Issue No. 25 July 2007 (£1.20)
Lenton Priory endured a turbulent history, particularly during the 13th and 14th centuries. Successive Priors had to cope with crippling debts, threats of destruction by the Papacy and the greed of English kings, who continually exploited the priory's revenue to fund wars against France. David Pilling's article outlines how the priory managed to survive and emerge at the end of the 14th century as a secure and respected English religious house.
The Last Days of Lenton Priory (3 pages)
David Marcombe is Director of the Centre for Local Studies at Nottingham University. In 1999 he had an article entitled The Last Days of Lenton Priory published in a selection of essays called Studies in Church History: Subsidia 12: Life and Thought in the Northern Church c.1100-c.1700. With the author's permission, we have constructed our own, much-condensed version of Dr. Marcombe's article. The Last Days of Lenton Priory looks at the period from 1529 onwards when Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's chief advisor, sought to move the country gradually towards Protestantism and independence from Rome. By 1536 Henry VIII's government had started to dissolve the smaller monasteries – those institutions that had less than a dozen monks or nuns, and endowments of less than £200 per annum. In the autumn of that year the Lincolnshire Rising and the Pilgrimage of Grace took place which sought, among other things, to halt this process of dissolution. This rebellion clearly hardened the heart of Thomas Cromwell and convinced him that every monastery was a source of potential treason. The second phase of the suppression now began with the voluntary surrender of the larger houses. 1537 was to be a decisive year and Lenton Priory was destined to play a significant part in that year's events. The following year the Prior of Lenton, Nicholas Heath, and Ralph Swenson, one of the other Lenton monks were sentenced to death and were hanged in Nottingham. Only one other monk in the whole of Nottinghamshire suffered a similar fate. David Marcombe's article offers an explanation as to why the lives of Nicholas Heath and Ralph Swenson should have ended in this way.
The Strettons and 'The Priory' (3 pages)
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, apart from the former hospital chapel of St. Anthony which had been converted intoThe only known image of William Stretton painted by William Corden in 1823. Lenton's parish church, little physically remained of the former priory. The site was now bought by William Stretton and in 1802 he designed and built a house there for his own use, which was known as 'The Priory'. William Stretton had initially been in business with his father, Samuel Stretton, and together they had been responsible for the construction of a number of prominent buildings in the Nottingham locality. William Stretton exhibited a life long passion for all sorts of antiquities and became the leading antiquarian in the county. This interest may explain why he took the opportunity to acquire the Priory site. During the construction of his new home it is known that he unearthed and removed a large number of medieval tiles and went on to uncover other portions of the priory. After William's death in 1828 his son, Sempronius Stretton inherited 'The Priory', and after Sempronius's death in 1842 the house became the property of his younger brother, Severus Stretton. Sempronius generally lived elsewhere and Severus never lived at 'The Priory' during the time he owned it. Instead the building was usually rented out and what has been uncovered about the various tenants who resided there is explored in the course of this article. We presume that it was Severus Stretton who sold 'The Priory' to the Sisters of Nazareth in 1880 and their occupancy of the building is described in other articles included in this issue.
Nazareth House, Nottingham (5 pages)
Victoire Larmenier came to England from France with a small group of religious women and settled in London in 1851. Here she founded the Congregation of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth and became known as Mother St. Basil. The Sisters took it upon themselves to care for the aged poor along with abandoned and homeless children. Their base in Hammersmith became known as 'Nazareth House'. The Sisters then established bases elsewhere in the country and by 1878, the year of Mother St. Basil's death, they were running eight Nazareth Houses in various parts of the country. One of these was in Nottingham and this had been established in early 1876. The house they occupied in St. Ann's soon became too small for them and so in 1880 the Sisters of Nazareth moved to 'The Priory' in Lenton. The extensive grounds that came with 'The Priory' meant there was plenty of room for further expansion and over the years additional buildings were added to the Lenton site. While boys featured in the early years and also in more recent times, Nazareth House tended to focus its efforts on looking after girls. They were all brought up in the Catholic faith and until the 1940s also received their schooling from the nuns. There had always been elderly residents living at Nazareth House and in the early 1980s it was decided that the whole of the Lenton site should be converted into facilities for the elderly. Any children still resident there in 1984 were found alternative accommodation. This remained the state of play until 2002 when it was announced that the Nazareth House at Nottingham was to close. A number of other homes around the country would also close and the properties be sold off. The money raised would be used to carry out improvements at the remaining Nazareth Houses to ensure they met the government's new requirements. The Sisters of Nazareth had also been faced with a reduction in the number of women wishing to become nuns and closing some of their homes would help them to address this problem. The sale of the Lenton site was finally completed in 2005. Bought by Bryant Homes, all the buildings, except for 'The Priory', have now been demolished and the site is being used for a new housing estate to be known as 'Priory Crescent'.
Life at Nazareth House (4 pages)
Dolores Draper, nee McDonald, then aged five years old, came to live at Nazareth House in 1951, along with five of her sisters. It was to become her permanent home for the next ten years. In a detailed account Dolores recalls what life was like there in the 1950s. When she was sixteen Dolores was offered the option of staying on but decided that she wanted to experience life away from the nuns. In later years she came to feel she had made the wrong decision and would have been far happier had she stayed. Dolores continued to come back for visits until the 1980s. So it was quite a shock for her to drive along Abbey Street in October 2005 and find the buildings being demolished. She stopped and talked to one of the workmen who was prompted to give her a brick from the church. The brick is now a cherished possession in her Cambridgeshire home!
Digging up the Past (2 pages)
This article briefly summaries what has come to light from the various archaeological digs undertaken during the last century on the site of the Lenton Priory complex. The first of these was carried out by staff and pupils of the newly opened Cottesmore Boys School while the most recent was the 1976 dig which confirmed the location of a Lady Chapel.
The 1976 Archaeological Dig (2 pages)
Members of what was then Lenton Local History Group were invited to participate in a hurriedly convened dig on the priory site in December 1976. Cliff and Maureen Voisey were among the handful of people who heeded the call and they recall what came to light in the course of their seven days of toil.
A Conjectured Layout of Lenton Priory (1 page)
Various digs had taken place on the Priory Site in the 1940s and early 1950s and these were written up in The Transactions of the Thoroton Society Vol.56 (1952) by R.H. Elliott and A.E. Berbank. These excavations had brought sufficient evidence to light to permit the authors to construct a map showing the probable layout of the priory. A slightly modified version of this map is featured in our magazine - one that also shows the position of the Lady Chapel which was identified in 1976.
The Nazareth House Time Capsule (2 pages)
It had been hoped that excavations for the new housing development on the site of Nazareth House would bring to light further evidence of the priory. However this was not the case. The only thing of historic interest to be found on the site was of much more recent origin. When Nazareth House's new church was being built in 1951 the Bishop of Nottingham came and laid the foundation stone at a special ceremony. At the same time a time capsule containing various items with religious connections or specific links with Nazareth House was interred in the walls of the new church. Neil Hough found this time capsule while working for the demolition company. He decided to hand it over to Lenton Local History Society so that the contents could be kept in its archive. A composite photograph of what was in the time capsule accompanies this short article
Local Listings (1 page)
Nottingham Canal: A History and Guide by Bernard Chell pub. in 2006 by Tempus Publishing
Lenton Times - Issue 25 - Downloadable PDF Version
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