Thursday 3 May 2012

Welby Church, Leicestershire

This is Welby Church in Leicestershire, on the edge of the market town of Melton Mowbray.  I grew up in Melton, and the building is special to me. Its incongruity - the church without a village - its isolation (it can seem like a lonely edifice, particularly on grey, wintry days like the one that this image represents) - its sense of history and, perhaps most important to me when I was a teenager, the way that it seemed to represent rurality in close proximity to the town.

The medieval village of Welby is no more - it was "lost" due to enclosure between 1450 and 1700 (i.e. the local landowner decided that sheep were less bother than crops - which required a lot of agricultural labour, increasingly expensive after the black death - and so the villagers were evicted and the common land enclosed). The site is now classed as an "Antiquity (non-Roman)".

The church is the most obvious remnant. It sits just shy of the crest of the hill on a narrow lane, and is constructed in local sandstone. It is thought to have been built in the latter part of the 12th Century, in the time of the first Roger de Mowbray. Services are still held there, although not regularly. It seems to be a popular little church - on the occasion of a service, the sides of the little lane are usually clogged with parked cars.

These days, its nearest neighbours are a farm and the site of a former (never functional) coal mine, now a business park. Not much further away, Melton's sprawling residential fingers provide a cohort of leisure walkers who often use the building as a landmark.

Lost Villages
Explore Britain
Local Diocese
The painting is based on a couple of photographs that I took on a recent visit to family in the area. It's rather small - I had limited time this afternoon, and it occurred to me to create something to fit in a frame that I already have. But, then, the church itself is not grand. I think that the size suits the subject.

And here are some in-progress shots:

Actually, the last one is the finished version, but it's a different photograph. All of this sequence were taken with the canvas on the easel (although the light is different on the final one - I turned the easel to face the window). The main picture was taken with the canvas lying flat.

Oil on canvas, 10 x 8"


  1. I love the textures in this painting, it looks like a tapestry.

    1. Thank you, Beth.

      I hadn't thought of that. It's all done with a knife, so I think that the small size of the canvas magnifies the linear nature of the marks - which looks a little like stitches.

  2. Lovely painting, and I like the background info too.

    1. Thank you, DaddyPig. The church is an important place to me, despite the fact that I have never been inside the building.

  3. Well done Amanda. Thought Welby was lost in time. The only Welby I knew about was the pub in Melton. Looked it up in my John Speed map of Leics 1610 and it was down as a village of some importance along with Asfordby and Frisby nearbye. It's nice to know that the old church is still there. Love to visit it.

    1. Thank you, Journeyman5. I think that the church is much prettier than the pub. There's a Welby Lane in Melton, too (unurprisingly it runs more or less from the pub to the church, give or take a mine road or two); there used to be a pretty good fish and chip shop there.

      I think you may be able to visit the interior by appointment (or possibly when there is a service, if you felt inclined). The exterior is there for anyone passing by to see.

    2. The church has a service on the first and third Sunday of each month at 3.00pm.

    3. Thank you for the information, Anonymous!


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