St Thomas


Led by Richard Mercer a further group separated from the main body of Wesleyanism and built this large chapel in Park Row. It opened for worship on 8th April 1855, as the Wesleyan Congregational Free Church, when the Rev H Breedon, Wesleyan Associate Minister, preached two sermons. It could seat about 800 persons.

The cost was £3,000, largely donated by Mr Mercer. He appears to have dominated the society so that it became known as ‘Mercer’s Chapel’. But it had only a very short life and in 1857 was put up for sale, on condition that Mercer should be allotted a pew as his freehold for ever. For a few years various denominations used the chapel on a temporary basis.’

Then, in the early 1870s, it was purchased by the Church of England. The site was bought from the owners, Thomas Adams, William Windley and the Rev Henry Wright, for £2,500. Adams and Wright each donated £250 for church building. The Rev Walter Senior, who was the Chaplain to Thomas Adams’ warehouse on Stoney Street, agreed to be the first incumbent.

T C Hine was engaged to make considerable changes. After submitting his designs to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners he received a reply from Ewan Christian, their architectural adviser, in May 1872. He had no objection to structural changes except that lateral walls were to be strengthened with piers. The chancel was too cluttered so pews were to be re-arranged and the pulpit and desk were to be moved; also a separate entrance from church to vestry was required. The rich ornamentation introduced at this time has already been noted. The elaborate decoration of walls and ceiling was undertaken by Mr G Sparrow, churchwarden, as a gift to the church.

The Episcopal Church of St Thomas, as it was to be called, was consecrated by the Bishop of Lincoln on 22nd April 1873. At his request all 600 seats were to be free. A large and poor population between Market Street and Parliament Street, which had previously been neglected, was to be included in the New District. At the same time it was hoped to include an area capable of providing teachers and parochial workers.

The Consolidated Chapelry was to be taken partly from the parish of St Matthew, partly from St Nicholas’ and partly from Holy Trinity, a total of 26½ acres with a population of just over 4,000. A Plan of the District was drawn up by Fothergill Watson in July 1873. The Ecclesiastical Commission objected to the inclusion of a part nearer to Holy Trinity than to St Thomas’, ie between Upper Parliament Street, Milton Street and North Street. It was left out, but a small part of St Peter’s parish near Bromley House was included. Arguments over boundaries continued until the Rev Mr Senior complained to the Bishop that the Ecclesiastical Commission’s proposals were impossible. The Bishop intervened, and a line drawn between the backs of houses and courts lying between Mount Street and St James’ was finally accepted.

Thus Fothergill Watson drew up another plan in June 1874, stretching to Clumber Street, Wollaton Street, Chapel Bar and Park Row. Then he completed a final map detailing the boundary of the contentious area around Mount Street. This was accepted and the District was finally assigned in July 1874.

A few months later the church was offered anonymously almost 1,000 square yards of land at the corner of The Ropewalk and Oxford Street for a parsonage. This was built in 1888 at a cost of £2,247, including £1,000 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The same anonymous donor offered £544 towards a stipend for the Curate and, from 1st May 1875, the Commissioners granted £200 pa for the Income of the Cure.

There were additions to the church at the end of the century. In 1898-99 a chancel screen was erected, the organ enlarged and a font cover provided. Also, four new clerestory windows were inserted. Nevertheless, open air services were still taking place in 1907 in Courts and Yards of the parish.

The closure of St Thomas’ was proposed in early 1922 by the Bishop’s Commission, much to the dismay of the Vicar, Rev Charles Davis, and his parishioners. He got up petitions to protest, saying that the church had never been in financial difficulties and should not be converted into a Church Hall as proposed. In spite of his efforts the Privy Council’s decision to close St Thomas’ was announced in December 1925, although it was not to take place during Mr Davis’ incumbency. He believed it was being closed because it was evangelical.

When the Rev Charles Davis died in 1926 St Thomas’ was made a Chapel of Ease in the parish of St Matthew. It closed soon afterwards and was demolished in 1930-31. (The site was used for the Diocesan Church House, built in 1932.) The oak lectern, font and communion vessels were presented to St Barnabas’ Church, Lenton Abbey, and the pews went to St Paul’s, Carlton-in-the-Willows. Other furniture and fittings were appropriated by the Bishop of Southwell and disposed of as he saw fit.

Relevant Dates

1855Built as The Wesleyan Congregational Free Church

1873Purchased by the Church of England and converted into the Episcopal Church of St Thomas. Consecrated 22nd April 1873

1873Alterations by T C Hine

1874New District Chapelry assigned in July

1899Chancel screen and clerestory windows added

1926Merged with St Matthew’s Church and closed