The privileged situation of Villanueva del Rio Segura at the natural entry point of the Ricote valley from the South-South-East direction has played a crucial role in its historical development as a crossroads that leads to other villages. The first news of its human occupants comes from the eleventh century and tells of a Roman settlement to the South of the municipality in the Paraje de Captagua, catalogued in the Regional Archaeological Map as a possible "village".
From the fourteenth century until 1502, this village was called Asnete, a Castilian version of an Arab derived word spoken by its Mudéjar inhabitants who occupied themselves with cultivating their extremely fertile fields and delicate ecosystem; they were politically dependent for centuries on the Ecomienda Santiagiusta de Ricote and religiously so on the Ulea curate, a source of innumerable disagreements which gave rise to multiple attempts at independence. During the sixteenth century, council led government alternated with other periods of strict government by the Encomienda, with the transformation of the old fifteenth century mosque into a Christian church dedicated to Saint Matthew being especially notable in 1502. When the Muslim council becomes the first Christian council and takes the name of Villanueva del Val del Ricote, the patronage also changes in favour of Nuestra Señora de Asunción; also noteworthy is the concession of Title and Privilege of the Village by Felipe II in 1588, when there were 78 neighbours (320 inhabitants), marking the start of the village's greatest development period up until the expulsion of the Moriscos in 1614. The country house was extended with the rise in the number of inhabitants from the Barrio de la Cuna, today considered a national heritage site along with the parish church, to the Barrio Alto where you can see some cave-houses in 'los casones' with flattened earth paving, some houses with thick mud and plaster walls and one or two family homes in the old Calle Empedrá that belonged to noble families like the López de Artiz of Basque origin which boasts a rear patio, a large kitchen, pantry and barn. At the end of the twelfth century and during all of the thirteenth century, the extension of the irrigation channel network allows for the spread of irrigation as a source of wealth in Villanueva del Valle or Villanueva del Rio, depending on the reference; the excess waters were used in 1933 for a new irrigation system thanks to the "La Esperanza" engine, which worked on gas, and the "Riegos Ayala" engine, thus modifying the landscape in such a way that in 1950 honoured guest Julio Caro Baroja was surprised by the sharp contrast between the dry mountains and the fields filled with fruit "wherever water could be sent". In 1953, the visit by Bishop Ramón Sanahuja y Marcé confirms the appointment of Villanueva del Rio Segura's own priest, the village having being called that since 1096, bringing to an end the secular dispute with neighbouring Ulea, with which it is joined not only via uncountable marriages but also by several rope bridges and tables destroyed by the river , by the boat "Esperanza Concordia" given as a gift by the illustrious Bishop's Secretary Jesualdo Maria Miñano López and, in the twentieth century, by the current bridge, itself nearly destroyed in 1982.
The visitor can stay in several country cottages in Villanueva and enjoy lovely views from the San Roque, La Morra and del Rio viewpoints. The riverbank makes for a lovely walk during which you will find unexpected joys like the 'Adolfico' poplar trees, Pilarica and Golgo; you can fish from the avenue down to the Rambla del Mayés where you can see several plant and animal species in rich ecosystems that will open your appetite for traditionally baked bread, wheat stew at Easter or exquisite Christmas cakes.
Fernando Rodríguez Soler
Villanueva del Río Segura Official Chronicler