Joseph Mallord William Turner

Mortham Tower, and the Junction of the Greta and the Tees; with other sketches


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 267 x 213 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLIV K

Catalogue entry

This sheet contains several sketches: at the top is a sketch of the junction of the Greta and the Tees near Rokeby Hall, taken from across the River Tees on the left bank, with Mortham Tower to the left. Mortham Tower is a fortified manor house, some parts of which date back to the fourteenth century. It is a private house, but may be seen from the public footpath nearby. It figures in Sir Walter Scott’s celebrated poem Rokeby, published in 1813.
Turner first sketched Mortham Tower and the Junction of the Greta and Tees in 1816 in the Yorkshire 4 sketchbook (Tate D11479; Turner Bequest CXLVII 25), from near the right bank of the River Tees. On the same visit he also sketched a closer view of the building in the Yorkshire 2 sketchbook (Tate D11212; Turner Bequest CXLV 105a). He revisited the subject in 1831 in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border sketchbook (Tate D25830–D25831; Turner Bequest CCLXVI 35a–36), and on that occasion developed a studio watercolour of the Junction of the Greta and Tees (Private Collection)1 for engraving to illustrate ‘Rokeby’ in Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works, published in 1834.
The present sketch is related to the 1816 visit by Finberg and Herrmann, but it has since been related to the 1831 visit.2 In 1816 Turner seems to have sketched only from the right (south) bank of the Tees, and found it difficult to find a viewpoint from which to combine Mortham Tower with the Junction of the Greta and Tees. The coincidence of sketches at Mayburgh and Eamont Bridge on the verso (see below), which he also visited in 1831, confirms the date. In 1831 he made his way round to the left (north) bank, as this offered much more satisfactory possibilities. A stylistic affinity between the present sketch and that in the Minstrelsy sketchbook seems evident, and it seems possible that the present sketch also informed the finished watercolour to some extent. It is actually quite a trek from the right bank to the left at Rokeby, involving a detour of a couple of miles upstream to cross the Tees at Abbey Bridge. This is plain testimony to the effort that Turner was always prepared to expend in finding the material that he needed.

David Hill
July 2009

Wilton 1979, p.429 no.1086.
Finberg 1909, I, p.437; Herrmann 1968, under no.79; Hill 1980, under no.119.
Peter Bower, Turner’s Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1787–1820, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1990 gives a full account of Henry Cooke’s paper mill, under no.41.

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