The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 1 - October 1988

Society Snips

A Hole In Our Archives

Park Road, Lenton - Early 1900sSee in Lightbox

The junction of Sherwin Road and Willoughby
Street, Lenton - Early 1900s.

The Society has slowly acquired quite a large archive of photographs, articles and reminiscences connected with the Lenton area. One particular district, however, Seems rather poorly represented. This is the old Willoughby Street area, which largely disappeared beneath the bulldozer in the 1960s. We have copies of the ordnance survey maps. The information which can be gleaned from old directories, the odd reminiscence, a few photographs, most of them taken just before or during the period of demolition, and little else. Given the number of shops and businesses that were once situated in and around Willoughby Street it seems sad that we have so little in the way of visual records. We must accept that for most of the people who lived here a camera seems to have been a luxury that few acquired. Nevertheless some photographs must have been taken. So if you are aware of any do please let the Society know - it doesn't matter how mundane the subject matter they would probably be of interest to us. If you can bring to mind aspects of the area's past why not tell us what you can remember. Perhaps you can recall some of the shops and businesses, whereabouts they were situated and something of the people who ran them. Any little anecdote will be gratefully received

University Walkabout

The site of the University campus has long held a fascination for Frank Barnes. For many years a physical geographer at the University, he has sought to understand how the present landscape of the campus has come about. Many of the answers lie in the complex geology of the area but Man has also played an important role. At the invitation of the Society Mr. Barnes took some thirty people around part of the campus and showed them a variety of features both natural and man-made.

We were initially directed into the gardens of Hugh Stewart Hall, the earliest part of which had been Lenton Hall, the residence of John Wright built in about 1802. Our attention was drawn to the sunken location of the tennis court there. This was evidently not a natural hollow. Frank Barnes explained that most likely it had been a marl pit, excavated in medieval times and the clay dug out and carted away probably to be spread on the (sand) fields to the west in order to improve their soil quality. You must remember that for some four hundred years all the lands that make up the University campus had been part of the home farm of Lenton Priory. After examining the lay of the land to the east of the Social Sciences building we moved across to Keighton Hill. A medieval well and the site of a tile kiln had been found nearby, both evidence of the deserted village of Keighton which once stood there. Once you knew what to look for the sites of the some of the houses, some five hundred or more years after they were probably abandoned, could still be spotted on the grassy bank between Keighton Hill and the Portland Building.

The edge of the University Lake was our next port of call. A much smaller stretch of water, known as the Fish Pond, had been here until the 1920s, when the present lake had been constructed at the behest of Sir Jesse Boot. The Fish Pond, Frank Barnes believed, was largely the creation of Joseph Lowe, for whom Highfield House was built in 1799. The pond was part of his pleasure gardens and a number of exotic tree species found beside the present lake must date from when the gardens were first laid out. Mr. Barnes took us down the flight of stone steps that originally gave the Lowe family and their friends' easy access to the pleasure gardens, a route that few of our party had ever suspected was there.

From here we walked towards Highfield House, now used as the residence of the vice-chancellor of the University. The various alterations and extensions to the house and grounds were pointed out to us. Then we wandered round the side of the Education building to discover a dew-pond which Frank Barnes assured us had most likely been dug many years ago in order to provide cattle with a source of drinking water. Finally we walked to a spot from where we could look out across the campus to the more recently built halls of residence. Mr. Barnes pointed out the older buildings to be seen, some of which have now been incorporated into the various student residences. At this point the walk was concluded, with the offer from Frank Barnes of another walk on another occasion along the Derby Road side of the campus and the promise of his talk and slide show to come at our October meeting at Lenton Community Centre.

Already Puzzled?

Chain Lane, Dunkirk - 1950s

A few readers should still be able to pinpoint whereabouts in Lenton Jack Hall was standing when he took this photograph back in the late 1950s. In years to come, however, this snapshot is destined to become something of a picture puzzle, especially as the last easily identifiable feature in the landscape has now gone - namely the buildings of North Wilford Power Station. Modern day photographers could take up the same position as Jack did but all they ought to see through their viewfinders should be a high embankment, for the road and allotments lie buried beneath some twenty foot of tipped refuse.

