Auckland Castle is seen to the north-west across the River Gaunless, with St Peter’s Chapel on the right. The view remains recognisable, although the near end of the range to the left has been rebuilt. The trees on the near bank run onto folio 21 verso opposite (D12345), and there is a continuation to the right on folio 23 recto (D12347).
The town of Bishop Auckland is about twelve miles south-west of Durham, and a similar distance in turn from the castles at Raby and Streatlam which Turner drew in his Raby sketchbook on the same visit to the area (see the introduction to the tour). There are also views of Auckland Castle in the Raby book (Tate D12294, D12307, D12304–D12306; Turner Bequest CLVI 20–27, 25, 25a–26).
The castle is medieval, but with extensive seventeenth and eighteenth-century alterations and additions, including the conversion of a former domestic hall into the prominent chapel following the demolition of an earlier building after the Civil War. It became the principal residence of the Bishops of Durham when Durham Castle was relinquished in the 1830s along with the secular powers of the ‘Prince Bishops’. Since 1756, it has also been home to the major paintings of Jacob and his Sons by the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664), housed in the Long Dining Room, specially redesigned by James Wyatt, Turner’s fellow Royal Academician and sometime patron.1 There is no indication that Turner knew of or viewed the pictures, as his sketches are limited to distant views of the castle.
This is the first of a sequence of views of the castle following the course of the Gaunless from south to north anti-clockwise around the buildings towards its confluence with the Wear. The last drawing in the run is on folio 27 recto (D12354).
For a recent account of the castle and pictures see Thomas Dunelm [Rt Revd Dr Tom Wright, Lord Bishop of Durham], ‘Auckland Castle’ in Oil Paintings in Public Ownership in Durham, London 2008, pp.214–15.
There is a small brown stain at the bottom right, offset between this page and folio 21 verso opposite (D12245).