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Although Barnard Castle was not illustrated for Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works, it had been proposed by Scott and was included in the list of subjects sent to Turner around 1 April,1 and had featured as a setting for one of Scott’s poems, ‘Marmion’, 1808. Turner passed the castle on his way between Rokeby (where he went to see the junction of the Greta and the Tees) and Bowes Castle, both of which were sketched for illustrations to Scott’s poetry.
This was Turner’s third visit to the castle. He saw it first in 1797, and then again in 1816 in connection to Whitaker’s History of Yorkshire. In the late 1820s Turner made his only painting of the castle for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales: Barnard Castle circa 1825 (watercolour, body colour, pen and ink, Yale Center for British Art).2
There are four pages of sketches of Barnard Castle in this sketchbook, starting with two views on the present page. Both were taken from the south, though the castle appears quite differently in each. The sketch on the upper half of the page was made from directly south of the castle on the eastern side of the River Tees within the castle grounds. At the far right of the sketch is part of St Mary’s Church, and the castle is in the centre of the sketch with its cylindrical tower and northern curtain wall being the most prominent features. The river is shown above the castle.
The sketch at the lower half of the page was made from the western bank of the Tees just to the south of the castle. Along the eastern banks are a row of tightly packed houses which no longer stand, above which are the castle and St Mary’s Church. The River Tees traditionally divided County Durham and Yorkshire, so that the castle bridge connected the two counties. Although the bridge appears to have three arches in this picture, it in fact has only two, the rightmost being a blind arch at a forty-five-degree angle to the length of the bridge, which supports a widening of the bridge as it meets Bridge Gate.
At the left of the page is the continuation of the sketch of Bowes Castle on folio 31 verso (D25822), here showing the east side of the town of Bowes and the road between Bowes and Gilmonby. There are further sketches of Barnard Castle on folios 32 verso, 33 and 34 of this sketchbook (D25824, D25825, D25827), and in the Rokeby and Appleby sketchbook (Tate D25628; Turner Bequest CCLXIV 55a).
As record in Robert Cadell’s Diary, 1 April 1831, National Library of Scotland, MS 920, folios 15–16v, MS Acc. 5188, Box 2; see Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, pp.240–3.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.392 no.793.