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Newark Penny Loaf Day

Penny Loaf Day in Newark-on-Trent dates back to the English Civil War (1642–1651) and a local man named Hercules Clay, who lived in Market Place (next to the Town Hall). John Ingram gives the following account in ‘The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain’ (1897), ’On the 11th of March every year, penny loaves are given away in this place, at the Town Hall, to all such poor persons as choose to apply for them. This custom originated in the following way. During the bombardment of Newark by the Parliamentarian troops under Oliver Cromwell, a certain Alderman Clay dreamed on three successive nights that his house had taken fire. Impressed by the persistence and vividness of these dreams, the worthy magistrate removed with his family to another residence, and a few days later, on the 11th of March, sure enough his vacated house was burnt down by the besiegers' fire. In gratitude for what he considered his miraculous preservation, Alderman Clay, by his will, dated the 11th of December 1694, left two hundred pounds in trust to the Mayor and Aldermen of Newark for the time being. The interest of half this money has to be paid to the vicar annually, conditionally upon his preaching an appropriate sermon, and the interest of the other half has to be expended in bread for distribution among the poor in the way specified above.’

These days Penny Loaf Day is celebrated on the Sunday nearest the 11th March with a procession from the Town Hall to the church of St Mary Magdalene. The loaves are distributed to local charities.

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