Lenton as an Open-Field Village

By Herbert Green


IN 1768 the first Lenton and Radford Inclosure Award destroyed the open fields which for centuries had been the basis of the village life. Originally an Anglian settlement, Lenton remained for over 1,200 years a community whose pursuits were mainly agricultural. Only in comparatively recent times did it become an industrial town,1 and finally a suburb of Nottingham.2

The purpose of the plan on page 105 is to show the chief features of Lenton about 1760, before enclosure had taken place. Much of the information embodied in the plan is to be found in J. T. Godfrey's History of the Parish and Priory of Lenton (1884). Particularly useful have been the extracts from the Lenton and Radford Inclosure Award3 which, besides giving an account of the allotments made, furnishes valuable clues to the positions of the open arable fields, meadows, pastures, and other characteristics of the unenclosed village. Although of a later date, Chapman's Survey, 1774, and Sanderson's Survey, 1835, have also been used, but with necessary caution. To Mr. Arthur Cossons, acknowledgement and thanks are due for several items of information which have helped to make the plan more accurate and more complete.

Lenton Village.

Although a village of several hundred inhabitants, Lenton in 1760 showed little sign of the approach of Industrialism. It is true that the parish registers mention framework knitters in 1717, a basket-maker in 1733, a weaver in 1735, and a needle-maker in 1777,4 but 18th-century Lenton was ignorant of the fate which the machine age had in store for it.

Through Lenton passed two important roads: the main road from Nottingham to Derby, and the Leen valley road which led northward from the ford across the Trent to Radford and beyond. That portion of the Leen valley road which lay between the Derby road crossing and the Priory site formed the village street, now called Gregory Street, around which, according to Chapman's Survey, most of the houses of Lenton clustered. At this time, nothing of the "most unlovely"5 district of New Lenton had been built. Of Lenton Priory the gatehouse still remained, having resisted the ravages of time and the greed of man sufficiently well to be of use for parochial purposes.6 Standing near the place where the foot-road to Nottingham (Birch Lane, now Sherwin Road) branched off, were the village stocks.7 The pinfold, common to the parishes of Lenton and Radford, but under the control of Lenton,8 was situated on the east side of Radford Marsh not far from the Derby Road crossing.9 Between the village and the River Leen lay Bull Close,10 A description of 18th-century Lenton would not be complete without mention of a most unpleasant feature—the open ditches which, until 1853, conveyed the principal drainage of the town.11

Roads, Footways, Bridges and Fords.

Most of the roads and footways existing in 1760 are still in use at the present time. Here and there, they deviate from their original courses, and in some instances names have been changed. At a place where the Nottingham-Derby road crossed the Leen, was a wooden bridge for pedestrians only, other traffic crossing by a ford.12 In 1760 the canal had not been made. Leaving the ford across the Leen, the Derby road swung to the right as far as the corner of the boundary of Wollaton parish, along which it then ran for some distance. Near the entrance-lodge to Lenton Hall, the road crossed the line of the present road to rejoin it a little further on.

In 1822 the course of the road was diverted when Lord Middleton purchased the land between the old and new Derby Road, and enclosed it in his park. Until the Nottingham Corporation acquired Wollaton Park, the old road could easily be traced, as the carriage drive of the park took the same line.13 Recent housing developments have destroyed this link with the 18th century, but the Six-inch Ordnance Survey Map marks the course of the old road very clearly, and shows the position of two stones which stood at the side.

From the plan, it will be seen that in 1760 the road to Beeston, and eventually to Birmingham, did not leave the Derby road at a point opposite the second entrance to Wollaton Park, but at the junction with Lenton Hall Drive. Not far from here was a toll-bar, erected by the Turnpike Trust probably just before 1760.14

Other roads and footways mentioned in the Lenton and Radford Inclosure Award, 1768, as existing before that date, are as follows:—

Public Roads.

  1.  From Lenton to the ford across the Trent opposite Wilford (Wilford Road or Trent Lane).
  2.  Lenton to Radford (Marsh Road or Radford Marsh); this has ceased to be a thoroughfare. During the making of the plan and the writing of these notes, a change of name has occurred. A newly-painted plate announces the name to be "Radmarsh Road formerly Radford Marsh." The gain from the change of name is not apparent; the loss is. The retention of street-names like Radford Marsh and Wilford Road, which have a history and a meaning, is a great assistance to those who are trying to encourage an intelligent interest in the past.

Private Roads. Westward from Wilford Road (Trent Lane) to Trent Wong.

Public Footways.

  1. From the Lordship of Wilford to Trent Wong.
  2. From the town of Lenton westward to the footbridge over the Leen and to Beeston.
  3. the fence belonging to Nottingham Park (Birch Lane, now Sherwin Road).
  4. From the town street in Lenton, near the Pinfold, and by the east side of the public road from Lenton to Radford.15
    (Not marked on the plan.)

(1) The population grew from 893 in 1801 to 23,872 in 1901 ( Vict. County Hist. Notts., Vol. II, p. 313).
(2) Nottingham Borough Extension Act, 1877 (see Godfrey, p. 352).
(3) Godfrey, p. 319. et seq.
(4) Godfrey, p. 355.
(5) Godfrey on p.7 describes New Lenton as a "most unlovely modern manufacturing district," referring, no doubt, to the streets near Willoughby Street, with their factories and back-to-back houses.
(6) Godfrey, p. 221.
(7) Godfrey, p. 340.
(8) Godfrey, p. 346.
(9) Many of the older inhabitants of Lenton can still remember the pinfold.
(10) See Lenton and Radford Inclosure Award, 1768, Godfrey, p. 319, et seq.
(11) Godfrey, p. 350.
(12) Godfrey, p. 9. See also Chapman's Survey, 1774.
(13) Godfrey, p. 6.
(14) Chapman's Survey; Mellors, Nottingham Suburbs, gives the date 1759.
(15) Lenton and Radford Inclosure Award, 1768. See Godfrey, p. 324