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Reader’s letter: Honour needed for pioneer

I recently watched with interest an episode of BBC's Bargain Hunt that was filmed in Newark.

I was heartened to see presenter Charlie Ross wandering through our little town and discussing some of the familiar historic buildings but was then surprised and shocked to realise I’d never heard of the pioneering Newark woman that Mr Ross spoke about.

A 20-year-old Emily Blagg came to Newark in 1883 after securing a job at Coopers, a local factory that made quality clothes for the wealthy. Local historian Vivian Hall advised how Emily did very well, often travelling to Paris to buy fine silks for the company.

Letter stock image
Letter stock image

After 20 years she went into partnership with an American (or possibly Australian) Frank Mill Hill Johnson making bricks and eventually became a property developer.

She bought land and built desirable houses, using her own bricks, in the road she named The Park (which remain today) in Lime Grove and Cross Street she built affordable rental houses for local workers, again that still remain attractive sturdy houses.

Emily’s contribution to Newark life didn't end there. After the First World War she bought the 17th century Chantry House on Appletongate and built her Palace of Dreams she oversaw the whole development from finance to quantity surveyance, and our wonderful Palace Theatre was born.

She faced setbacks during her career. It appeared successful women were not applauded in that male dominated era....also her partner absconded at one point with all the working capital, and it took her a decade to rebuild the business.

Emily Blagg was indeed a pioneering woman with also a social conscience.

Being born, bred, schooled, and having worked in Newark, I am amazed that I have never been introduced to or stumbled over Emily's story.

In the words of a friend/ parish church chorister/ semi-retired paramedic and mechanic and musician extraordinaire “every day is a revelation”.

As far as I know Emily has not been honoured in Newark in any way.

If anyone is aware of anything I would be interested to know, if not perhaps I should venture to organise a plaque or something. — LINDA BENNETT, via email.

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