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Lenton Priory

A Scheduled Monument in Dunkirk and Lenton, Nottingham

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Latitude: 52.9435 / 52°56'36"N

Longitude: -1.179 / 1°10'44"W

OS Eastings: 455268.461882

OS Northings: 338771.629653

OS Grid: SK552387

Mapcode National: GBR LGS.SZ

Mapcode Global: WHDGY.V8RS

Entry Name: Lenton Priory

Scheduled Date: 3 September 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019675

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29987

County: Nottingham

Electoral Ward/Division: Dunkirk and Lenton

Built-Up Area: Nottingham

Traditional County: Nottinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Nottinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Lenton

Church of England Diocese: Southwell and Nottingham


The monument includes standing and buried remains of part of Lenton Priory and
its precinct. The site is situated in a meander of the River Leen, 200m north
west of the junction between the Nottingham and Beeston Canals.
The priory was founded in 1106 or 1107 by the Cluniac order and remained
under the jurisdiction of the parent house at Cluny in Burgundy until
1393. The priory was richly endowed by William Peverel and became one of the
wealthiest houses of an order noted for the size and magnificence of its
churches. At its foundation, Lenton Priory had 25 monks; in 1262 there
were 22 monks and two lay brothers, and by 1405 there were 32 monks.
The priory lies approximately one mile south west of Nottingham Castle and
would have gained some security and protection through its association with
the castle and its occupants.
A seven day fair held in the outer court of the priory was one of the leading
fairs in England in the Middle Ages, attracting merchants throughout the
country. The infrastructure was substantial and included houses called
booths with penthouses behind them, in which stall holders could lodge
with their goods. Originally the profits of the fair went to the priory
and as early as 1387 represented nearly a quarter of its income from
temporalities. Trading was banned in Nottingham for the duration of the
fair, one of many privileges, some of which continued after the
Dissolution. As part of the confiscated property of the priory on its
suppression in April 1538, the fair was granted, on a 21 year lease from
Michaelmas 1529, to Michael Stanhope, who also held the two leases
covering the site and demesne lands of the former priory.
The precise details relating to the destruction of the priory are unclear,
but a considerable portion of the buildings were still in existence when
the Assizes (a court sitting to administer civil and criminal law) were
held there in 1573 and on several other occasions during the reign of
Elizabeth I. In 1677 it was documented that only one square steeple was left
of the monastery, which had not long since fallen down. The priory
gatehouse was, however, still in use over a century later and survived into
the 19th century. The overseers accounts for 1791 included a payment of 6
shillings 9 pence to a glazier for repairing windows at the abbey
gatehouse, and the Peverel court was held in the room over the archway
for a short time after the removal of the court to Lenton towards the end
of the 18th century. The monument survives as a series of standing and
buried remains in two separate areas of protection. Many features have
been located and identified during numerous archaeological excavations within
the priory precinct since the early 20th century. The excavation results
compliment the documentary evidence and show that the priory church lay
on an east to west alignment just within the southern extent of the
protected areas. The church is thought to have extended from Abbey Street in
the west to just beyond Old Church Street in the east, a distance of
approximately 100m. It was of the usual form with the chancel at the
eastern end, nave to the west and a range of side and ambulatory chapels.
Excavation has focused on three areas: to the south of the present
churchyard; along Old Church Street; and in the area to the east of Old
Church Street. South and south east of the churchyard, excavation has
shown that an apsidal ambulatory chapel formed the eastern end of the
church with a northern and southern transept chapel attached. The
transept chapels formed the cruciform shape of the priory church, the
nave of which extended to the west. The north and south aisle of the nave
were defined by a series of piers. Remains of these were found to lie up
to 1.1m below the current ground surface. It is unclear exactly where the
west end of the church lies, but excavations have identified substantial
foundations of the north wall of the nave, close to Abbey Street, and
indicates the church continued at least to this point. Excavations along
Old Church Street recovered the remains of at least five individuals, and
further human remains have been recovered from the area to the east of Old
Church Street. Some fragments of the church fabric remain identifiable
above ground, including a pier, and part of the northern wall of the
church. The pier is situated in a small grassed enclosure at the junction
between Priory Street and Old Church Street in the smaller of the two
areas of protection. The pier, which is Listed Grade II, stands to a
height of approximately 1m and is visible as a round, ashlar column with
a chamfered base and rubble core. It originally formed part of the
ambulatory chapel. A significant section of the northern wall of the
church also survives, and is visible as a large block wall standing to an
average height of 1.5m and approximately 30m in length. It was reused as a
boundary and structural wall after the demolition of the remainder of the
church. The wall is included in the scheduling and is Listed Grade II.
The church is now partially built over and only those remains lying in open
space are included in the protected areas. The level of survival of remains
under the adjacent buildings, some of which are cellared, is not yet fully
By analogy with comparable sites which usually share a standard design and
layout, further major priory buildings and the cloister are thought to have
lain to the south of, and attached to, the church. Documentary sources
indicate that after the Dissolution these buildings quickly lost their
roofs and were demolished. The extent and nature of any survival of these
buildings are presently unknown.
Other standing remains survive within the current Priory Church of St Anthony.
The church contains the medieval chapel of the Hospital of St Anthony which
stands within the original precinct of the medieval priory. A new nave
was added to the chapel and, having had its dedication changed to that of
