Christ Church


Christ Church was built to serve the small hamlet which was the home of miners who worked at Cinder Hill, Babbington and Newcastle Collieries. The driving force behind the building of a church came largely from Thomas North, the entrepreneur who sank the pits. He sank the first one at Cinder Hill in 1842, became Mayor of Nottingham in 1844 and moved into Basford Hall. He had already built cottages for his workers especially in Napoleon Square, Holden Square and Babbington Square. He also provided a General Baptist Chapel at Babbington village and a Baptist Mission Room at Holden Square.

In addition Anglicans were concerned about the increasing popularity of non-conformist chapels in the area. The original chapel for Kilhamites in the grounds of Basford Hall became New Connexion in 1840 and was enlarged in 1851, and the foundation stone for the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Nuthall Road was laid in October 1852.

North was not the only man with a great wish to see a new Anglican church erected at Cinder Hill. The hamlet was in the parish of Basford and the vicar at that time was Henry Pitman. For some years he held services in a room only 12ft x 9ft at the Red Lion Inn at Cinder Hill. After 1856 he had to provide a curate for the new church.

Christ Church’s foundation stone was laid in the summer of 1855 and the building was completed in under twelve months. According to W W Fyfe it cost ‘less than £2,000’, but Kelly gives the more precise figure of £2,306. Whichever is the more accurate it is clear that Thomas North did not provide all the funding, as some accounts imply; indeed, he was in no position to do so because of his own financial position at the time. He did, however, contribute, as is clear from the following list of the main donors:

The Duke of Newcastle (who also gave the land for the church)   200
Nottinghamshire Church Building Society   250
Incorporated Church Building Society   165
The Church Building Commissioners   100
R Holden, Esq   100
J T Edge, Esq   100
Rev A Padley   100
Mr Thomas North   100
The Bishop of Lincoln   50
Thomas Woodhouse, colliery engineer   50
Others   189 10s
Mrs Pitman and her sister collected pennies in Nottingham   110
Collection on consecration day   117 17s 5d
Total   1,632 7s 5d

It is not known how the rest of the money was raised to make up the total to at least £2,000. The Nottingham Guardian reported that ‘for the endowment of the church the Duke of Newcastle, Mr Edge, Mr North and other large owners and occupiers of land in the vicinity have offered liberal sums of money’, and the sum now required to realize the proposed amount is between £400 and £500’. As a board in the choir vestry indicates the ICBS made its grant ‘in return for all seats for use of poorer inhabitants of the parish’. All 300 seats were free.

This left £400 - £500 still to be raised for the building although the Duke of Newcastle, Thomas North and J T Edge offered more for the endowment of the church.

The church was situated among a beautiful clump of trees at the angle of the old Derby Road. It was designed by Thomas Chambers Hine, one of the finest Victorian architects in the Midlands who later designed All Saints’, Raleigh Street and St Matthias’, Carlton Road. Christ Church was built by J Fisher in the Decorated Gothic style of the 14th century and succeeded so well that the Illustrated London News called it ‘a perfect little gem of a building’. Hine even sketched designs for a Moorish arch of laurel leaves and flowers which was erected in the churchyard on consecration day.

The consecration took place on 19th June 1856, a day of great rejoicing in Cinder Hill. Many local dignitaries were present including the Duke of Newcastle and the Earl of Lincoln, Mr & Mrs J T Edge of Strelley Hall, Mr Robert Holden of Nuthall Temple, Mr G Rawson of Bestwood Lodge, J C Wright, Richard Birkin, Mayor of Nottingham, T C Hine, J Fisher the builder, Thomas Woodhouse, North’s chief engineer of his collieries, the Bishop of Lincoln (Nottinghamshire was then in the Diocese of Lincoln), Archdeacon Wilkins of St Mary’s and sixteen ministers from nearby parishes. The Bishop and the Rev H R Pitman, Vicar of Basford, conducted the service. Hundreds of miners marched in procession to the church, but only a few managed to squeeze onto the back pews. After the service the miners were allowed to enjoy strolling in the grounds of Basford Hall, while 150 honoured guests sat down to a lavish lunch in the Hall at Thomas North’s expense.

Christ Church was a chapel of ease in the parish of St Leodegarius, Basford. The vicar had to provide a curate and for some years from 1874 to 1882 two of the Rev H R Pitman’s sons fulfilled that role. The church was popular with the miners but remained quite bare for the first forty years. All windows were plain, the seating was on open benches of stained wood. The floor tiles had to be replaced in 1903.

