Completed British 20th C, except portraits, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 29 Can the church in this painting by William Gillies be identified?

Looking Along the Road into the Village
Topic: Subject or sitter

There is a rather distinctive Parish Church at the very centre of this work which we have thus far been unable to identify, but which we hope might provide the clue that unlocks the identity of the village featured. It is a Scottish scene, probably somewhere in the Lothians/Berwickshire/Borders, though Gillies was so widely travelled that it could be further afield. Any assistance, as ever, would be warmly welcomed. [Group leader: Michelle Foot]

Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The location depicted was identified as Eddleston village in Peebles. The title has been updated to 'Eddleston'. A note has been added to the artwork description field mentioning how the view over the bridge features the Parish Church, now partly obscured at street level and that the village is nearby to Temple (where Gillies moved in 1939), and that it regularly featured in his paintings thereafter.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


The Collection have commented: 'We read the stone walls flanking the road as bridge parapets and there is a small stream visible running parallel to the road at foreground left. We have no inscriptions recorded for this work and no date has been allocated, but probably painted after his move to Temple Village (which it isn’t) in 1939. We’d venture 1940s–50s.'

Louis Musgrove,

It's a wee bit impressionistic isn't it ????? So V difficult.
Could we be looking along the Nungate bridge in Haddington-with St Marys church on the left edge???

Louis Musgrove,

On the left edge of the painting-the long grey building with 5 pointy bits against the slate blue roof-slightly obscured by a tree-- is about the only distinctive feature of the painting that should narrow down location-but hard to say what type of building it is.

Thanks Marcie for your contribution - sadly we don't think its Newtown St Boswells - the church there has a small spire and a distinctive projection on the wall overlooking the village. The church in the painting is of a traditional barn-like structure apparently with no tower or spire/steeple but with a triangular gable in the centre of the flat side wall containing a single lancet window.

Newtown St Boswell is altogether much hillier than the village in the painting, and there is no evidence of the left hand building commented on earlier today by Louis and which we believe is probably a row of vernacular-stone built terraced houses.

Louis Musgrove,

In "The Village letterbox" I think it is the same village as our painting. The same blue roof with a pointy bit in the middle-the building thought to be a Church- and to the left a house with two pointy bits on the roof and a chimney at both ends--which looks a lot like the first building on our painting going up the left edge. Unfortunately that location is not mentioned either. Possible??????

Osmund Bullock,

Louis, elongated structures with several gables (what you call 'pointy bits on the roof') along the long side are not exactly rare, whether they be a single building or a row of terraced houses; and though the structure of our one is fairly roughly depicted, it is likely not as tall (two storeys, not three) as your suggested one. But even if that were a possible match, the two churches look nothing like each other at all! And even if *that* were also a possible match, surely you can see from a map that the geography of Killin - the surrounding buildings, the basic layout of the road(s)- is completely different?

Humphrey Welfare,

This is the view looking east up Old Manse Road, Eddleston, Peebles, towards the parish church. The bridge crosses the Eddleston Water which had small tributary channels on the north side of the road - see the OS 25-inch map, surveyed 1906, which is online through National Library of Scotland maps. The depiction is confusing because the direct view is now partly closed by the modern link between the smithy of 1862 to the left and the building to the right, all now part of The Horseshoe Inn.

Humphrey Welfare,

I should have added that there is at least one house with gabled dormers to the left. Take a trundle round on Google Streetview - although this is shot in the summer - and you can see it all for yourself.

Humphrey Welfare,

The link works. Now that the infill of the pub is in the way have to go to the right at the junction, and then look left, to get a clearer view of the distinctive facade of the church. Pulling back from the view in the link gives you the bridge and the rivulets.

Are you sure? The gabled building with the Gothic window above the roof of the Horseshoe pub may be the one in the painting, but its not (I think) Eddleston Old Church. That's a much older and lower building with partly stepped, flatter gabls and a small turret on one of them, on the right of the Belfield Road, turning left from the Old Manse Rd junction.

Humphrey Welfare,

Yes, try these. One is a mid-century shot along Old Manse Road, showing the bridge and the Smithy as (still) a detached building. The other shows the western facade of the church; scroll down to Eddleston on this page. Almost all other photographs of the church depict the other facades, which are indeed as you describe.

