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Although most of Turner’s sketches of the rivers Greta and Tees and of Mortham Tower are in the Rokeby and Appleby sketchbook (for example Tate D25535; Turner Bequest CCLXIV 6a), and there are no further sketches of either subject in this sketchbook, the drawing over this page and folio 36 (D25831) formed the basis of Turner’s frontispiece design for Rokeby, volume 9 of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works: Junction of the Greta and the Tees circa 1832 (watercolour, whereabouts unknown).1
The view is from the north bank of the River Tees directly opposite its confluence with the River Greta. The sketch records the views to the south towards Mortham Tower, which stands on the east bank of the Greta at the top left of this page, and to the west upstream along the River Tees. The two rivers join at the very centre of the present page where part of an arch, drawn slightly more firmly in pencil, shows the bridge that carried Mortham Lane over the Greta (a detail that is clearer in engraving: Tate T04955). The depiction of the tower in the illustration was based not on the outline on the present page, but directly on the more detailed study on folio 36.
As Gerald Finley has pointed out, Turner ‘fabricated an on-the-spot, panoramic view in which only very approximate spatial relationships could be established between Mortham Tower and the landscapes of the Greta and Tees rivers.’2 The right side of the picture (folio 36) therefore folds back so that instead of looking over the Tees, as we do at the left, we look along its length.
A loose sheet contains studies of the same subject and has been linked by David Hill to the current sketch and Turner’s subsequent illustration (Tate D12109; Turner Bequest CLIV K). The page has formerly been dated at 1816 or later, but considering its relationship to the present drawing, and drawings on the back of other subjects in the Minstrelsy sketchbook, it is more likely to be contemporary with it. The inscriptions in the top sketch, ‘Greta’ and ‘Tees’ demonstrate that Turner was grappling with the same problem of including both rivers in a view of Mortham Tower, and in this case also Rokeby Park. On the same page he drew two diagrams of the ‘Tees’ and a picture of Rokeby Hall with the Greta to help him with the problem.