On the Cathedral church of S. Barnabas
When Fr. Robert Willson arrived in Nottingham in 1825, the Catholics were still using a small chapel in the city's Lace Market, a chapel which had been opened in 1789. As this small community outgrew the old building, a larger building was erected on the nearby George Street in 1828 and dedicated to S. John the Evangelist. Fr. Willson was soon forced to plan for an even larger building, and acquired a substantial plot of land on Toll House Hill, outside the city's west gate. This area would support a convent house for the Sisters of Mercy, a new church and the presbytery. The architect was to be Mr. A. W. N. Pugin and the major benefactor was the Catholic earl of Shrewsbury.
The foundation stone was laid in 1844 by Mgr. Nicholas Wiseman, Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District, and soon after Fr. Willson was appointed the first bishop of Hobart in Tasmania and had to depart. The church was consecrated on the 27th of August, 1844, the main celebrant being Mgr. Wiseman himself, who had brought the relics of the Apostle S. Barnabas with him from Rome. Fr. Francis Cheadle had taken the place of Fr. Willson at Nottingham and was assisted by Fr. Joseph Mulligan and Fr. James Griffin. In 1850, the Holy Father Pius IX saw fit to restore the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales and the Vicars Apostolic became diocesan bishops. Nottingham became one of thirteen new Sees and the church of S. Barnabas became the cathedral, although without a bishop for several months; the diocese was administered by Mgr. William Ullathorne of Birmingham. After the bishop of Clifton, Mgr. Joseph Hendren, was named first Bishop of Nottingham, the bishops lived until 1933 at Cathedral House.
In 1997, the remains of the Venerable Sr. Mary Potter were buried in the north ambulatory of the church, where they are today marked by a significant memorial stone. Sr. Mary came to Nottingham in 1877 to visit Mgr. E. Bagshawe, the third Bishop, at Cathedral House about the establishment of the Order of the Little Company of Mary, which began in Hyson Green, west of Nottingham, and continues to thrive today both in the city and in various places throughout the world. The Sisters work principally to care for the sick and dying.
The original plan for a convent house for the Sisters of Mercy near S. Barnabas' has been mentioned. The Sisters established S. Mary's elementary school in 1846, and S. Catherine's day and boarding school, now both closed. The Sisters also built and ran an industrial school at the old chapel in George Street from 1846 to 1900, teaching domestic skills to girls. S. Joseph's prep. school was opened in 1931 and remains on the Derby road, near the cathedral, although it is no longer managed by the Sisters. In 1881, the Diocese set up a boy's grammar school to serve as a minor seminary on the Derby road, alongside the major seminary of Our Lady and S. Hugh.
The original Cathedral Hall, built in 1898, was replaced in the 1970s by the present building, larger and providing a venue for diocesan an other functions.
Source: Canon A. P. Dolan, Good News for the East Midlands: an account of the background to, and the story of, the Diocese of Nottingham, Tucann Books, 2018, pp. 37-40.