Lenton Abbey
St Barnabas


James Green of Wollaton bought Lenton Abbey farm (now the council estate known as the Lenton Abbey estate) and built Lenton Abbey House 1798-1800. The name, Lenton Abbey, is a pure invention which has been, inevitably, misleading. The estate is some distance from Lenton Priory.

In 1831 the estate, including Lenton Abbey house, came into the hands of Lord Middleton of Wollaton Hall. He paid £11,970 for the house, which he proceeded to let to tenants. The first was Isaac Fisher, who was living in the house in 1830. He was a Nottingham lace manufacturer. In 1841, with his wife Ann, he was being supported at Lenton Abbey by two man servants and four maid servants. Two other servants lived in the Lodge. Isaac Fisher died in 1845, but his widow stayed on, and in 1851 was living off an unearned investment income. She had six living in servants.

Lenton Abbey house and estate was sold in 1868 to Thomas Bayley (1813-74) the proprietor of a fellmongery business engaged in tanning and dressing leather at works alongside the River Leen and the Nottingham canal in Lenton. Bayley died in 1874 but his family owned Lenton Abbey until the 1920s. It was occupied in 1901 by Kate Bayley, described as single, 60 years old and living on her own means, together with a nephew of 22 and six servants to look after them. Kate (Catherine) was a spinster daughter who lived there until her own death in 1921. She was known in the vicinity because of her work as founder and maintainer of Beeston Orphanage, and the founder of the Nottingham Day Nursery.

In 1923 the house and land was sold to Wilson Fulford Marriott Weston Webb, a yarn merchant who built up the Nottingham firm of Holland Webb Limited. In September 1925 he offered the estate to Nottingham Corporation. At that time the corporation was involved in a major council house building programme, but generally they had sought to infill existing space within the city boundaries rather than to buy up land for building, and since Compulsory Purchase Orders were not yet available to them they were, inevitably, looking wherever they could within the city borders.

Although part of the Lenton Abbey estate was in Beeston, the City Council agreed to pay £20,000 for the whole 85 acre estate, which was roughly £232 an acre. The transaction was completed on 31 December 1925 when it was agreed that most of the land would be for a new housing estate, although Lenton Abbey house was to be sold separately in order to recoup some of the city council’s outlay. It was believed it would sell ‘at a satisfactory price’. Subsequently one acre was sold in 1926 to the Nottingham Church Extension Society for a new church.

The new housing estates of Wollaton Park and Lenton Abbey were well under way by the late 1920s. In 1928 the Rev Walter Williams, who was a curate of the Priory Church, Lenton, started to conduct open air services on the Lenton Abbey estate. At much the same time cottage meetings commenced at the home of Mrs Davies, 126 Woodside Road. A Sunday School was started, which met in the stables of Lenton Abbey house. The key question was whether or not permanent churches were needed in these two areas. The Rev Rainald Skipper, vicar of Lenton from 1929, took the view that the two existing churches in Lenton (St Antony’s - the Priory church, and Holy Trinity) were too far away to serve the spiritual needs of those living in the new housing areas.

At Lenton Abbey, a temporary hall was erected on the site acquired in 1926. This was a wooden building. It straddled the site of the modern church and vicarage. The official opening took place on 8 March 1930 at 4 p.m., and it was known as St Barnabas’ Church Hall. W.G. Player of the tobacco company, who funded the hall, performed the opening ceremony, and the Bishop of Southwell (Dr Henry Moseley) consecrated the holy table. Among the 350 congregation was the lord mayor of Nottingham, W. Wilson, and the first curate-in-charge, the Rev Edwin D. Ginever.

The building, erected by Messrs W.T. Norris & Sons, of Lenton Boulevard, was made of wood and asbestos, and reputedly had seats for about 250 people.

For the next eight years services were held in the hall. They were mostly conducted by Edwin Ginever, R J Skipper (Vicar of Lenton), J W Bryan, E Scott, J H Wilson and W.W. Williams.

With the opening of the temporary building funds had to be raised for a permanent church.

The money needed for both St Barnabas’s and St Mary’s, Wollaton Park, was estimated at £25,000 and in 1932 an appeal was launched to try to raise this sum. Donations were received and money was raised from social events, but the target was out of reach until W.G. Player offered to pay for the Wollaton Park church and to make a substantial donation towards St Barnabas, Lenton Abbey.

