St Philip


The parish of St Philip was formed in 1879, the year the building was completed. It was created out of the southern part of St Luke’s parish which had been originally been part of the parish of St Mary’s, Nottingham. St Luke’s was founded in 1863 and the first incumbent, the Rev Daniels, opened a Mission Hall in the area of the future St Philip’s parish, renting a room in an old dye-works on Poplar Street in 1865-6, to the rear of the St Philip’s site.

The population of the area had expanded rapidly with the development of hundreds of low-cost houses mostly in the back-to-back style, accommodating the workers needed to service Nottingham’s thriving hosiery and lace factories which shared the same streets.

The site for St Philip’s was purchased in 1866, thirteen years before the church was erected. The vendor of the site was a Mr James Holman, a wealthy factory owner with premises on the edge of St Luke’s parish. Holman also gave the land and paid the full cost of building St Luke’s Parish School in 1866. Plans for St Philip’s together with a grant application were first submitted to the Incorporated Church Building Society in 1875. Approval was eventually given but the amount of the grant if any is not known.

Building was completed in 1879, and the church had 540 seats. Most of the £8,000 required to build the church came from Thomas Adams, the wealthy Nottingham lace manufacturer. St Philip’s was always known as the Thomas Adams Memorial Church. Adams was a devout Anglican who had a chapel in his nearby warehouse opened on Stoney Street in 1855. He expected all his workers to attend a service every morning before they started work.

When St Philip’s opened it served a parish population of over 10,000 people. The Bishop of Lincoln consecrated the church.

The architect was R C Sutton (1833-1915) who also designed a number of other churches in the diocese, including St Saviour’s (1863), another parish formed out of St Mary’s.

It was not until 1886 that land for a vicarage was purchased, and this was about a mile distant in the parish of St Stephen’s, Sneinton. The site, half an acre on the corner of Trent Lane and Sneinton Dale, was purchased from Earl Manvers for just one shilling. In 1866 that part of Sneinton was still semi-rural land mainly used for gardens and agriculture, but it was developing rapidly, particularly after the parish of Sneinton was incorporated into Nottingham in 1877. Most of the surrounding terraced streets were completed in the early 1900s.

While development in Sneinton continued to the east, the area surrounding both St Philip’s and St Luke’s was by 1900 in a state of transition, as a result of selective demolition, and remodelling of the housing stock. As a result, the parish population fell from 3,356 in 1901 to 2,516 in 1911. The decline was halted by the First World War, but the 1920s saw the demolition of further housing stock in the parish often replaced by commercial premises: this is witnessed to by the number of 1920s and 1930s style buildings that still dominate the major roads in the area today. The Nottingham Corporation Bus and Trent Bus garages on the north side of Pennyfoot Street now covers land previously occupied by several streets of densely packed dwellings.

Despite the reducing numbers the church remained active. There were 281 children on the Sunday School roll in 1912, and the previous twelve months had seen 80 baptisms and 20 confirmations. In 1923 a wooden clad building was erected in part of the school yard to serve as a Parish Room. Built by a Mr Mayfield it cost £208 10s 5d, and it remained in use until St Philip’s closed.

St Luke’s parish was to suffer an even greater population decline and in 1925 the two churches were united at St Philip’s under the title St Philip’s with St Luke’s. St Luke’s Church was demolished in 1925, but the former Parish School building was retained and used as a Sunday School venue until late 1950s. This stone faced building still stands today, now in commercial use.

Back of the church
(parish room, air-raid
shelter to right), 1963

Further demolition was planned in the later 1930s but again a World War intervened. At St Philip’s three large community air raid shelters were built in the adjoining school playground. One was actually positioned against the wall of the south aisle. After the war they were all used for fuel storage, and survived until the church site was cleared in 1964.

Further slum clearance took place in the mid 1950s. Within a few years all the Victorian streets, alleys, yards and courts had been swept away by the bulldozer. Some of the cleared land was utilised for the construction of high-rise dwellings, but few of the new occupants found their way into the church congregation.

The east end of the church
and surround area in the
early 1960s
The vicarage just
before demolition

In 1960 the long serving Rev John Goulton (vicar 1914-60) died leaving the church without a vicar. In that same year the Bishop of Southwell proposed the closure of St Philip’s and the transfer of patronage to a new St Philip’s Church on the Bestwood Estate, to the north of the city. The vicarage in Sneinton was sold for £4,000 and demolished. A public house was built on the site. In 2009 after being closed for some time this was in turn sold and an Islamic Centre is planned to take its place.

St Philip’s did not disappear without a considerable effort to save it. The adjacent former recreation ground had already been purchased by the Boots Company and a new multi-storey research facility opened. Boots had also acquired most of the surrounding land for further development. An approach was made to the company suggesting that that it might like to retain the church. It was not to be. Boots did acquire the site and extended their research operation, but the small area once occupied by St Philip’s served only as a car park in 2009.

Following the Bishop’s announcement of closure the small congregation managed to keep it open until June 1963. A short report in the Nottingham Guardian of 19th January 1963 recorded a meeting attended by thirty members of the congregation, adding that they were mostly from outside the parish. This situation had existed at St Philip’s for many years. The minutes of the 1925 PCC meeting record not only the names of the eleven council members attending but also their addresses: none lived in the parish.

In 1929 only two out of fifteen PCC members were local residents, and again in 1950 none of the PCC members resided in the parish, and the population of the united parishes was only about 2,330 in 1951.

The church registers show that throughout this time the church was well used for marriages and funerals but somewhat less so for baptisms. The last Confirmation Service performed by the Bishop at St Philip’s was in the early 1950s.

Throughout its eighty-four years St Philip’s played a significant and active role in the community. Soon after the church was opened a two-storey school was built within the same site. Initially it accommodated over four hundred pupils aged five years to school-leaving age. With the introduction of the Hadow scheme, pupils were transferred to St Mary’s Secondary.

The social situation of the parishioners of the 1880s is evidenced by an entry in the parish magazine dated 1885, recording that every Tuesday and Friday “penny dinners were served”, the meal consisting of “soup, bread and a pudding”. The same magazine recorded twenty eight funeral services conducted in the church, of which fourteen were children under the age of ten years, nine of whom had not survived their first year. There were however eighty-one baptisms during the same period.

For the adults a Temperance Society was soon active, with regular twice-weekly meetings and parish outings to such places at Hardwick Hall (June 1885), although at six shillings per person it is questionable just how many of the parishioners could take part.

In 1954 just before the land clearance commenced the vicar listed some of the activities the church promoted: home visiting, young people’s social club, men’s institute, football and cricket clubs, open air preaching, meetings for women organised by the vicar’s wife and the Sunday School.

The vicar was also Chaplain to the Plumptre Hospital, located on the edge of the parish. Plumptre ‘Hospital’ was an almshouse for 13 elderly ladies. A regular Sunday afternoon service was originally held in the small chapel which had been dedicated in 1927, until a small building specifically designed as a chapel was erected in the garden during the 1950s. The Rev John Goulton always walked the parish, particularly from his vicarage to his church.

The demolition of
the church in 1963
(Photo: Nottingham

On the closure of St Philip’s the vestments were presented to the Rev John Goulton’s son, and the organ was moved to Bramcote Parish Church. The parish was divided between St Christopher’s, Sneinton and St Catharine’s, St Ann’s Well Road, this latter being another church and parish carved out of St Mary’s.

Of the remaining church fittings, memorials, glass and fabric we have no trace. A newspaper photograph taken during the demolition suggests that the glass and everything else was simply destroyed.