Turner had visited Ivy Bridge, near Plymouth, in 1811. He returned two years later, when he made the sketches that were used as the basis for this watercolour. He was visiting Devon because he had been commissioned to take views for a series of prints called Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England.
This study seems remarkably naturalistic. However, a poem Turner wrote about his journey made it clear that for him the scenery evoked patriotic reflections on morality and history.