Exhibition catalogue text
5 Great Fulford 1776
Pen and ink over pencil 275 x 488
(10 3/4 x 19 1/4)
Inscribed, verso, August 8 1776.
Prov: Anon sale, Foster's, 30 September 1935 (29); P.Opp?; by descent to 1996, when acquired by Tate Gallery (T08553).
Exh: Agnew's 1949 (5).
Lit: Bury 1962, p.148.
Tate Gallery. Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996
Although not the grandest family in Devonshire, the Fulfords certainly had claims to being the oldest, as they had occupied their estates eight miles from Exeter, towards the edge of Dartmoor, since the time of the 'Domesday Book'. The square Tudor house, built around a central courtyard, remained unchanged after 200 years, but John Fulford, who inherited Great Fulford in 1748 at the age of twelve, had succumbed to the local passion for garden improvements and created the lake some time during the 1760s (Delderfield 1968, p.67). He died in 1780, and was succeeded by his nephew, Baldwin Fulford. It was he who undertook the modernisation of the interior and also remodelled the exterior, adding square bays at the corners to give some relief to the fa?ade, and finishing the roof line by removing the gables and adding a crenellated battlement, after the model of Ugbrooke. This work was complete by 1809, when the house was illustrated in Britton and Brayley's Beauties of England and Wales, and it also appears in its new guise in John Herman Merivale's sketch of 1810 (no.86).
It is to be presumed that Towne's drawing was made for an oil painting, but this does not survive; according to family legend, Baldwin Fulford did not want his descendants to know what changes he had made to the house and destroyed all the earlier images of it. The anecdote adds a new dimension to the understanding of what was at stake in such rebuilding and how the landscape painter could unwittingly be implicated, either as accomplice or accessory.
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, pp.41-2 no.5, reproduced p.41