Nottingham, Nottinghamshire

St. Mary's Church, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire

St. Mary’s is today Nottingham’s main parish church, although is in fact one of three medieval parish churches in the City Centre.

It is thought, in common with many churches, that St. Mary’s dates back to the Saxon period, when it was first built in stone is something for conjecture as nothing much earlier than 1380 survives today. However, it certain existed by 1108 when the church came into the ownership of Lenton Priory, which it remained the property of until the Dissolution in 1538.

By the time of the Dissolution the vast majority of today’s church had been built – the earliest surviving section being the south aisle which dates to the 1380s, the nave dates to around 1475 and the transepts are from slightly later in the 1400s. Only the tower was not completed before the Dissolution and it was built at the time that the church became the City’s Parish Church.

George Fox, founder of the Quakers, was imprisoned in Nottingham in 1649 after interrupting a service at St. Mary’s. The famous Nottingham Bluecoat School was founded in 1706 and the first of its lessons took place in the church porch.

One of the oddest functions of the church was from 1716 to around 1770 when the town fire engine was housed at the west end of the church.

St. Mary’s was one of the first churches to have a Sunday School set up for children unable to attend day school – it opened in 1751, 35 years before the historically recorded ‘first Sunday School’ in Gloucester.

Another innovation was the observation in 1760 of the Bishop performing a ‘laying on of hands’ at St. Mary’s. This was documented by the Bishop of Bristol with John Gilbert, Archbishop of York being the person doing the ‘laying on’.

In 1843 the church was closed for renovation having deteriorated badly in the last few centuries. It reopened in 1848 with the Bishop of Lincoln in charge of the service.

Today, St. Mary’s stands in a quiet corner of Nottingham City Centre – away from the bustle of the Old Market Square and the shopping area – an unexpected oasis of peace in the centre of such a large town.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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