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Turner’s viewpoint is the hillside east of Holy Trinity Church, Buckfastleigh, looking north up the River Dart to Buckfast and the east side of Dartmoor beyond. Eric Shanes has identified this sketch as the basis for the watercolour Buckfastleigh Abbey, Devonshire of about 1826 (Exeter City Museums and Art Gallery),1 engraved in 1828 for the series Picturesque Views in England and Wales.2
Remains of the ruined medieval Cistercian abbey – known as Buckfast, rather than Buckfastleigh – had by this time been partly incorporated into Samuel Berry’s castellated late eighteenth-century Gothic mansion, seen here just to the right of centre. In turn this was integrated with the cloisters on the south-west side of a substantial new neo-Gothic Benedictine abbey church in the early twentieth century,3 while the open spaces recorded by Turner to the left of the river are now largely occupied by industrial buildings.
Shanes notes: ‘Turner probably visited the house in 1814, on a third West Country tour we unfortunately know little about.’4 For the likely dating of this sketchbook, see the Introduction; and for further views around Buckfastleigh and Buckfast Abbey see under folio 22 recto (D09844; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 48).