The writer of the section on Lenton Priory in the Victoria County History of Nottinghamshire considered it highly probable that the execution of the prior and his monks for high treason was accomplished under the provision of the Verbal Treasons Act of December 1534.1 Among the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII are several documents that seem to support this view. From this it is clear that one of the monks, Hamlet Pentriche, who three times fled from his monastery, proved useful to Cromwell by making statements before the Council of alleged conversations in Lenton Priory. Heath complained to Hennege, “groom of the stoole to the King’s Grace,” that Pentriche had laid an unjust accusation against him before the Council. As steward of the house, Sir John Willoughby wrote to Cromwell in a similar vein asking that Pentriche and his abettors might be punished. Some, at least, of the evidence given by Pentriche of conversations in Lenton Priory is extant and forms interesting reading.2 It would certainly be sufficient to bring the penalty of death to those implicated. As, however, according to Pentriche himself, conversations took place at Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide, there is still the difficulty of explaining what the prior did on 29th June, 1536.

Godfrey mentions a tradition that Nicholas Heath was hanged above the gateway of his priory, but others consider it probable that the execution took place in Nottingham. The Draft Account of the Expenditure of the Chamberlain of Nottingham for 1537/8 includes under “Presents and Rewards,” the payment of 16d. for two gallons of wine for my Lord’s Judges, “when the monks of Lenton suffered death”; and under “Necessary Expenses,” the payment of 2d. to one, Ross, for cleaning Cow Lane (now Clumber Street), on the same occasion.3 It is possible to regard this as evidence that Nottingham was the scene of the execution, but it may also be considered as a way of showing when the payments were made by reference to a day which would long remain in the minds of the inhabitants.

Once the fate of Nicholas Heath and his monks had been decided, the monastery and its possessions did not long remain intact. On the very day that the execution was reported to Cromwell, Thurston Tyldesley wrote to him mentioning he had heard that the priory of Lenton with its cells was likely to come into the king’s possession, and begging to be given the cell of Kersall.4 As a monastery attainted of high treason, Lenton soon became answerable to the General Surveyors.5 The prior’s income of £329 a year and a sum of £252 from the sale of monastic goods passed into the king's hands.6 In October of 1538 the king presented to the rectory of Harlestone,7 and in November to the church of St. Peter, Nottingham. These were “in the king's gift by the suppression of Lenton.”8 The next year, Michael Stanhope obtained the site of the priory of Lenton with certain lands in Lenton and Radford, for forty-one years, and in 1540 he was granted the lease of “all booths, stallage, and all other profits” of Lenton Fair for twenty-one years.9

When the monks had left their monastery, the demolition of the buildings followed. In 1551 the order reached the porter of the king’s castle at Nottingham to deliver the lead in his custody to the Earl of Wiltshire’s servant for removal to London for the king's use. A letter of 1555 sent by the Receiver-General of the County of Nottingham reveals that the lead had come from Lenton Priory, and that of the 198 fodders deposited at Nottingham Castle only 160 had been delivered. It is known that Sir Francis Willoughby’s men made many journeys to “Lenton Abbie” for quantities of stone. For 60 ells of stone brought trom the monastery on May 8th, 1591, 3d. the ell was paid. From the evidence printed in the Report of the Historical MSS. Commission on the MSS. of Lord Middleton, preserved at Wollaton Hall,10 it would appear that the stone was not used in the building of Wollaton Hall, being obtained after the Hall had been completed (1588). Sufficient of the monastery was standing in 1601 to allow it to become the birthplace of one, Thomas Bradford.11 In Dr. Thoroton’s time, only one square steeple was left of the monastery. This fell down shortly before he wrote his famous History of Nottinghamshire in 1677, and with the stones a causeway was made through the town.12 Part of the priory gate­house seems to have remained intact a century longer, being used for the Peverel Court towards the end of the 18th century. An entry in the overseer of Lenton’s accounts for the repair of windows “at Abbey Gatehouse” confirms this evidence of survival.13

(1) V.C.H., Notts., Vol. II, p. 99.
(2) Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, Vol. X, 655; Vol. XII, Pt. I, p. 398 ; ibid.. 912 ; ibid., 1327. Much of the evidence is also printed in V.C.H., Notts., Vol. II, p. 99 ; and Frith: Highways and Byways of Notts., pp. 40-42.
(3) Borough Records of Nottingham, Vol. Ill, pp. 376, 377.
(4) Letters and Papers of Henry   VIII, Vol. XIII (i), 789.
(5) Ibid., Pt. II, July to December, 1538.
(6) Gasquet: HenryVIII and the Eng. Monasteries, II, p.  190.
(7)  Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, Vol.XIII,  Pt.  II,  734.
(8) Ibid.
(9) Letters and Papers of Henry   VIII, Vol. XIV, 1539.
(10) p. 459. One entry is printed in full. A footnote says that there are many similar entries.Reference to the actual MSS. which have now left Wollaton Hall, would reveal whether any stone was obtained from Lenton Priory during the building of the Hall (1580-88).
(11) Godfrey:   p. 221.
(12) Thoroton, p. 219, mentioned by Godfrey, p. 221. Throsby’s edition of Thoroton, Vol. II, p. 204, adds “there is nothing remaining of the Monastery or Priory worthy notice.”
(13) Godfrey: p. 221.