the Holy Trinity, later became the parish church. In 1884, following
restoration work, the church was again dedicated to St Anthony, and has
been known as the Priory Church of St Anthony ever since. The church is a
Listed Building Grade II. The current parish church is dedicated to the
Holy Trinity and is situated in Church Street, about half a mile to the
north east of the priory church. The hospital itself is understood to have
lain in a close to the east of Old Church Street in an area now known as
Friary Close. This would have housed a religious or secular institution
which provided spiritual and medical care for the general poor or
specific groups. It is also likely it functioned as a chantry, providing
prayer for the souls of founders, benefactors and their families.
The priory precinct would, originally, have been enclosed by a wall, and
short sections of this have been traced in excavations. A length of wall
was uncovered on the north side of Gregory Street in the mid-20th century
during construction work. This lies close to the outer gatehouse which
was situated immediately north of the priory church and across the width
of Gregory Street. A second stretch of the precinct wall was recorded on the
northern bank of the River Leen and has led to the suggestion that the
river defined the southern boundary of the enclosed precinct. It is
uncertain whether these sections now survive; they both lie outside the
protected area. Elsewhere the line of the wall is unknown.
The fairground was situated to the west of the priory church, and would
have occupied most of the north west corner of the area of protection.
The area, now known as Lenton Priory Park, is a public open space, but
was, by 1517, laid out on a formal plan with lanes and buildings
dedicated to particular trades. Even as early as 1297-98 the priory accounts
show that a thatcher worked on 60 fair booths and spent five days repairing
old ones. Some of the fair booths were converted into cottages which were
mentioned in a survey and rental of 1651-2. Fair booths and their penthouses
were probably the forerunners, if not the same structures, as the shops that
comprised Mart Yard in the 18th century. Cottages, which were later built
on the site, survived until the 1950s. Remains of the street layout and shops
within the fairground will survive beneath the current ground surface.
It is known that within the precinct of the priory there would have been a
number of other monastic buildings. Some of these would have been situated
close to the priory church, forming an inner court, whilst others lay within
a larger outer court. Within the inner court, buildings would include the
cloister and cloistral ranges, guesthouses, bakehouses, brewhouses and a
kitchen. The outer court provided the economic base of the monastery and
most of the buildings would be agricultural or industrial in origin.
These may include stables, barns, mills, dovecotes, kilns, tanneries,
smithies, fishponds and granaries. Although the precise location of many
of these buildings at Lenton Priory is unknown, the buried remains of
some of these structures, particularly those within the inner court,
would have stood to the north of the priory church within the present
churchyard. The ground level within the southern extent of this
churchyard is higher than the surrounding ground. This is thought, in
part, to be due to a surviving layer of monastic demolition debris.
Despite disturbance caused by later burials, significant archaeological
remains will survive in this area and the remainder of the churchyard.
Further nationally important priory remains may survive outside the
protected area.
The present Priory Church of St Anthony, the north, east and west
churchyard walls, the Listed Grade II structures of the Wright family
vault, chest tombs and sarcophagos, and all above ground tombs, all
modern paths, walls, fences and gateways, are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597
to the reign of Henry VIII, monasticism formed an important facet of both
religious and secular life in the British Isles. Settlements of religious
communities, including monasteries, were built to house communities of monks,
canons (priests), and sometimes lay-brothers, living a common life of
religious observance under some form of systematic discipline. It is estimated
from documentary evidence that over 700 monasteries were founded in England.
These ranged in size from major communities with several hundred members to
tiny establishments with a handful of brethren. They belonged to a wide
variety of different religious orders, each with its own philosophy. As a
result, they vary considerably in the detail of their appearance and layout,
although all possess the basic elements of church, domestic accommodation for
the community, and work buildings. Monasteries were inextricably woven into
the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship,
learning and charity, but also, because of the vast landholdings of some
orders, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. They were
established in all parts of England, some in towns and others in the remotest
of areas. Many monasteries acted as the foci of wide networks including parish
churches, almshouses, hospitals, farming estates and tenant villages. The
Cluniac order had its origins in the monastic reformations which swept across
continental Europe in the tenth century. The reformations which occurred were
partly a response to the impact of Viking raids and attacks on established
monastic sites in the preceding century but were also a reaction against the
corruption and excesses which were increasingly noted amongst earlier
establishments. The Cluniacs were amongst the most successful of the new
reformed orders that developed. The founding house of Cluny in south-east
France was established in AD 910. Here the community obeyed a stringent set of
rules which, amongst other things, involved celibacy, communal living and
abstention from eating meat. The ideals of the Cluniac reformers passed on to
England in the tenth century. Influential Cluniac houses had been established
in England by 1077. Once established, Cluniac houses were notable for the
strong links they maintained both with the founding house of Cluny in France
and also with other houses of their order. Most Cluniac houses in England were
established near major towns and they particularly sought locations in valley
bottoms within the protection of a nearby castle. Cluniac monasteries are
notable for highly decorated, elaborate buildings. Cluniac houses are
relatively rare, with some forty-four houses known in England, and all
examples exhibiting good survival of archaeological remains are worthy of

