The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

A Brief History of Lenton

Lenton developed as a small village situated just beyond the western boundary of Nottingham. Its historic importance lay in the fact that a large Cluniac priory was founded here in the early twelfth century in due course to become one of the wealthiest monastic institutions in the Midlands. Following the dissolution Holy Trinity's font from south west corner.  Photograph by Paul Bexon.of the monasteries its lands became the property of the Crown and were later sold off to private individuals, the buildings plundered for their materials for use elsewhere. As a result there is practically nothing of Lenton Priory left above ground although much of the foundations still remains. After its dissolution a small hospital chapel on the site was requisitioned for use as a parish church. Now known as St. Anthony's Church the chancel is much as it would have been in the days of the Priory, although the rest of the building is of more recent construction. Another relict of the Priory is the font which now stands in the new parish church built in the 1840s. A rectangular block of stone, richly adorned with carvings, the font is considered to be one of the finest surviving examples of Norman handiwork in the country.

With the demise of the Priory the village of Lenton became a rural backwater where most inhabitants followed agricultural pursuits. The Nottingham Canal, constructed in the 1790s, passed through Lenton and its arrival led to the establishment of a number of factories bringing more people to live here. By 1801 the population stood at 893, rising to 1,240 by 1821, and ten years later shooting up to 3,077. Unable to find suitable building land within Nottingham itself entrepreneurs bought land outside the town to erect both residential and industrial properties leading to the creation of 'New Lenton' situated away from the existing village on what had previously been farmland. Other villages in close proximity to Nottingham underwent a similar experience with the development of New Radford, New Basford and New Sneinton. A sizeable number of those who became resident in Lenton during the early part of the nineteenth century earned their living in the lace trade. By the 1850s there were over twenty firms manufacturing lace in Lenton and associated businesses providing employment for lace machine builders, bobbin and carriage makers etc.

Lenton became part of Nottingham in 1877 following the enlargement of the borough boundaries and now forms one of the inner suburbs of this large city. The lace factories have all gone, as has most of the housing built in the early part of the nineteenth century. New houses and flats have been erected in their place while other parts of the parish have been used for the creation of industrial estates. Raleigh, once the world's largest manufacturer of bicycles, was until the late 1990s still to be found in Lenton although much reduced in size. John Player's cigarette factory, which used to be in Radford, has relocated to Lenton Industrial Estate. The main campus of the University of Nottingham lies within the parish. Lenton is also home to the Queen's Medical Centre, one of the largest teaching hospitals in Europe.

The presence of such varied institutions, together with the wealth of history attached to the area, provides all manner of starting points for anyone interested in learning more about the locality.

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