T. Cecil Howitt, architect of Nottingham’s Council House, was commissioned to prepare a design for a church and hall. The Rev R.J. Skipper, who had himself been a practising architect prior to becoming a vicar, produced an innovative design for a composite building including stage, kitchen and ante-rooms in addition to the chancel, vestries, and nave – sadly this concept was ahead of its time and was not adopted.

To accommodate the new church to Howitt’s plans in 1937 the wooden hall was taken down to allow workmen to start preparing the ground for the erection of the new church and vicarage. Work on the foundations of the new church began on 14 June 1937 and the foundation stone was laid on 24 July 1937 by Sir Louis Pearson, who gave £500 towards the building of the church. The foundation stone for St Mary’s, Wollaton Park, was laid on the same day. A box containing coins, copies of plans and Nottingham newspapers on the day were placed under each foundation stone.

At Lenton Abbey the wooden building was re-erected and services were held in it while the new church progressed. St Barnabas was built by John Cawley Ltd, Builders, of Canal Street. The curate’s house (vicarage) was built at the same time. It was consecrated on 25 June 1938 by the bishop, Dr Moseley, when 500 people assembled. Those present included the Rev C. Bardsley, the first curate.

The building was described as being cruciform in shape with a small morning chapel. The oak lectern, the font, and the communion vessels came from St Thomas’s Church, Park Row, Nottingham, since demolished.

Initially St Barnabas and St Mary’s Wollaton Park were treated as daughter churches to Lenton Parish church, and the curates were under the supervision of the Rev R.J. Skipper.

Sir Louis Pearson funded a new heating system in 1941.

Dates of particular note include:

11 Sep 1938

Dedication of new organ

3 Jun 1939

Commissioning of Church Army Captain

3 Apr 1947

V Crawford took services for this month

2 Nov 1952

R Wilson and W Rothwell took services for the next 6 weeks

Until 1954, during the tenure of the Rev. R.J. Skipper, Lenton Abbey remained a daughter church of the parish church, Lenton Priory. Curates came and went every two or three years.

On 25 July 1955 St Barnabas was made an Ecclesiastical Area independent of the parish of Lenton, and fully licensed. The Rev Ronald Wilson was made the first priest-in-charge, and on 19 September 1958 he was inducted as the first vicar of St Barnabas. There were 189 people on the electoral roll. Also in 1955 the Diocesan Board of Finance cancelled the remaining debt on the church building.

The parish hall was extended in 1962 at a cost of £3,700. A car park was made in 1959. The parish has about 5,600 people in 1962. Wilson left in 1963.

W Hudson & W A Briggs took services until the next vicar arrived.

5 Sep 1963

Induction of Peter Hackett

21 Sep 1967 

Induction of Denys Sherwood

In 1977 the living was suspended when the Rev Denys Sherwood left the parish. After some negotiation it was arranged that the vicar of St Mary, Wollaton Park, would become priest-in-charge of St Barnabas, and from 1984 the two benefices were held in plurality under one incumbent.

A plan in 1980 to divide the church into two with a brick and glass wall half way along the nave was not pursued. The vicar was aware that the church hall needed attention and in 1981 the wooden part of the church hall was demolished. At the same time the car park was extended. The hall, which now included three new classrooms, was dedicated on 12 June 1982.

At the time of the Golden Jubilee in 1988 alterations were carried out at the back of the church. Pews were removed, the floor was carpeted and a number of bookshelves put up. This created an area where church members could meet and talk without causing obstruction.

In 1994 the Rev Philip Williams was appointed to St Barnabas’s after a two year interregnum. This was no longer in plurality with St Mary’s, Wollaton Park. However this appointment, as with all subsequent appointments, was classed as ‘priest in charge’ since the living remained suspended.

In 1995 the church and church hall were torched by a local boy, and an estimated £5,000 of damage was done. Williams made newspaper headlines at the time when he stood up in court and proposed that the perpetrator of the crime should be expected to undertake voluntary work in the area rather than go to prison.

The church was further reorganised in 2015 when a new kitchen was installed at the west end of the church. There are plans (current in 2016) to make further building improvements incorporating a new entrance and amenities.

In 2016 the Rev Canon Dr Richard Kellett became priest in charge. This was part of a partnership arrangement between an established parish and a new initiative by the Diocese to reach out to younger people living in the city. The leaders of the initiative, Will Foulger and Jonny Hughes, were licensed as curates at St Barnabas, and Will and his family moved into St Barnabas' vicarage.