The buried and standing remains of Lenton Priory and its associated buildings
are well-preserved and provide a rare example of a Cluniac monastery in this
part of the country. The level of survival of structural, artefactual,
skeletal and environmental remains beneath the current ground surface has
been demonstrated by excavation. This evidence combines with the
archaeological and historical documentation to provide a reasonably
detailed picture of the structure and layout of the priory church and
associated structures. Taken as a whole, Lenton Priory will improve our
understanding of the development and position of the monastery and the
Cluniac order both within the area and the wider medieval landscape.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ginever, E, The Parish and Priory of Lenton, (1930)
Godfrey, J T, History of the Parish and Priory of Lenton, (1884)
Knowles, , Hadcock, , Medieval Religious Houses, (1953), 97-100
Barnes, F A, 'Transactions of the Thoroton Society' in Lenton Priory After The Dissolution: Its Buildings And Fairground, , Vol. XCI, (1987), 79-95
Beilby, B W, 'Transactions of the Thoroton Society' in Excavations At The Cluniac Priory, Lenton 1962-1964, , Vol. LXX, (1966), 55-62
Elliott, R H, Berbank, A E, 'Transactions of the Thoroton Society' in Lenton Priory: Excavations 1943-1951, , Vol. LVI, (1952), 41-53
Green, H, 'Transactions of the Thoroton Society' in Lenton Priory, , Vol. XL, (1936), 32-53
Green, H, 'Nottingham Journal' in Cottesmore School Adds New Chapter to Local History, , Vol. 20/3/193, (1936)
MacCormick, A, 'Transactions of the Thoroton Society' in Recent Archaeological Work In Nottingham, , Vol. LXXXII, (1978), 74-75
Swinnerton, H H, Boulton, H, 'Transactions of the Thoroton Society' in Lenton Priory: Excavations in 1954, , Vol. LX, (1956), 1-7

Source: Historic England

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