Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent granted for Old Black Lion pub in Northampton

West Northamptonshire Council has granted planning permission and listed building consent to the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) to reopen the Grade II-listed Old Black Lion as a community-based pub.

The plans propose the regeneration of the building, with restored bar spaces for eating and drinking, and a new dining room overlooking the courtyard beer garden.
The historic carriage passage from Marefair into the Old Black Lion’s courtyard will be reinstated and the pub – which dates to at least the 16th century – repaired to the highest conservation standards. A new path and gate will connect the pub’s courtyard entrance on St Peter’s Street to St Peter’s churchyard next door. The plans have been drawn by Manchester-based OMI Architects, with conservation architects Crosby Granger.

The pub is owned by West Northamptonshire Council who will lease it to the Churches Conservation Trust; the Trust is managing the project and has been awarded £1.8m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Trust is currently in the process of selecting a hospitality operator to run the pub, with a portion of the profits going to repairing and conserving the neighbouring 12th-century St Peter’s Church, which the Trust has cared for since 1998.

Peter Aiers, Chief Executive of the Churches Conservation Trust, said: It is such a relief that we now have Planning Permission and Listed Building the Old Black Lion. We are really grateful for WNC’s ongoing support for this innovative project. I am really excited that we can now realise the vision to bring the Old Black Lion back into commercial use, whilst helping to sustain one of the most important Norman Churches in the country, St Peter’s.

The Chair of The Friends of St Peter’s [FOSTP] Mrs Jean Hawkins, said: It is true to say that we just can’t wait to have the Old Black Lion up and running again. It will simply revolutionise the sort of things we can do at the church. All events will be so much easier to fix up with toilets and refreshments next door once again. It will bring new possibilities to St Peter’s. Having a pathway into the churchyard linking church and pub will bring daily life back to this potentially pleasant part of Marefair. Friends Volunteers will have creature comforts - no more running to the station for a toilet. The whole visitor scene is going to be so attractive. The design features of the project will make the Pub a delight. It going to get back its own character and fascinating history. It will be a proper part of the Heritage Gateway to the Town. We really have missed the Old Black Lion so much!

The wider regeneration goals of the project – which include new landscaping in the churchyard, biodiversity initiatives, community activities, and creating new jobs in the pub – have attracted funding from West Northamptonshire Council, via the HM Treasury’s Towns Fund, and the Architectural Heritage Fund.

CCT is working in partnership with the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to create a new national training centre for church bellringing, based at the Old Black Lion and St Peter’s. The site forms part of the Heritage Gateway initiative, which seeks to improve the approach to the town from the railway station.

St Peter’s Church is an outstanding example of Norman architecture with striking two-tone stonework both outside and in. The columns inside are supported by beautifully carved capitals, each overflowing with foliage, scrollwork, birds and beasts. These were plastered over in the seventeenth century and were carefully unpicked with a bone knife in the early nineteenth century by local antiquarian Ann Elizabeth Baker, a labour of love lasting eleven years. William Smith, an important pioneer of the science of geology, is buried in the churchyard, just west of the tower, and the project will improve the setting of his grave.

In the south aisle of St Peter’s is a magnificent 12th-century stone slab which was, in the 19th century, discovered as a door lintel in a cottage on Black Lion Hill. It was taken into the office of Thomas Manning, the brewer and owner of the Old Black Lion; at his death, the stone passed to the church. Manning was for many years a Churchwarden at St Peter’s and is one of many people – past and present – who would have known both the church and the pub. With the completion of the project, it is hoped that the two buildings can once again offer cultural, spiritual and literal refreshment to Northamptonians and visitors alike.

Now that planning consent has been granted, work will begin on-site to remove modern additions and finishes from the historic building. The main building contract for the refurbishment will begin in 2022.

St Peter’s has a committed and enthusiastic group of volunteers – the Friends of St Peter’s Church – who support the Churches Conservation Trust and All Saints Church in caring for St Peter’s and its churchyard. They hold events and talks on local history, architecture and other topics, and work to keep the church open and valued.

The Old Black Lion is a historic public house that closed in 2018. Its heyday was in the second half of the 19th century when, under the custodianship of the Roddis family of landlords, it provided lavish dinners for Northampton societies, clubs and businesses as well as stabling for horses.

Find out more at or join the Friends of St Peter’s Church to support the care of the church building and churchyard.

Image credit Alex Davidson