The Lenton Centre is situated in an area called New Lenton, better known to many as Lenton. It is an inner-city area one mile south-west of Nottingham city centre, but it only became part of the city in 1877. Before that it was a small village, quite separate from the Borough of Nottingham. The original village was largely confined to the Gregory Street area and until the nineteenth century many of its inhabitants were employed in some aspect of farming. Most of the surrounding land would have been farm land, including the spot where The Lenton Centre presently stands.
From about 1750 onwards the population of Nottingham began to increase rapidly. It is calculated that there were about 11,000 people living in the city in 1750, but by 1801 the figure was nearly 29,000. All these extra people needed somewhere to live and places to work, so it was not long before all the suitable land within the city itself had been built upon.
Unable to find sites in Nottingham, people began to buy land in the surrounding villages of Sneinton, Basford, Radford and Lenton, each of which was surrounded by farm land.The green light for the development of New Lenton was the sale by John Wright of Lenton Hall which included some sixteen acres of land. This is the site which presently houses the Willoughby Street flats complex and the Community Centre itself.
By 1861 New Lenton had evolved into a set of inter-linked streets feeding into Willoughby Street, which in turn led on to Derby Road. To the east, the area between New Lenton and The Park had become a complex of garden allotments known as Allenfield Gardens. To the west of New Lenton it was still fields until you reached the Nottingham and Mansfield railway line, which had been built in the late 1840s. Between 1801 and 1871, Lenton’s population increased from 893 to 6,315, a seven-fold increase.
In 1877, Lenton became part of Nottingham and the construction of Lenton Boulevard began in 1884. This was a way of not just creating a low level route into Nottingham for carriers and travellers (remember, this was in the days before cars), but a way of linking the two places together. Lenton Recreation Ground also opened in 1888. The heart of New Lenton will always be Willoughby Street. Most of the houses back then were small, built in terraces and with little more than a backyard. Those who lived in the back-to-back houses on Park Street and Kyte Street did not even have a backyard they could call their own.
Historical research provided by Robert Howard.