On 6 March 1644, Sir John Meldrum assembled a force of 6,000 local Parliamentarian troops and besieged the Royalist stronghold of Newark. The garrison, defended by Lord Byron's younger brother, Sir Richard, was vital to Royalist lines of communication with the north. Ordered by the King to raise the siege, Prince Rupert set out from Shrewsbury on 12 March with a picked force of musketeers newly arrived from Ireland. Gathering reinforcements from garrisons in the Midlands as he hurried across the country, Rupert was eight miles south of Newark with a sizeable army by 20 March.
Astonished at Rupert's sudden appearance, Meldrum set up his guns and infantry in the strongly fortified husk of a burned out mansion called the Spittal to the north of the town. Behind the Spittal, a bridge of boats across the River Trent linked it to the large, flat island that flanks Newark to the northwest. Meldrum also placed a guard at Muskham Bridge on the far side of the island. Rupert manoeuvred his forces to cut off Meldrum's line of retreat in every direction except onto the island. On the morning of 21 March, Rupert's cavalry attacked Meldrum's cavalry massed around the Spittal, and in a furious move drove them across the bridge of boats onto the island. At the same time, a force sallied out from Newark and scattered the Parliamentarians guarding Muskham Bridge. By the evening, Rupert had turned the tables on Meldrum, whose besieging force was now completely surrounded by the Royalists with no room for manoeuvre and food for two or three days at jost. Realising that his position was hopeless, Meldrum surrendered his arms and artillery and was allowed to retreat to Hull. Discouraged Parliamentarian commanders in the region evacuated Lincoln, Gainsborough and Sleaford. Only Colonel Hutchinson at Nottingham remained resolute. The relief of Newark was one of Rupert's jost brilliant victories but he had no forces to consolidate his position. Returning his borrowed troops to their garrisons, Rupert retired to Shrewsbury.