The historical evidence for Gotowre-Super-Mare comes in a variety of forms, some of which describes the foundation of the new borough upon which this research is based, whilst some detail the wider area from which information about the foundation and failure of Gotowre-Super-Mare can be gleamed.
The first date to which we know about Gotowre comes from the charters granted in 1286. In the first borough charter, from January 1286, Edward I appointed two men, Richard de Bosco and Walter de Marisco to:
“Lay out with sufficient streets and lanes, and adequate sites for a market and church and plots for merchants and others, a new town with a harbour in a place called Gotowre Super Mare, in the parish of Stodlaunde [Studland].”
(Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1286)
Five months later, in May 1286, Edward granted “to the burgesses of Nova Villa…of all the liberties granted to the citizens of London as set forth in the Charter to Melcombe.” Also granted was permission to hold “weekly markets at their borough on Tuesday and Friday in each week, and of a yearly fair there on St. Lawrence tide.” (Calendar of Charter Rolls, 1286)
From this evidence it is clear that Edward I had intended that the new town should be built in the parish of Studland, and was given generous privileges so that the town would become quickly occupied and thus provide him with financial gain through the market business and the import and exports through the newly built harbour which would serve the busy Purbeck marble trade which was reaching its peak at this time. The foundation charter suggests that a number of features would have been planned to be constructed at the earliest stage of the towns’ development. These are:
- Streets and lanes
- Market place
- Burgage plots
As there is no mention of the town at the Assize of 1288, just two years after its foundation charter was granted, the next date that anything is known from Gotowre, is that in 1326, in the Rent of Assize, 28s 6d is paid by the hands of the burgesses, to Corfe, at Pentecost, Lammas and Michaelmas in equal portions. On top of this, 9d is paid by the burgesses at Newton for laying out nets. The sums here, although not massive, do suggest that there was at least some settlement at Newton forty years after its foundation. It also shows that Gotowre had taken the name Newton at an early stage. The laying of nets may represent those required for fishing, or as at Middlebere, may have been used to catch wild fowl on the king’s land, in either case it is not considered a typical urban activity (Hinton, 2002). On the basis of this limited evidence it could be suggested therefore that the settlement may have either grown or gone into decline by 1326, or indeed had never grown into anything more than a small hamlet or village in the first instance.
The Dorset Lay Subsidies of 1327 and 1332 do not contain separate entries for Gotowre-super-Mare or indeed to Newton as it is referred to in the 1326 Assizes. Whilst it is acknowledged that “1327 county roll survives only in a mutilated condition”, this should not affect any potential entry for Newton as it is believed that only the Knowlton Hundred and the tithings of Symondsbury and Stockland are missing. Ower, or Owre, paid a sum of 2s. 8d. whilst Corfe paid 24s. 7d. There is nothing to state that any money came from Newton or that it was included with any other entries. Much the same can be seen in the Lay Subsidy of 1332 where Ower, or Ere, paid 3s. and Corfe paid 30s. 3d. Once again there is no entry for Newton.
It is curious to note, from Anne Horsfall’s work on the woodland in medieval Dorset, in “1282…ninety-two pieces of timber coming from Hampshire, landing the same at Ore [Ower], and carrying them to Corfe…”(Horsfall, 1997: 119). From this it is possible to suggest that just four years before the foundation charter for Gotowre, Ower, just a mile to the north west of Newton Farm, is a major quay serving Corfe Castle. Horsfall also notes that in “1362…eighty oaks…and six others…procured at Beuleu…there to Ower…and to Corfe…” (Horsfall, 1997: 119). Therefore, 76 years after Gotowre’s foundation date, it is clear that the new town had not totally replaced the quay at Ower as the main port for Corfe. This does not rule out the possibility of two quays functioning close by.
The Dorset Tudor Subsidies of 1525, 1544 and 1594 tell the same story as the Lay Subsidies of two centuries earlier. Whilst Ower, Studland and Corfe all have entries it is noticeable that Newton is not mentioned and it must be suggested that if there was any properties at Newton during the sixteenth century then any tax was minimal and paid under another entry. Perhaps it is curious that the surname Hayward, or Haywarde, is mentioned in each of these years in the entries for Studland. From 1492 the Hayward family owned Newton Farm with John Hayward holding a tenement at Newton in 1586 and therefore it is possible that any income from Newton may have been included with the Hayward’s sums in the Studland entry.
An examination of the Dorset Tudor Muster Rolls once again says nothing of Newton. In the 1569 roll nine names are recorded from Ower and Rollington and a further ten from Studland. It is again possible that any people living at Newton may have been recorded under a different entry.
In summary, the historical evidence of settlement at Gotowre-Super-Mare or Newton suggests only a small rural settlement existed forty years after the foundation of the town was sanctioned by Edward I. It may be that this settlement continued on the site and was considered part of another administrative centre in taxation records from this point onwards. From the research above there is clearly no evidence suggesting that between 1286 and 1326 that any substantial settlement was laid out, grew and was deserted. Further research is to try and establish whether any ground-works took place or any buildings were constructed, though the exact site of these remain difficult to establish with certainty.