Historic church shows off £180,000 refit and new heritage exhibition

The fully refurbished interior of Welby Church before the harvest festival weekend EMN-160410-105106001
The fully refurbished interior of Welby Church before the harvest festival weekend EMN-160410-105106001
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Members of an historic church have been showing off the results of a £180,000 restoration project and a new exhibition illustrating what life was like in a lost village.

The occasion was an open day at 13th century Welby Church, which has been completely renovated.

Welby Church warden Sam Willder chats with Geoff Nickolds from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Dinah Hickling from Melton Town Estate at the open day EMN-160410-105116001

Welby Church warden Sam Willder chats with Geoff Nickolds from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Dinah Hickling from Melton Town Estate at the open day EMN-160410-105116001

The event also showcased displays of what the hamlet of Welby looked like when it was a thriving village prior to the early 1600s.

That was when Lord of the Manor, William Digby, evicted villagers from their homes because he wanted to extend his grounds.

It is hoped the exhibition, which is housed at the rear of the church, will become a visitor attraction and an educational resource for students.

Miranda Willder, who co-ordinated the work at Welby Church, said: “We are not plugging the exhibition too much at this stage until our new car park is completed.

“The local Brownie group has seen the exhibition and the people at the open day but it is a narrow lane to the church and there aren’t too many places to park safely at the moment.

“The lost village of Welby is a great story – everybody initially assumed that it was the Black Death which got rid of the people but we discovered the real reason when we did some research prior to applying for grants.”

Part of the exhibition shows work from a local artist which illustrates what Welby looked like prior to the eviction of the locals. There are also displays showcasing the renovation and restoration work on the church building.

It was paid for by a £140,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £40,000 raised by church members.

The building has a new roof, drainpipes, heating and electrics.

Miranda added: “We didn’t have any drainpipes before so the rain used to come off the roof and splash into the church.

“We’ve also had a small extension put on with toilets and the building has been totally re-plastered inside.”

Land for the new car park was provided at a peppercorn rent and work, which is set to begin on October 24, should take a fortnight.

In the meantime, services and weddings are taking place in the church, with a seating capacity of 75.