Still not sure where we are? Jack was standing on the little hump-back bridge over the canal near the junction of Dunkirk Road and Gibbons Street across in Dunkirk. The road in the photo is Chain Lane and those people walking along it are most likely making for the River Trent. In the original photograph you can make out another set of people in the far distance, just about to disappear round the bend in the road. The point where they had reached would now correspond with the site of the new Showcase cinema which opened this year.

Three Of A Kind

Three works of scholarship dealing with aspects of Lenton's distant past have recently found their way into the Society's archives.

Julia Neville now lives in Plymouth but while in Nottingham she became involved in a research project connected with the Centre for Local History. This project involved looking at the records of the Court of the Archdeacon of Nottingham. As she was resident in Lenton, Julia naturally kept an eye out for local references. The details of some ten cases where Lenton parishioners found themselves called before the court were published in No. 24 of The Lenton Listener. This information along with that for a number of other Nottinghamshire parishes was also included in an article written by Julia for the Bulletin of Local History (East Midlands Region) 1983. Moving to Plymouth made it virtually impossible for her to continue with the project so instead Julia wrote up the material she had gathered on Lenton. The result is a sizeable document entitled 'Lenton after the Priory - a survey of life in Lenton between 1540 and 1620 incorporating material from the records of the Court of the Archdeacon of Nottingham'. It is quite amazing how the information in these court records has enabled Julia to build up such a detailed picture of Lenton at that time.

Our second author is John Lloyd Marlow. Tucked away on some branch line of his family tree Mr. Marlow had discovered a certain Thomas Gillam who had once been prior in charge of Lenton Priory. This fact had evidently aroused Mr. Marlow's interest and he began to find out all he could about this particular gentleman. The end result was 'A career in the church - the life and times of Thomas Gillam c.1481-1551, Prior of Lenton and Abbot of Pipewell'. We understand that at one time the author had hoped it would be possible to publish his findings, but the somewhat specialised nature of the subject matter has so far failed to attract any potential publishers. Rather than let his researches lie unread Mr. Marlow has sent the Society a copy of his manuscript to add to our material on the Priory.

Our third piece is an article included in the 1987 Transactions of the Thoroton Society. 'Lenton Priory after the dissolution its Buildings and Fairgrounds' is written by Frank Barnes. Lenton Priory was a large ecclesiastic establishment; its great church was even larger than Southwell Minster. Yet as we know its buildings were all destined largely to disappear from the face of the earth. Quite how quickly this happened has been something of a matter for debate. Frank Barnes discovered a survey of the Priory buildings, made in c.1554, some sixteen years after its dissolution. The survey outlines what buildings made up the property of the Priory and provided him with evidence as to their state of repair or disrepair by this time. Mr. Barnes then charts what he thinks subsequently happened to the buildings. Anyone at all interested in the history of Lenton Priory should definitely put this work on his or her reading list.

Society members or other interested persons who would like to borrow any of these items from our archive are asked to contact the Society's secretary Cliff Voisey.

Lenton Lodge

Photo by Paul Bexon

Lenton Lodge

Along with many local residents, the Society has been growing increasingly concerned about the state of disrepair into which Lenton Lodge has fallen. With the building empty it has been a target for mindless vandalism and much of the good work done to its interior by the previous tenant, Laurie Williamson, appears to have been undone. Before Mr. Williamson moved in, our Society sought to interest either the National Trust or the Youth Hostel Association in taking over the property, but nothing came of our approaches. More recently we thought that perhaps the Landmark Trust, which takes historic buildings and sensitively converts them so that the properties can be used for holiday letting, might be in the market for something a little different in the East Midlands. However, we held back from contacting the Trust because we understood that the City Council had already found new tenants. This was Zodeco Homes, the building firm that converted the old Bell-Fruit premises on Leengate into apartments. The firm wanted Lenton Lodge for their offices. That was at least six months ago so why has it taken so long to conclude the deal? The local press did recently announce that Zodeco have finally signed the contract and hope to be it their 'prestigious new headquarters' by Christmas or the New Year. We can but hope that this proves to be the case and that Lenton Lodge once more becomes something that locals can be proud of!

Guided Walks

On five separate occasions this year Peter Holland could be found showing parties of people around Lenton as he told them a little of the history of the area. These walks formed part of the extensive series of summer walks organised by Nottinghamshire County Council. The Lenton walks proved extremely popular and anything between thirty and fifty people turned up to be shown round. Many had no connection with Lenton but quite a few were local residents evidently interested in learning more about the locality.

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