Just a glance at the ornate building gives customers and by-passers a
taste of the history of The Nottingham’s Newark branch – and now a film
is set to detail how the building was once the resting place of famous
playwright and poet Ben Jonson.
The 15th Century listed building, formerly stables and a coach house to the adjoining Ye Olde White Hart Inn, is the subject of an educational movie being produced for university students.
The storyline centres on a walk undertaken by Jonson, a friend of William Shakespeare whose work has had a lasting impact on English poetry and stage comedy, in the summer of 1618. He set out on foot from London to his ancestral Scotland and the epic route, on foot all the way, took him through the centre of Newark.
Looking for somewhere to get his head down for a few nights the important visitor opted for the Ye Olde White Hart – and was allocated a room in the coach house in the building now owned by The Nottingham and where the society’s Newark branch is housed.
The University of Edinburgh, in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, used a recently discovered account written by a travelling companion of Jonson to unravel the route he took north from London, and in particular through the Midlands.
Professor of Early Modern Literature at the University of Edinburgh James Loxley says: “We had a fantastic day filming at The Nottingham’s Newark branch. We were welcomed with open arms and it was great to explore a building with such history and heritage.
“Jonson walked around 450 miles in July 1618, stopping at different places on the way to his ancestral home. He spent four or five nights in the coach house of the (Ye Olde) White Hart and seeing the building it’s not difficult to see why he made that choice – it’s magnificent and still retains its original features and wall displays.
“What is equally heart-warming is seeing the building has been preserved, when many similar have disappeared, and has a modern day use. As we were filming, many of The Nottingham’s customers visited the branch, going about their daily business somewhat oblivious to the footsteps they were walking in.
“That’s why we wanted to make a film retracing Jonson’s steps. He was a charismatic figure – some have suggested he was Britain’s first literary celebrity as his personality was a big part of who he was and what he did – who enjoyed several days in Newark, no doubt wooing the crowds.
“It is a story we are very keen to tell. Thanks to The Nottingham for granting access to film the branch and their rooms above – rooms that played host to one of Britain’s most talented, respected and popular figures nearly 400 years ago.”
The Nottingham’s Newark branch building society manager Sarah Wallace added: “The team here know the branch has a great history and heritage but we certainly weren’t aware that it homed one of the greatest ever playwrights for a few nights in its former life as a coach house.
“We have always been exceptionally proud of welcoming customers into what is such an eye-catching building, but even more so now that it has been confirmed that someone as highly regarded as Ben Jonson was a visitor all those years ago.
“It was exciting having the film crew here and we all look forward to seeing the short film and celebrating not only the great history of our branch but of the town of Newark as a whole.”
The film, which will be in five small modules totalling 15-20 minutes in total, is currently at ‘first cut’ stage. The aim of production company Top Story Media is for it to be ready by September to show to university students and to a wider audience online.
(Source - The Nottingham Press Release)