Things began to improve in 1896 when Christ Church became a Chapelry and gained some administrative independence. The priests thereafter were known as chaplains who were licensed to the Bishop of Southwell instead of the Vicar of Basford. The chaplains could conduct baptisms from 14th June 1896 and marriages from 18th June that year. There were never any burials. Sir Charles Seely (knighted in 1896), a generous benefactor, helped to pay the chaplain’s stipend and gave coal for heating. He and his wife Emily took a keen interest in the church after he purchased Babbington Colliery following Thomas North’s death in 1868.

Mrs Emily Seely died in 1894 and in her memory it was decided to insert the first stained glass window in the church in 1898 in the east end. The cost of £150 was defrayed by voluntary subscriptions. Another Faculty in 1898 made for further substantial improvements in the chancel, all funded by George Fowler, long-time churchwarden who lived at Basford Hall. All the old choir seats, desks and reading desk of common deal and iron were removed and replaced with new ones in oak. Fowler also donated a new lectern in the shape of a brass eagle. The brick floor of the chancel was replaced by glazed tiles. In the mosaic on the floor can be seen A and Ω (Alpha and Omega) and IHS for Jesus.

George Fowler was churchwarden for over forty years and he led the way in improving the building. In 1902 work began on the new choir vestry which he designed. He himself donated £50 towards the eventual cost of £600, and a bazaar raised another £250, a huge sum in those days. Sir Charles Seely donated materials such as timber. However the final debt was not paid off until 1918. A Mr Smith was the builder. The wood carvings on the roof of the vestry are unique in this area, suggesting music and sound in religious worship. In 1920 a door was to be placed in the choir vestry from inside the church as the draught was severe at times.

The new choir vestry was added to the north west corner and dedicated on 30th October 1902. It is octagonal with an oak roof bearing interesting carvings. On the wall are two tablets recording gifts of money to the Chaplain’s stipend by G Fowler and T L K Edge.

The following notes on the decorative features of the new vestry date from 1902:

As it is a choir vestry sound should be suggested plus some theological teaching, thus:


Angel blowing trumpet.

Heads 2, 3, 4 and 5 suggest created beings, joining in harmony.

2.   Bird with extended wings.
3.   Lowing ox.
4.   Strident frog.
5.   Squirrel playing castanets.
6.   Figure of Man who by his folly produces discord, hence has an ass’s beard.
7.   Religion restores harmony, suggested  by a chorister.
8.   Heaven blesses the happy event, suggested by the angel and harp.
Ox and frog figures
in the vestry

The figures to spring from the ends of sleeper beams 6ins. x 4ins.

The centre of the roof has a pendant with foliage. (In fact swine were added to this feature.)

In 1912, when Bishop Hoskyns visited the area, there were 155 children on the roll of the church school, and 277 on the Sunday School roll. There were thirty baptisms in the year to 30th September 1912.

In his 40th year as churchwarden in 1913 Fowler commemorated the milestone by presenting the church with a further three stained glass windows. In the chancel is Christ as the Light of the World, looking down on the choir Mary and Judith, and in the nave scenes from the life of St Paul. Sadly his next major donation in 1919 was a memorial window for his son Lieutenant Colonel George Herbert Fowler, who was killed on the Hohenzollen Redoubt in October 1915. Due to ill health George Fowler resigned as churchwarden in 1921 having devoted much of his life to the job since 1873. He had also been manager of the village school. After his death in 1923, commemorated in a plaque, his regular payment of £50 to the chaplain’s stipend ceased. Sir Charles Seely remained Patron until his death in 1915, then his sons Sir Charles and Colonel Frank Seely continued the good work until Christ Church became a Parish Church.

Attendance at services declined somewhat in the latter part of the Great War and into the 1920s. The Rev E J Powell remained only one year after he returned from the War and was succeeded by the Rev W Toleman, who came from St Mary’s Nottingham where he was the senior curate. He was the last priest to live in the parsonage on Bagnall Road. He left in 1928.

