Church of St Mary the Virgin

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Things to do


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March, 2017

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The Church of St Mary the Virgin is the biggest and the best of the Nottingham city medieval churches and sits high above the road. It is the Civic Church and used to inaugurate the new mayor.

It is surrounded by a small graveyard with primroses, Anemone blanda and daffodils in flower in March. Later on, the roses will be out. This is the third church to be built on the site. There was a church recorded here in Domesday book, but that was destroyed by fire in the C12th. Its replacement was rebuilt in the late C14 with the tower completed in the early C15th. It is typical of the great mercantile-funded, urban churches that were being constructed at that time with magnificent Perpendicular architecture. The merchants of the town were eager both to ensure the safety of their souls after death and to demonstrate their growing status within Nottingham in a visible and impressive fashion. They endowed the new church with Guild and Chantry chapels which were situated in the transepts, isolated from the nave by a great gilded rood loft and screen which extended across the east end of both nave and aisles.

Then came the Reformation and the chantry chapels were destroyed. Income from the church was given to the town for upkeep of the bridges over the River Trent. Stained glass windows and monumental brasses were removed during the Civil War. By the end of the C17th the church was in a poor state of repair. Repairs were undertaken at the restoration of the monarchy. A gallery was built to accommodate the increasing congregation. The west end was unsafe and rebuilt in the classical style in the C18th with pediment, urns and obelisks.

There was a further major restoration in C19th. There were serious concerns about the stability of the tower and the church was closed for five years while the tower piers were rebuilt and strengthened. The pinnacles were replaced.

The nave and chancel roof timbers and nave clerestory were replaced, along with the angels on the corbels of the nave. The classical west front, which had never been liked, was replaced with a more traditional design like the original. The galleries were removed along with the box pews. The organ was replaced as well as a new pulpit. The reredos behind the alter was added in 1885. A Lady Chapel was added to the south side of the chancel in 1912.

There were concerns during the Second World War that St Mary’s prominent position on a hill at the edge of the Lace Market made it vulnerable to bombing. Members of the church took it in turns to act as fire watchers, sleeping in the church. It was hit by an incendiary bomb in 19451 which was extinguished before causing major damage.

By the end of the C20th the outside stonework was very grimy and was cleaned in time for the 500th anniversary celebrations.

The church is open daily. There is no parking by the church. The post code is NG1 1HN and the grid reference is SK 577396.

There is more information and pictures “here.”:


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