St Cyprian


At the beginning of the 20th century, the land upon which St Cyprian’s Church was eventually built was part of a sparsely populated green field area on the very edge of the City of Nottingham’s 1877 boundary. Only a few farm houses and cottages were scattered amongst the newer houses built to accommodate the city’s population drift to the green suburbs. The site at the top of a hill overlooked the east and south of the city and beyond into the Trent valley. This area of fruit orchards, allotments and pastures contrasted sharply with the patch of housing at the bottom of the hill, consisting of streets and courts of densely packed slum dwellings known as Sneinton Elements. In this area housing and sanitary conditions were very basic. It was common for several houses to share a block of outside toilets and many houses were still lit by gas. (Contrast the new developments around the proposed church site, with their bathrooms, private gardens and inside toilets.) The whole area at the time was served by St Matthias’ Church nearer the city and St Paul’s (Carlton) on the county side. Both these churches were built in the latter part of the 19th century. Nearby was the tiny corrugated iron Mission Church dedicated to St Clement.

It must have become apparent to the Bishop of Southwell that the rapidly expanding population warranted more facilities when he invited the Rev Vincent Travers Macy to take charge of the designated church district and develop the site. In 1913 the first church building and the vicarage were completed to a design by the Nottingham firm of architects Messrs John Howitt and Sons. The small church, to accommodate a congregation of two hundred, was built of red Nottingham brick, possible produced at the brick kilns then only a few hundred yards away.

The intention was to build a larger Parish Church as the congregation increased. However, the First World War delayed the implementation of the longer term plan. Sadly, Fr Macy’s war duties affected his health, resulting in his departure in 1920. It was not until 1927, when St Cyprian’s was designated as a ‘Peel parish’ with the Rev Mr Killer as its vicar, that increasing use of the 1913 building, now with a Sunday school roll exceeding 350, led to renewed development planning. Recognising the need, the Diocesan Authority donated £6500 from the sale of the recently demolished St Paul’s Church in George Street in the city centre. The redundancy of St Paul’s reflected the drift of the population from the city centre to the suburbs.

The same firm of local architects were appointed, Messrs John Howitt and Sons, Mr Claude Howitt taking personal responsibility for the design. Initially ‘a rather ambitious scheme’ for a building with a capacity of 600 in the Gothic style, was produced. Potential costs subsequently caused this to be abandoned. The second design was very different, being regarded as ‘modernistic’. Seating was reduced to 400 in a spacious open-plan building, with a broad nave, side ambulatories and chairs rather than pews. It was estimated that the new design would cost about £8500. Laying the Foundation StoneThis was more agreeable and after evensong on Sunday, 13th May 1934 the Rev Mr Killer cut the first turf for the building work to start the next day. Work on the site must have been well planned and executed, by Thursday 10th July the foundations and brickwork to floor level, plus the sub-floor had been completed, allowing Fr and Mrs Macy to return to the church to lay the foundation stone in the presence of the Bishop of Southwell. Mr Killer wrote a special hymn for the occasion, and made an appeal to the congregation for the £1000 needed to complete. The new church was finally consecrated on 15th May 1935 by the Bishop of Southwell

Until 1917 baptisms at St Cyprian’s were recorded in the registers of St Paul’s Carlton. Fr Macy opened the St Cyprian’s Baptism Register on 15th January 1919 with the ceremony for Albert Raymond Cutts. The last baptism in the old building was on 23rd April 1935, for Mavis Richards. The church was not licensed for marriages until November 1930. All previous marriages were recorded in the registers of St Paul’s or St Matthias’. Excepting those in current use, all St Cyprian’s registers are lodged in the Nottinghamshire County Archives

In 1913 when the church district was established, only a handful of other places of worship were located within a few minutes’ walk of the site. Today there are 18. Some of these host religious communities unheard of in 1913 demonstrating the changing nature of beliefs and the community during the 20th Century

Over the years the surrounding green fields have disappeared under a network of roads and housing developments. The parish is now partly within the City of Nottingham, and partly in the Borough of Gedling. The brickyard, the probable source of the red bricks for the original building, now hosts a small estate of dwellings, but the area still retains some of its leafy suburb appearance, with mature trees surrounding the still modern looking St Cyprian’s.

The Original Church Building

The original church buildingThe original church building on the site was completed in 1913. It is very much a building typical of the area and the period of its design. The main construction material used is red Nottingham brick of standard imperial size. It may well have been produced from clay cut, shaped and fired at the brickyard only a few hundred yards down the hill. Ancaster stone has been used to frame the door ways and window openings, and decoratively as a plinth course set some two feet above ground level. The gable walls rise above the roof line, and are capped with stone now considerable darkened by exposure to the elements. A small stone cross is set at the apex. In the very centre of the roof ridge an ornate square wooden-louvred turret, surmounted with a weathered copper-covered roof, adds a dimension of age and purpose. This may well have been the original bell turret.

The main entrance is within an extended porch on the south-facing gable-end wall, which leads into the main body of the building now used as the church hall. It has a high open ceiling with heavy exposed roof timbers currently darkly stained.

A further entrance is located on the side of the building near the rear, giving access to small rooms used as service areas - possibly the original vestries. The building appears to be in fair condition and is well used by local groups. A small stage has been installed, but there is no internal evidence of the building’s original use.