St John


The village of Carrington in the parish of Basford was developed after 1825, one of several built about then around Nottingham, where land was scarce and rents high. Between 1801 and 1841 the population of Nottingham almost doubled but that of Basford parish increased over four-fold, from 2,124 residents to 8,688. The need for a church in Carrington was self-evident. From 1836 the Anglican community began to hold services in the National School, which had been erected in 1833 due to the generosity of the prominent local banker Ichabod Wright of nearby Mapperley Hall. Wright was also the chief instigator and benefactor of the new church.

With three other Carrington men, Thomas Sewell, a lace manufacturer, William Jarman, a farmer who was particularly helpful, and John Champion of the Carrington Brewery, Wright formed a committee to oversee the building of the church of St John the Evangelist. Jarman, who lived on his dairy farm at Yew Tree Avenue close by the church, was the actuary of the Nottingham Savings Bank for 45 years. On May 12th 1841 Wright laid the first stone, and in March 1842 the Committee applied to the Incorporated Church Building Society for a grant. They argued that Carrington consisted ‘principally of poor manufacturers for whose benefit and others the church is building.’ Ichabod Wright was the main contributor to the Building Fund and Queen Anne’s Bounty: £1050 compared to £510 given by his brother John Smith Wright and £500 by James Severn. Ichabod Wright also donated the land on which the church was erected next to the Mansfield Turnpike Road.

St John’s was a District Church, a chapel-of-ease serving the mother church of St Leodegarius, Basford. It did not become a parish in its own right until 1902, although the Rev. Thomas Rider had applied to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for it to be up-graded to a parish in May 1877. A story that the Rev. Herbert Wild refused to take the post until it was made into a parish has not been substantiated.

Ichabod Wright chose William Surplice as the architect and builder, although Wright’s friend Archdeacon Wilkins wrote, `the Church which is a gothic structure of the early English and Decorated style was principally designed by Mr. Wright.’ He went on to say that it formed ‘ a beautiful feature in the landscape’ which is more debatable. Indeed, in April 1916 The Church Builder damned it as `in the worst style of early Victorian architecture’.

Surplice built a simple stone nave, 83 ft. by 38 ft., without aisles, chancel or tower, but with a bell turret and a porch. Inside was a gallery and high deal pews. Almost all the fittings were given by the Wright family, including the communion rail, pulpit, reading desk and Poor Box, all made from oak grown on their Mapperley Park Estate. The fittings were arranged in accordance with the wishes of Ichabod Wright’s wife Harriett, who was dying when the church was founded. In fact, hers was the first burial in the new church. The great Bible, prayer books and altar books were donated by the SPCK. Surplice copied the stone font at Barnack in Northants.

The new church was consecrated on April 6th 1843 by the Bishop of Lincoln, in whose diocese it lay. It was constituted into a Perpetual Curacy, and the first curate was Rev. Thomas Bleaymire. The collection raised that day was £164 17s 0d, almost as much as the curate’s annual income of £166 17 10d. Of this sum over £73 came from pew rents. These were not abolished until 1897, when they were replaced by a Sustentation Fund raised from the congregation. Although there were some free seats, charging pew rents seems to contradict the original aim of the church as being for ‘poor manufacturers.’ In 1843 the church held c.400 of which 184 were free sittings.(The population of Carrington was then c.2400 ). In fact the richer members of the congregation had to subsidise church expenses until 1897, over and above the annual grant of £60 made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The curate could conduct baptisms and funerals from the time the church was consecrated, although marriages were not allowed until December 1847.

In 1883 St John’s Mission Room on Mansfield Street, Sherwood, was built. It was said to be for the religious, moral and intellectual welfare of the inhabitants of Carrington, probably meaning those who lived in that part of the parish which was then in Sherwood. Services continued there until 1927 when the Parish Hall of St Martin’s took over that function, prior to the building of a permanent church, St Martin’s, Sherwood, in 1937.

There was a Church Institute in Carrington from c.1889, and a Parish Hall was built in 1893 as a result of the generosity of Elizabeth Lennon, one of the ‘better off’ members of the congregation. There was no vicarage until 1886 when a substantial house was completed at the corner of Watcombe Circus and Watcombe Road. The land was given by the Wright family, and the plans were drawn up by the Nottingham architects Evans & Jolley who resisted some of the changes sought by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners’ own architect Ewan Christian.

