John Varley (British 1778-1842)


KT 168


The Market Place, Leominster

Watercolour over pencil

28.3 x 39.5 cm

This subject was exhibited by Varley at the Royal Academy in 1802, no. 965.

In 1798 Varley travelled to North Wales with George Arnald visiting Leominster. Another, signed version, of this composition dated 1801 and measuring a very similar 28.3 x 40 cm is in the Hereford Museum (N3229; see Andrew Wilton and Anne Lyles, The Great Age of British Watercolours 1750-1880, 1993, no.316, ill. plate 72). Comparison of the two drawings side by side reveal that the present version is a little freer and was probably the first version of the subject, as details such as the brickwork of the house on the left are sketchy and not carefully delineated, and the rock in the foreground is drawn more freely. The Hereford version has a winch on the roof of the house on the right and has faded more than the present version. A second larger, unsigned, version measuring 14 3/4 x 22 1/2 inches was with Guy Peppiatt in 2009. The chicken in the foreground of the present drawing do not appear in either of the other versions.

Leominster old town hall was situated at the junction of High Street and Broad Street and was built in 1633 by the King’s carpenter John Abel. With the porticoed space beneath it also served as a market place. It was moved to its present position outside the town centre in 1856 and is now called Grange Court, a local authority building.

Varley drew other similar street scenes at this time, including two views of the High Street, Conway  (see C.M. Kauffmann, John Varley, 1984, nos. 4 and 5, ill.).