed part of one of the Saxon royal manors, but no settlement is mentioned in Domesday. It was part of the estate given to Wells in 1190 and the new market town (Newport) was probably established shortly after this gift, in the early 13th century. Market and fair grants are recorded in this period, and the existence of a borough is known indirectly from Wells Cathedral manuscripts which refer to privileges associated with free burgage tenure. Also mentioned is the Bailiff of Newport, the implication being that the town was considered to be a separate entity from the parish of North Curry in which it lay. There are 14th century references to burgages in Newport (though it is not recorded as a borough in the 1334 lay subsidy) and tenants are still recorded in the 15th century. However, the town never prospered, though the parent settlement, North Curry, flourished. Part of the reason for the town's lack of success may have been the existence of established towns at Taunton, Langport and Ilminster, though none of these was less than 10 km away.

Newport gradually became almost depopulated: though the manor and a few dwellings remained, there was little sign of the medieval town by the end of the 18th century. Nevertheless, the site was still called Newport Borough on the map of 1787. Collinson (1791) mentioned the settlement, saying: "Newport was anciently distinguished as a borough having its privileges and peculiar officers; it now only retains its name." Little has changed since Collinson's time.