In 1863 a competition was announced for the design of a new church on the Clayfield, St. Ann’s Valley. The prize of £20 was awarded to the Nottingham Architects Thomas Chambers Hind and Robert Evans. The eventual design was eventually undertaken by a local rival architect, Robert Clarke. The land was given by Joshua Brooks of St Mary’s, Thomas Adams, the lace merchant, and brokered by John Martin of Lincoln Inn Fields.
Work commenced on 6 September 1863 and was completed in a little over a year, with the Bishop of Lincoln performing the consecration ceremony on 4 November. Lord Manvers, who made a donation to the building fund, was also present. Other funders included William Windley, Thomas Adams, and F B Gill, all Nottingham hosiery and mill owners, and Col. Holden. The new church had space for 1,300 with 700 free places.
Dedicated to St Ann, the new building was a daughter church of St. Mary the Virgin, Nottingham. Prior to the new church opening a small mission chapel had been erected at the bottom of nearby Robin Hood Chase. Unfortunately, we have no other details of this building other than it was well attended, although the area was sparsely populated.
St Ann’s did not have its own parish until 1865. At that time the church had 76 pews of which number 1 and number 38 were for the vicar and his family, and number 51 for his servants. Altogether the church could seat 254 people.
The first vicar, the Rev. H J Tebbutt, moved into a house on Woodborough Road, located on the northern perimeter of the parish. Housing and commercial development within the entire parish was rapid, with housing on the northern side being much better in quality, being predominantly detached and surrounded by substantial Bulwell stone walls. Within two years Tebbutt was promoting the need to build a new church to serve this area. St Andrew’s Church, Mansfield Road was opened in 1871 and the Rev. H.J. Tebbutt left to become St Ann’s first vicar.
The Rev. H.J. Tebbutt’s replacement was the Rev. James Dawson Lewis. Inducted in 1871, he served the parish until 1900. His 29 years in the post made him the longest serving vicar in the 108 years of the church’s existence. In 1878 he funded a new north transept, designed by Robert Clarke, Architect. The cost was £430, of which £300 was raised by voluntary subscription and the vicar met the shortfall. He asked the diocese (at that time it was Lincoln) to keep the cost of a faculty to a minimum ‘as the congregation is poor’.
In 1896 the parishioners celebrated Lewis’s twenty-five year service by raising funds to erect a church hall on Ransom Road. Named the Canon Lewis Memorial Hall, it still stands in 2015, but appears unused and is in a poor state of repair.
Almost as soon as the church was completed plans were made to build a school within the church site. The school was opened in 1866, and was so successful that during next twenty five years it was enlarged three times. With the changing demands for school building standards a new state school was built in the 1960s as part of the St. Ann’s area redevelopment, and the church school was closed and demolished.
St. Ann’s Sunday Schools were well attended. In the early 1900s over 500 children were enrolled, with both the Memorial Hall and the Day School pressed into use. Several other activities also used both buildings. A very active unit of the Church Army provided facilities for adults, including a Men’s Club which met several times a week. There were large Boys Brigade and Life Boys companies, plus Brownies and Girl Guides, all of which flourished. The Boys Brigade faced a shortage of leaders in 1915 due to the number of officers serving in the armed forces.
Whilst the minutes of the Parochial Church Council make no mention of the commencement or ending of either of the two world wars, considerable concern was recorded regarding the introduction of lighting regulations during WW1. Although the church did not have electric lighting at that time, gas lights were ordered to be dimmed. The issue was resolved by using a candle-powered Magic Lantern to project the words of the hymns onto a large screen. Unfortunately, the congregation sitting in the side aisles complained that they could not see the screen.
The innovative spirit shown above was not new to St. Ann’s. The Rev. J.D. Lewis introduced orchestral music and choral singing during his incumbency, holding special services on Sunday afternoons, which attracted many newcomers from both the parish and beyond.
In 1954 when proposals to redevelop the St. Ann’s area were already being prepared, the church records show that the congregations were increasing, especially attendance at the Sunday evening service, which was attracting many of the West Indian immigrants who were moving into the parish. Even in 1970, just two years before closure, the church Electoral Roll listed 313 names. Unlike some of the inner city churches of the time, most of the members of the Parochial Church Council lived within the parish.
On the evening of Easter Sunday 1971 the final service was held. Immediately afterwards a few male members of the congregation set about dismantling and removing the organ, a task they completed late on Easter Monday evening. Unfortunately we have no information as to where, or whether, the organ was installed elsewhere. Demolition commenced at 8 a.m. the next day. Several items removed from St. Ann’s now reside in other local churches, and the east window is now in the USA; sadly other items were left to the fate of the demolishers’ hammers or the scrapyard.
After closure services were held in the new St Ann’s Junior School, Hungerhill Road, for eighteen months, until the new church of St. Ann’s with Emmanuel was dedicated.
Registers for Baptisms and Marriages (1865-1971) are lodged in the Nottinghamshire Archives Office. Although no burials took place within the church or churchyard, a Register of Funerals (1923-1945) also exists.