The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Times Issue 7 - September 1992

Holy Trinity - The Genesis

Until Henry VIII brought about the dissolution of the monasteries the nave of Lenton Priory would have been used for parish services. After the Reformation the parish altar, dedicated to the Holy and Undivided Trinity, was transferred to the hospital chapel of St. Anthony which stood in the grounds of the Priory. In the course of the next three hundred years an enlarged nave and a new roof were added and these improvements were deemed sufficient to meet Lenton's spiritual needs. In the early part of the nineteenth century the parish witnessed a rapid development of the area now known as New Lenton. Faced with the realisation that the parish church would soon need to undergo major repairs and was now really too small, it was resolved to build a larger building closer to this burgeoning population.

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Lenton Hall c.1925, once the home of Francis
Wright.Photograph reproduced courtesy of
Nottingham County Library Service.

The Rev. George Browne had become vicar of Lenton in 1840 following a year as parish curate. He probably played a large part in persuading the Church to consider not only a new place of worship but also the provision of a day school for the poor of the parish. The whole project would have received a major boost when Francis Wright of Lenton Hall offered a site for both church and school and donated £1,500 to the building fund. His three unmarried sisters, Frances, Charlotte and Anne, who lived together at Lenton Firs, added a further £500. By March 1841 some £3,200 had been raised. It was soon deemed sufficient to permit Messrs’ Manning & Keeting of Rugby, the contractors, to commence work. On 11 June 1841 the ceremonial laying of the first stone of the new church was performed by 'Francis Wright Esq. and his amiable sisters'. Afterwards Mr. Wright treated the sixty workmen, engaged to build the new church and school, to 'a handsome collation, served up by Mr. John Godfrey of the White Hart' and as the Nottingham Review commented 'a more liberal and plentiful entertainment could not be furnished'.

First to be completed were the school buildings which on 25 April 1842 were officially opened by Francis Wright who had now become High Sheriff of the County. As reported by the Nottingham Journal Mr. Wright expressed his satisfaction at opening a school 'where the poorer classes were not only to be taught to read and write, but to thank God for the unspeakable blessing of knowing Him'. The Journal reporter also indicated that an infant school run by the church had already been operating elsewhere in the village. Quite how long it had been going is not clear and it must be presumed that this school closed with the opening of the 'Lenton National School', as it was then known.

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Apart from the architect's drawings
themselves this was probably the very first
illustration of Holy Trinity Church. It appeared
in the Nottingham Review 14 October 1842.
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By today's standards
the description of the
church seems way over
the top in the detail
offered to newspaper
readers but perhaps
it simply reflects the
prevailing interest in
such matters then.

The School had opened but it was smaller than planned. When originally conceived it had been anticipated there would be room for 300 boys and girls. It was in fact only in 1855, when the building was extended by two thirds, that this figure was reached. The strong supposition is that this reduced capacity was forced on the Church by its inability to raise sufficient money. The initial costings had put the building of the new church at £4,000, while £1,300 was considered enough for the school. When the value of the land (£800) plus £400 for 'fencing' were both added the Church calculated that it would need to raise the sum of £6,500.

The Wright family's generous donations must have given the fund raisers great heart but thereafter the money seems to have trickled in. Francis Wright was prompted to add a further £500 prior to the stone laying ceremony in June 1841. If this was supposed to encourage the others it failed to do so. Only a further £500 was donated by the general public in the sixteen months it took to complete the new church. To add to the problems, both the church and the school came in well over budget. Despite a reduction in its overall size the school buildings had cost £2,300 while the bill for the church and vicarage approached £6,000. In the end Francis Wright handed over a further £1,000 and his sisters contributed another £500. Even so the Church was saddled with debts amounting to £2,470.

This deficit was reduced by £174 6s. 7d. at the church‘s opening ceremony held on 6 October 1842, being the sum taken in the collection. 'The Holy and Undivided Trinity', the dedication of the old church, was transferred to the new building and the consecration was carried out by the Bishop of Lincoln in the presence of a packed congregation. Many 'families of the town and the county' were present, among them Lady Sitwell and Lady Fitzherbert. The guest of honour, however, ought to have been Francis Wright in his dual capacity as chief benefactor and High Sheriff of the County. Also in the congregation were fifty seven members of the clergy.

The Nottingham Journal of 28 October 1842 carried the detailed description of the building we have reproduced here, but the earlier report of the consecration service merely confined itself to describing the building as 'a commodious and handsome structure'. Critics in later years were not quite so kind. J.T. Godfrey in his History of the Parish and Priory of Lenton (1884) states 'the general effect of the building is far from pleasing the high narrow clerestory placed upon its disproportionate side aisles, giving it a distorted appearance'. He then includes a passage in quotes but fails to identify its source which suggests this was not the fault of the H.I. Stevens, the architect. It was more a problem of insufficient funds which meant the tower had to be reduced in size and this led to the pinched up proportions of the clerestory'. From this comment we can judge that the school buildings were not the only part of the project to suffer the effects of inadequate funding.

Once the new Holy Trinity was opened the old church was closed down and later partially demolished in order 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 resumed there for those who preferred more intimate surroundings for their devotions. When Old Lenton and Dunkirk underwent significant development in the latter part of the nineteenth century the facilities on offer at the old church were inadequate 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. Carried out in 1884 and then re-dedicated to St. Anthony, this is the building most people know as the Priory church.

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