The following year Christ Church became a District Chapelry, and automatically a parish with the Bishop of Southwell as the patron. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners would transfer £50 to endow the new cure and make a grant of £250pa towards the endowment on the ground of population, as long as the PCC or some other could guarantee not less than £100pa for the incumbent. This was in addition to any donations from the Babbington Colliery Company or others. The Vicar of Basford surrendered his patronage to the Bishop of Southwell, whose first appointment as vicar was the Rev Charles Brown. His stay was brief but before leaving in 1932 he introduced electric lights and a new organ. However, he had problems trying to sort out church and colliery finances which had become mixed up.

He was frustrated in his efforts to set up a Vicarage Fund. Not until December 1950 was a Deed of Appropriation of Part of the Church Site as a Parsonage made. A triangular area of 1,197 square yards on the north side of the church was set aside for the vicarage (and garden) which was finally built in 1951-2. The Rev John Syson was the first resident and in his time the church was said to have been ‘beautified’.

By the 1950s the population of the parish had grown considerably since the boundaries were established in 1896. At that time they stretched from Broxtowe Lane, to Cinder Hill Road, then north to the River Leen and south east to Bar Lane, with a small extension to High Street, Basford. In 1929 three portions of territory were annexed from the adjacent parishes of Nuthall and Bilborough.

To the south, adjacent to Cinderhill, the enormous Aspley Estate of new houses was built after 290 acres of land were purchased in 1928. In the early 1930s this put pressure on Christ Church, but that was relieved when St Margaret’s was built on Aspley Lane, opening in February 1936. The incumbents of Bilborough, Wollaton, Basford and Cinderhill readily agreed to the redistribution of their parish boundaries. Christ Church parish was still substantial and it was said in the 1950s that there were probably more marriages there than at any other church in the City deanery.

Further substantial alterations to the interior of the church were made during Cyril Miles’ tenure as vicar (1963 - 1968). According to a faculty of 18th May 1965 the following list of changes were to be made:

1.   A new oak altar in the sanctuary, same width as the east window.
2.   A new silver cross and candlesticks for said altar.
3.   The Book of Remembrance and its plaque to be moved to the new side chapel.
4.   To construct side chapel in north aisle and use the original altar from the sanctuary; reredos to be set on a dais, a shelf put up for a credence table.
[Four oak panels showing the four evangelists which were once part of the reredos are now fixed to the north wall.]
5.   Remove six old pews that face south and instal three new oak pews to face east.
6.   Build a lavatory over the heating chamber at the west end.
7.   Exchange the stained glass window in the south east corner of the nave for the plain glass window at the south west corner. Remove the stained glass window in south wall of chancel and replace it with the existing figures only in plain glass.

During the 1980s it became apparent that the organ could not be repaired. So in 1988 the modern one was installed and subsequently the old organ was removed, the wall blocked up and a kitchen created out of the old organ chamber.

In 2000 some of the rear pews were removed and replaced with upholstered chairs to give an area used for baptisms, meetings, social functions and tea and coffee after Sunday service. On the south wall beside the chairs is the Welcome area with new cupboards and opposite is the quiet(?) play area for young children.

The old dwellings such as those on Holden Square, Napoleon Square and Babbington Cottages have long gone. Nuthall Road is now the A610, a four lane highway leading to the M1, Derbyshire and IKEA. Drivers roar by, many not even noticing the church. Few pedestrians pass by and there are no Nottingham City Transport buses. But the worst effect of the road widening is virtually to cut the parish in half.

The Church Hall

The Church Hall
as it is today

The church hall on Nuthall Road was used as a school until the early 1930s, when William Crane schools were built. Then it was sold to Christ Church for £500. George Pallant, a member of the PCC suggested to the Co-op, for whom he worked, that part of the Hall could be used as a warehouse. Happily the church received £750 in the deal. Eventually the whole hall belonged to the church, and has been used regularly by Scouts, Cubs, Brownies, Guides, Ladies’ Group, Mums and Toddlers, Drama Group, etc as well as for social events.

Finally, plans have been drawn by Inclusive Design Limited for the re-ordering of the layout of Christ Church, including the removal of pews and installation of new individual seating. A new single-storey hall is to be added at the west end. Progress is dependent on the sale of the old parish hall.

Key Dates

1855Foundation stone laid.

1856Church consecrated on 19th June as a chapel of ease.

1896Became a Chapelry - baptisms and marriages could now be conducted by the chaplain. Renovation of church.

1902Choir vestry added.

1929Became a District Chapelry and automatically a parish.

1952Vicarage built next to church.

1965-8Side chapel constructed in north aisle.