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An Archaeological Project

History of archaeological investigations

A number of excavations and substantial amount of research concerning Lenton Priory over the past 100 years has given us an accurate estimation as to where the priory itself was once situated and where the famed Lenton fairground may have once stood. Here is an overview of past investigations that led to the Trent and Peak Archaeology excavations during the NET2 tram installation of 2012-2014:


H. Green, and students of Cottesmore School excavated the park area surrounding the one remaining column, at the junction of Priory Street and Old Church Street. They uncovered the foundations of the apsidal east end of the priory; a section of the north ambulatory, a walkway leading around the back of where the alter would have been; and the north side chapel. These excavations established the exact position of the church, which greatly aided future work.


R. H. Elliott and A. E Berbank completed a number of excavations within the priory and located a substantial amount of the north aisle wall, column and pillar bases, and the north side chapel. From their excavations, they produced a proposed layout of the priory, showing the full length of the church, including columns and chapels, as well as the projection of the cloister attached to the south of the church. Service works at the Abbey Bridge and Gregory street junctions also enabled them to record extensive sections of a wall 56 feet long and 3 courses deep, thought to be associated with the northern boundary of the priory precinct.


B. W. Beilby excavated an area 80 by 60 feet when 5 houses were demolished on the north side of Priory street in Boot Yard and Walker’s Yard, which were situated next to the Boat Inn public house. Four piers (column bases) and two internal buttresses on the north side of the nave, and 2 piers and part of a third on the south side of the nave were exposed, together with sleeper walls, pulpitum foundations (stone or wooden screen that divides the choir stall and high alter from the nave and the ambulatory), parochial nave alter and original nave floor, however the floor tiles had been completely removed. Beilby reported excavating through ’24 inches of [redeposited] monastic wall rubble’ to reach in-situ broken tile fragments.


M. Bishop (Nottingham City Council) and volunteers excavated a small grassed area to the east of the column park area. Evidence for curved walls were found in this trench, alongside a small number of human bones, suggesting the evidence of small chapels, or ‘lady chapels’ extending out from what had originally been believed to be the eastern end of the church.


G Young and Nottingham City Council Services trenches were excavated on Old Church Street and a watching brief observed at Stevens and Carte on the west side of Abbey Street. Burials were found on Old Church Street and are assumed to be Medieval.  Two walls running north-south were located during the watching brief and may have indicated the outer precinct wall of the priory.


F. Barnes produced the most informative and synthetic guide (click thumbnail below) to the physical remains of the priory complex based chiefly on historical sources and previous excavations.


P. Grieg developed a layout for the Lenton fair (click thumbnail below) by plotting the dimensions of the stalls in the 1516 schedule on a map. Using Medieval and Post-Medieval texts, Grieg established that the fair would have been situated within the outer precinct wall.  The fair was also reported to contain booths with penthouses used by the merchants and their families to both goods from and to lodge in. Grieg’s layout suggests the main outer gates are situated on the corner of Abbey street and Gregory street, below the White Hart public house.


Wessex archaeology opened up two trenches and three pits in an area which is now a part of the Queen’s Medical centre car park, on the opposite side of Abbey street from the West end of the priory. A number of ditches were excavated, some of which contained 13th-14th C pottery, other which may have significantly pre-dated these, but without dating evidence, it was difficult to say. In one of the trenches, there were also post holes and timber structures preserved near to the original course of the River Leen, which could be related to the priory’s mill. It was believed that some of the larger ditches containing medieval pottery may represent boundary divisions, whilst the smaller ones may be drainage ditches. This could be interpreted as elements of the priory’s agricultural lands and gardens.


G. Kinsley and M. Hurford excavated 2 trenches to the west of Gregory street, north of the junction with Abbey Street. This excavations was in the area known as Old Lenton, the village of which was mentioned in the Domesday book.  Medieval dry stone walls were uncovered, alongside early evidence of timber structures. This sequence of buildings were lying about 400mm below ground level.