April is living up to its reputation for being the month of ‘showers’ which means that in between showers there must be some shine! So in the hope of dodging the showers and catching the sun I head off to Melbourne an historic South Derbyshire Village. The main objective was to explore the Parish Church.
The Church Tower may be rather squat but no matter which direction you approach the village the Tower is your guiding landmark….but the closer you get the Tower becomes lost in its surrounds. Perhaps the best view of the exterior is from across Melbourne Pool. The Church dates back to 1120 and is a solid Norman construction and not surprising for its age the village has literal grown up around it. On one side is Melbourne Hall, on another a rather grand Vicarage and on the other sides Farm, Mill and Inn’s, some linked by narrow lanes and passageways.
The West Front and its impressive doorway and arch is much more reminiscent of a fortified building such as a castle gateway or defensive tower. But as you can see, later buildings sit cheek by jowl with the church.
The greater part of the Church’s very solid constructions remain unchanged, only part of the East Front and some modification to the wooden roof at the time of the Restorations have been made.
But step inside and you soon recognise why this humble church has the reputation for being a ‘Cathedral in Miniature’ and when you stand in the middle of the isle you perhaps think …not such a miniature cathedral……
Solid stone pillars and multi curved arches and such a lofty timber roof would not be out of place on a much more celebrated building
There are also some other clues to the age of the building in the form of wall paintings.
Look for the Eagle Lectern and on the wall above is a beautifully restored religious illustration.
I am not sure of its age but it is stated to represent the Devil and his helpers tormenting humans….take a closer look at the skill of the unknown illustrator.
The name Melbourne is I am told derived from the Mel Bourne and means either Mill – Stream or Spring or Pool, certainly there are many springs, streams and pools in and arround the village all very important assets in allowing the village to prosper over the centuries. Mill’s of course were not just for grain but also spinning and weaving and mill cottage line many of the older streets..
But I was on the search for the birthplace of perhaps Melbourne’s most famous son ‘Thomas Cook’ the traveller and explorer and creator of the travel industry. But it was a fruitless search despite maps with in the village depicting the house in which he was born. I did indeed find Thomas Cook Close but no house declaring itself as his birthplace……
Seemingly it has long since been knocked down and I suspect now lies below the new housing estate on which they have at least erected a Memorial Plaque…….
For such a pioneer I do think Melbourne could do better for Thomas Cook. Born into a poor family in 1808 he still managed to gain a ‘good’ education lived and worked in the village till he was 25, then went onto prosper. After all he left a bigger legacy to the village by building a substantial Memorial Hall and Cottages, for the benefit of the community, open in 1891.
I really do like Melbourne, it is a wonderful village to explore. The Church of course is a highlight as is the Pool, but a visit to Melbourne Hall and Gardens is a must. The village has lots of small Shops, Restaurant’s, Bistro’s, Cafe’s and of course a selection of good old English Pub’s or Inn’s……but don’t waste your time searching for its Castle. Yes, there is one but only about 12ft of wall remains and that is on private land and seems to be part of a farm.