The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 1 - October 1988

Golden Jubilees

As one journeys in and out of Nottingham along the Derby Road the traveller passes the churches of St. Mary's, Wollaton Park and St. Barnabas, Lenton Abbey. Those who have the opportunity and inclination to compare these two buildings will quickly realise that they are similar in style; a fact which is quite understandable given that both were designed by the same architect, built at the same time and share the same major benefactor. This year both congregations have been celebrating their churches' fiftieth anniversary, an added reason for the inclusion of this brief account in the magazine.

St. Mary’s Foundation Stone Laying ceremony. Reverend Skipper
leads the assembled dignitaries.

The new housing estates of Wollaton Park and Lenton Abbey were well underway by the late 1920s, but as yet lacked any church buildings. The two existing Anglican churches in Lenton were situated just too far away and so the Rev. Rainald Skipper (appointed Vicar of Lenton in 1929), along with his Parochial Church Council, decided that the housing estates should each have buildings of their own to serve the spiritual needs of those living there. A temporary hall at Lenton Abbey was St. Mary's quickly erected and officially opened in March 1930. William Goodacre Player, a son of the founder of the Players cigarette business met the cost of this building. Although W.G. Player was by then living at Whatton Manor, he had previously resided at Lenton Hurst on Adams Hill.

T. Cecil Howitt, architect of Nottingham's Council House building, was asked to prepare a design for the church and hall on a piece of land near Lenton Lodge on Derby Road. The Reverend Skipper, who had been a practising architect before entering the ministry, came up with his own design for the church at Lenton Abbey. The money needed for both sets of buildings was estimated at £25,000 and in 1932 an appeal was launched to try and raise this sum. Donations were received and certain monies generated by organising social events etc. But the appeal was a long way from reaching its target, when W.G. Player offered to pay all the costs of the Wollaton Park church and also to donate a substantial sum towards the Lenton Abbey buildings.

In the end T. Cecil Howitt drew up the plans for both sets of church buildings. In the case of the Wollaton Park church, eventually to be called St. Mary's, the original designs were quite radically altered. It is suggested that this was at the behest of Mr. Player who while on holiday at Bournemouth had seen a church there that he had particularly liked. Anyone who has the opportunity of visiting the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Bournemouth can judge for themselves in what ways the style of that church's architecture were incorporated into St. Mary's, Wollaton Park.

On Saturday 24th July 1937 ceremonies were held for the laying of the foundation stone of St. Mary's and that of the church at Lenton Abbey (St. Barnabas). A box containing coins, copies of the plans and Nottingham newspapers of the day were placed under each stone. Following completion of the buildings St. Barnabas was officially consecrated on 25th July 1938 while St. Mary's own ceremony occurred just four months later on 26th November. Initially St. Barnabas and St. Mary were treated as daughter churches of Holy Trinity, Lenton and the incumbents' curates under the supervision of the Rev. Skipper. Although the congregations at both these new churches soon became eager to be independent of their mother church, the Rev. Skipper always ruled to the contrary. However, following the Vicar's sudden death an 26th September 1954 while preaching the sermon at Holy Trinity church, Trinity Square, Nottingham (now demolished), the Diocese viewed renewed requests more favourably.

In July 1955 the Church and district of St. Barnabas, Lenton Abbey formally became an Ecclesiastical Area independent of the parish of Lenton and the Rev. Ronald Wilson, formerly curate in Lenton, became priest-in-charge. In November 1955 St. Mary's Church, Wollaton Park became a Conventional District - the first step in becoming a separate parish with the Rev. E. Strickland as priest-in-charge. Separate parish status was subsequently achieved in February 1957. This state of affairs continued until 1977 when, although the two parishes were not officially joined together, the vicar of St. Mary's was asked by the bishop to become priest-in-charge at St Barnabas - an arrangement which prevails to the present day.

The bulk of celebrations for the golden jubilees appear to have centred on St. Mary's. Early in the year a party from the congregation, led by the vicar, visited the Holy Land on a ten-day tour. The archdeacon of Nottingham, Rev. Clive Handford, came to the church at the beginning of the year and since then several former incumbents have been invited back to preach and renew old friendships. The last of the special visitors is expected to be the new Bishop of Southwell in November. Alterations were recently carried out at the back of the church; pews were removed, the floor carpeted and a number of bookshelves erected. This has created an area where church members can meet and talk without causing an obstruction. It has also generated a space so that a display of old photographs relating to the history of the church could be put up. For the jubilee a variety of souvenirs have been produced - pens, pencils, note pads etc. all marked 'St. Mary's Wollaton Park 1938 - 1988. Also available are decorative, tea towels and a history of St. Mary's - but more of these last mentioned anon.

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