Through archaeological investigation, outreach to local schools, on-site interpretation and the re-instatement of the Martinmas Fair as a present-day community event, the Lenton Priory Project aims to raise the profile of this little-appreciated heritage asset and put Lenton on the map within the cultural network of the city and the nation.
Little was known about the state of preservation of the Lenton priory complex until Trent & Peak Archaeology (TPA) conducted archaeological excavations in 2012 in advance of the new tram network development. They found intact buried Priory masonry, complete with architectural details and entranceways, as well a range of evidence pertaining to the lives of the monks and lay people who inhabited and visited Lenton. Finds from continental Europe included gold and silver coins, probably pointing to the international draw of the Lenton Fair.
As a result of TPA’s excavations local interest was aroused, and in June 2013 they held an open day as part of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) festival of archaeology, giving guided tours of the site to the public. To coincide with this event Nottingham City Council commissioned and funded a geophysical survey in five areas surrounding the priory and the Chapel of St. Anthony, which was completed by TPA with volunteers from the University of Nottingham and Lenton Local History Society. This produced evidence of further subsurface archaeological features and led to the application for Heritage Lottery Funding to start the Lenton Priory Project. This is the story of the origins of the Lenton Priory Project.
During excavation, there were places for four volunteers each day, Monday to Friday, from 27 October to 19 December 2014, in a variety of roles. We chosen to limit the number of places to ensure that there was a genuine chance to get involved properly. We didn’t want volunteers left sitting at the side watching or just washing tools – but ensured that they could be be busy excavating, working closely with our archaeologists as equal members of the team! If the dig itself didn’t suit the volunteers there were ample opportunities to process and record the finds.