Nottingham St Paul


Sketch plan

A sketch plan has been produced based on measurements recorded by Stretton 1828 and images from later in the 19th century and at the time of demolition in 1925 which gives some idea of the size and construction of St Paul’s. It was designed by William Wilkins (1778-1839) who later designed part of the National Portrait Gallery, London. William Wilkins was the younger  brother of the Vicar of St Mary’s, High Pavement. St Paul’s was the only church William Wilkins designed. At that time it was also the only church in the town built in the classical Palladian style.

The site was rectangular with the east end entrance leading from the street and the altar at the west end. It had seating for 1365 and cost £13,964 to complete, which was lower than the final payment received from the funding body £15,748.

The east entrance was within a portico raised on two steps supporting four tall, fluted, Greek Doric columns, each four feet in diameter, topped with a slightly projecting  pediment. Rising from the main east wall was a low square tower supporting a cupola of eight Doric columns with a pediment and completed by a bell-shaped dome; this served as the bell housing.

Although the building appeared to be constructed of stone, much of it was probably brickwork faced with cement rendering on the outside and plastered on the inside. During the construction Canon Wilkins raised some concern regarding the standard of the workmanship saying that ‘it was not of the best description’ with plastering being applied before the brickwork had properly dried. He also commented that during his visit fifty-eight workmen were on the site. In the early nineteenth century bricks were manufactured at several sites in nearby Sneinton.

The interior appears to have comprised a tall open nave with four acanthus topped columns set on a raised floor level  forming the side galleries with two similar columns set across the west end  creating the chancel and sanctuary. A balcony was also located at the east end with 105 seats. The nave had 434 seats and the raised side aisles had seating for 560, with another 560 in the side galleries. A further 60 seats were in second galleries to the left and right of the altar. These figures and locations are taken from Stretton and exceed the design figure of 1365.

In 1894 a restoration project was undertaken which involved reducing the seating capacity in the galleries and nave plus moving the organ into the chancel and the installation of electric lighting, St Paul’s was the first church in the town to be lit by electricity. The electrical contractor was J Blackburn and the main contractor Messrs Dennettt and Ingle, both local companies. Of the £700 cost, £650 had been raised before the work was completed.

Technical Summary

Timbers and roofs

  Nave Chancel Tower
Main Not known. Appears to have had interior flat plaster ceiling with hidden timber above Not known. Appears to have had interior flat plaster ceiling with hidden timber above n/a
S.Aisle Not known. Appears to have had interior flat plaster ceiling with hidden timber above n/a n/a
N.Aisle Not known. Appears to have had interior flat plaster ceiling with hidden timber above n/a n/a
Other principal      
Other timbers      


Stone (or cement-rendered brick) cupola housing a single bell. Frame type unknown. Probably 1822.



  Nave Chancel Tower
Plaster covering & date Plastered, probably 1822 Plastered, probably 1822 n/a
Potential for wall paintings None known previously None known previously  

Excavations and potential for survival of below-ground archaeology

No known modern archaeological excavation has been undertaken on the site of this church. However, during construction in 1821-22 evidence of the land being used previously for the production of monastic tiles and supporting buildings was discovered. Similar evidence had been unearthed during other building work in George Street, including the 1815 Baptist church and 1816 Methodist chapel. The finds were dated by broken tiles bearing the impressed insignia of several monarchs from King Henry I to King Edward III, and including King Stephen. Parts of the original carved wooden stamps used for making the impressions were found at one of the sites.

The entire building was constructed anew in 1821-22 on the site of undeveloped, open land. The churchyard was roughly rectangular east-west, but with little space between the church building and adjacent properties; there were no burials. The west end of the church is shown abutting adjacent buildings on Pelham Place in 1882. There appears to have been one, tiny curtilage building at the south-west corner, accessed by a path along the south side of the church; its purpose is unknown but it may have been a coal or coke store for the heating system. It is unclear from the 1882 map whether some further peripheral buildings on the north side belonged to the church or to neighbouring properties; there was a path giving access from a small transeptual building at the north-east There was also formerly an exterior flight of steps at the north-west angle of the nave. The site of the church has been entirely redeveloped and is now occupied by post-1925 buildings.

The overall potential for the survival of below-ground archaeology on the former church site and former churchyard, is considered to be LOW comprising mainly destruction layers from the 1821-22 church, construction layers of post-1925 buildings, and below this perhaps further evidence of previous medieval use of the site, though this is expected to be fragmentary at best.