The village of Balderton is mentioned in Domesday and there was possibly a church of Saxon origin although no trace of this has ever been found.
The church was already destined for grandeur before the spire was built. The crossing, and the lower part of the tower, including the wonderful west doorway, date from a 13th century building phase. Records show that six oaks from Sherwood Forest were donated to the building by Henry III.
Later the church acquired fine features of the Perpendicular period, such as the spacious, high nave with its slender piers and beautiful clerestory; the huge windows of the transepts and the east end are now the largest with Victorian glass of 1864 in memory of Prince Albert; and the pinnacled two storey south porch. The rood screen and the choir stalls, with their 26 misericords, are of a similar date, as is the unusually long row of sedilia in the Lady Chapel.
A much more recent highlight of the interior is the gilded reredos above the High Altar, a 1937 work by Sir Ninian Comper. The stained glass is nearly all Victorian or later, but the Holy Spirit Chapel has a window remade in 1957 using many assorted fragments of St Mary's surviving medieval glass. The glass on the north side of the church was almost all blown out by a freak storm in 1903, after which nearly 4,000 individual panes had to be replaced.
An intriguing feature on the outside of the Markham Chantry Chapel, south of the high altar, is a macabre yet creepily endearing painting of a dancing cadaver, one of two surviving panels depicting the Dance of Death, intended as a memento mori.
Among Newark's collection of interesting monuments, note several smartly coloured and gilded 17th century wall tablets; the Markham monument of 1601 with figures framed by classical columns and pediment; and the large Flemish brass of 1361 to wool merchant and church benefactor Alan Fleming.