No problem with the mid-century photo but I also independently found the image (eighth down) in your second link but could not square it with the older parish church / 'kirk' on higher ground some way up the Belfield Road, as here:

There seem to be no other readily discovereable online images of the building you identify but it implies there are in fact two churches in Eddleston. Assuming they both claim to be 'parish churches' it would help to have the denominational distinction clarified.

Presumably the (short) gothic window seen over the pub roof in the Google earth view from Old Manse Road is over a door below the left-hand gable of the building shown in your image (?).

An examination of the artist's exhibition records at the Royal Scottish Academy reveals the following works with Eddleston in the title:

1949 - number 527 'Early Spring, Eddleston'
1953 - number 579 'Eddleston Valley'
1959 - number 278 'The Little Hut, Eddleston'
1970 - number 421 'Cattle, Eddleston Uplands'

There will no doubt be a number of other works by Gillies of this village.

...or (Humphrey) are we looking over the roof of the Horseshoe pub at the gable end of the Victorian neo-gothic extension to Eddleston 'old' parish church, as seen on the right here?

The way the Bell Field (not Belfield) Road hooks round behind the Horseshoe inn suggests that as the other alternative. If so, the image here

in fact shows the old church -though deceptively in terms of its general character - from the far side of the 'pub' from Old Manse Road. It would also explain why there are no other obvious images of the church from that side, since not its best aspect.

If that's the case then you have solved the question originally posed.

Humphrey Welfare,

Pevsner (aka Cruft, Dunbar and Fawcett) tells me that the church - there is only one - was built in 1829, using materials from its 16th-century predecessor. There was extensive rebuilding after a major fire in 1896, as a part of which the apse at the W end was added in order to improve the light levels in the interior - hence the unusually large window which is such a distinctive feature of the painting. This, Pieter, is the feature on the right hand side of the Geograph photo, as you say. Streetview, up Bellfield (sp?) Road shows all of this.

Osmund Bullock,

Well done, Humphrey - absolutely no doubt about it. In case of any continuing confusion, attached is a composite of Google Streetview images during clearer winter months - we travel eastwards up Old Manse Road, then do a quick left-and-right to climb Bellfield Rd towards the (old, but partly-rebuilt) church. Particularly convincing is how the side stream enters the Eddleston Water at the bottom left (first image) - the artist is on the bridge. I think it could easily be his 'Early Spring, Eddleston' (exhib. 1949).

What we (and perhaps Gillies) saw as four gables on the larger building on the left (in fact a pair of small houses) is actually two gables with two dormers between; and the smaller/lower one might possibly have received a bit of artistic licence in the roof.

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OK: thanks, I've now got it straight and see how the (long/lancet) Victorian-gothic west window of the church was fully visible (though no longer) when Gillies painted the view from a point east of the river bridge on Old Manse Road. Grant's list of other Eddleston views by him confirms it as a regular subject, for whatever reason, though none of the title obviously fit this example.

Local knowledge is sometimes hard to line-up with but also hard to beat once clear, so many thanks. Someone else will make recommendation for closure though ' Eddleston, Peebles' is probably all it needs as a title, with a descriptiion noting the orientation and that the view of the end of the church is now partly obstructed at street level.

Osmund Bullock,

Detail from the detailed 1906 OS map attached, with the artist's viewpoint on the bridge and view marked. A later OS map surveyed in 1964/65 (but not as detailed as this one) suggests that the Smithy-Horseshoe Inn infilling must happened after that date.

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Humphrey Welfare,

The maps online in the NLS are a wonderful resource and were very helpful in explaining the changes here. It was not local knowledge that got me to Eddleston, but map analysis, using current OS maps. Working out from Temple, it only took me a few minutes (and a bit of luck). It’s a method that can be used anywhere in the UK.

Good afternoon

Thank you all for your flurry of activity over the last couple of days - and a special thank you to Humphrey - we are happy (positively delighted in fact!) to concur with your findings that this is a view of Eddleston village with the Parish Church prominent as the church, the identity of which we set out to establish.

We will amend the title of the work as "Eddleston" and will add the specific detail and caveats re subsequent buildings which obscure the view as observed by Gillies to the record.

Gillies moved to Temple village in 1939 and remained there until his death in 1973. He painted extensively in and around Temple village, and this work will relate to one such painting expedition of the local area.

Very many thanks again. We would be happy for a Moderator to officially declare the original enquiry having been satisfactorily answered, and the discussion to now be closed.

I have just emailed the Group Leader for this discussion to confirm that the original enquiry has been answered and can now be closed. Regards, David