A chancel and an organ were added in 1873, and vestries in 1894. In the mid-1890s the gallery and pews were removed. Finding money for these projects as well as for salaries was always a problem. For example, only £85 out of the supposed £120 p.a. for the Sustentation Fund was raised in 1891. The Vicar of Basford helped out from 1909 with a voluntary offer of £100 p.a.

In the early years of the 20th century much of the Vicar’s time and that of his parishioners was taken up with the quest for a new church in Carrington. After many years of packed congregations the PCC set up a committee to consider building a new, bigger church. A subscription list was started in 1908 and hundreds of parishioners contributed, besides. Donations of £1,000 were raised from the Nottingham Spiritual Aid Society, and £500 from the Church Extension Society. A site was bought on Loscoe Mount and a London architect, W.Curtis Green, won the competition for the design of the proposed church.

Record stone, laid at the beginning of the extension worksThe First World War intervened and, by 1920, the cost of a new building was far in excess of the money available. Instead, vestries, a north aisle and a Lady Chapel were added in 1923-4 to the existing building. The Lady Chapel contained a Roll of Honour of all 176 parishioners who lost their lives in the Great War. As it turned out a larger church was not needed as congregations declined thereafter, and St Martin’s Sherwood catered for the expanding population in the northern part of the parish.

The overseer of the alterations in the 1920s was the Vicar, the Rev. (later Canon) Charles Dudley Hart, a high ranking Mason formerly in the ‘Rag Trade’. He was one of a series of outstanding incumbents of the parish. Rev. Thomas Rider (1877-83) and his successor Rev William Sparks (1883-1905) were concerned about increasing facilities at St John’s for the poorer members of the community. The abolition of pew rents was a great triumph for Rev Sparks, although he suffered financially. His successor in 1905 was the Rev Herbert Wild whose eloquent preaching brought in large congregation, although his ministry in Carrington was only a short one on his way to becoming Archdeacon of Nottingham and, later, Bishop of Newcastle. In 1907 he brought a friend, Rev Alfred Blunt, a Fellow of Exeter College Oxford, to St John’s as curate. Blunt became the vicar in 1909. He was blunt by name and nature but immensely popular. He broke down class barriers and built up the church as a focal point of the whole community. He moved on to St Werbergh’s, Derby, in 1917, then became the Bishop of Bradford in 1931.

In 1908 Blunt dismissed the church in a sermon: ‘it is draughty, it is ugly, it is extraordinarily bad in acoustic properties, it is too small for its purpose, it is not comfortable.’ It has improved and nobody can now claim that it is too small. Another organ was installed in 1949, a faculty for a new pulpit was submitted in 1951 and for an oak lectern in 1956. Since 1921 there had been hopes of a screen but by the 1960s another barrier between priest and congregation was unacceptable. Instead, in 1975 a nave altar was installed. And in 1991 St John’s welcomed its first ordained woman as deacon. Ichabod Wright would have been shocked by that and by popish practices such as the use of candles and incense at Mass. Canon Dudley Hart introduced the five sense ceremonial practices of Catholicism. St John’s has been High Church since the Tractarian Movement of the 19th century.

A Primitive Methodist Chapel was built on Hucknall Road in 1828. It became the Reading Room in the 1880s, then the Community Centre from 1951 until it was demolished in the slum clearance of 1960. A similar fate was suffered by the 1841 Wesleyan Chapel on Wesley Street, which became Bethany Hall, part of the City Mission from 1923. The United Methodists built a church at the corner of Redcliffe Road and Mansfield Road in 1884, but it was demolished in 1969. The Baptist Chapel erected on Sherbrooke Road in 1883 still survives as the Mount Zion Apostolic Church. Today Methodists in the area use the chapel built at the corner of Devon Drive, Sherwood, in 1980-81.

In 2009 St John’s opened again after considerable alterations. A new entrance has been created through a new west porch, constructed in oak with a zinc roof, into a vestibule under a new organ gallery. (The original south porch was closed off.) The north aisle has been converted into two storeys for community activities with meeting rooms, kitchens, storage, stairs, lift and WCs. The connection between this aisle and the nave has been made by filling the spaces of the arcade with solid and glazed panels. The work, by John Cunnington Architects (Matlock), included the design of the new sanctuary furniture, lectern, aumbry, candlestands, organ case and altar, which is now fixed forward of the chancel.