From 'The Lenton Listener' Issue 29
June - July 1984
1984 - A Year For Celebration
Lenton Priory Church
In the early part of the nineteenth century the population of the villages around the periphery of Nottingham began to increase rapidly as people and businesses moved out of town to avoid the dreadful over-crowding there. Lenton was no exception and from the 1820s houses began to appear in what became known as the New Lenton area. The church in Old Lenton was soon considered to be too small and too far away effectively to serve these new inhabitants. So in 1841 a start was made on a new church, in what later became known as Church Street. Once Holy Trinity was in use, the little church in Old Lenton was considered surplus to requirements. Most of the monuments were transferred to the new church, the building closed down, and even partially demolished to provide materials for a chapel of ease being erected in Hyson Green. Unused for a number of years, the chancel and vestry were eventually blocked off from the derelict nave and services were resumed there for those in Old Lenton who preferred more intimate surroundings for their devotions.
In the second half of the century new houses began to spring up in Old Lenton and Dunkirk began to be more than the odd farm building. Once more the church building at Old Lenton proved too small for all the potential churchgoers in the area. In the early 1880s the decision was taken to re-establish the church properly and erect a new nave. It had always been thought that the church had originally been created by converting the chapel of the hospital of St. Anthony (*). During the building works of 1884 this was confirmed when the foundations of this ancient chapel were discovered.
The two photographs which accompany this article are courtesy of
the Lenton Local History Society. The one above clearly shows the
state of the building before 1884. The chancel is intact but little is
left of the nave, and what remains, is largely obscured by the
luxuriant growth of ivy.
Furthermore evidence was obtained which proved that the walls of the chancel had formed part of the ancient chapel itself. Evidently the parish church had been constructed some time after the dissolution of the Priory, by adding a new and wider nave to the chancel of the hospital chapel. Examination of the old stonework during the 1884 restoration work made it clear that the nave for the parish church had been constructed from stone taken from the Priory itself. Until 1842 the church had been dedicated to the Holy and Undivided Trinity, but when the church at New Lenton adopted this title, the old church was later rededicated to Saint Anthony. Most people, however, will know it as the Priory Church.
1984 is an important year for the congregation of the Priory Church, as it is now just one hundred years since the rebuilding work took place. A special week-end of celebration is planned for the 7th and 8th of July. The church will be open on the Saturday from 11 a.m. until 7 pm. Visitors will be able to examine photographs, slides and documents relating to the church, Priory and the local area supplied by the Lenton Local History Group. There will be other exhibitions and children from Dunkirk Primary School are to give displays of country dancing including a performance of the Lenton Skippety dance. At twelve, three and five o'clock there will be the chance to take a guided walk around the area, starting from the church. Although not strenuous, many may subsequently welcome the chance to rest and take refreshment in the Priory Church Hall, which will be open between 12 and 5 pm. On Sunday the Bishop of Sherwood, the Rt. Rev. Richard Darby, has agreed to conduct the morning service which begins at 10.30 a.m. In the case of the evening service starting at 6 p.m., the special visitor will be the Rev. J. Ginever, a familiar name in Lenton as his father, Fred, was once Curate at the Priory, while his uncle, Edwin, held a similar position at Holy Trinity.
(*) Erected within the precincts of Lenton Priory, the Hospital of St. Anthony was a charitable institution, run by the monks for those suffering from St. Anthony's Fire. Sufferers were afflicted with intolerable burning pains; their limbs would turn black and gangrenous and eventually fall off. It was actually caused by eating bread made from rye seed infected with an ergot fungus. The monks did what they could to ease the suffering, but were unaware of the cause or the fact that it couldn't be transmitted from person to person. As a precaution the sufferers were kept away from the general populace and so attended services within the specially erected hospital chapel.