Joseph Mallord William Turner

Shipping on the River Medway at Castle Upnor


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 x 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIX 16 a

Catalogue entry

As identified by Finberg, on this page Turner displays various studies of boats and river scenes alongside a view of Upnor Castle on the River Medway.1 The Castle is rendered at far right, towards the top of the page and positioned close to the gutter. This prospect indicates the topographical character of the surrounding landscape and briefly records attendant buildings. Two parallel masts seem to be indicated at the centre of the page. Turner swiftly borders this drawing with a vertical line at left and a horizontal line beneath, boxing it into the corner of the sheet and marking it as separate.
Upnor Castle is an Elizabethan artillery fort. Construction began in 1559 and the design was redeveloped in 1599–1601.2 It is situated at Upnor, on the western bank of the Medway, and was intended to provide protection for warships anchored at the Chatham dockyards.3 For more information about the drawings in this sketchbook which describe Upnor Castle, and an indication of its place in his oeuvre, see the entry for folio 87 verso (D17501).
At top left, a second prospect describes a cluster of buildings atop a gently sloping hill. Towards the middle of the page this drawing overlaps somewhat with the scene at Upnor Castle.
Turner records two additional views with the sketchbook turned vertically. The topmost of these shows a row of rocks in the immediate foreground, and possibly a section of riverbank at far left. Beyond this lies the river, and further in the distance is the scene on the opposite side; a town surrounded by gently undulating countryside. Above all of this, close to the edge of the sheet, bouncing lines show pregnant clouds, and three groups of hatched marks might demonstrate inclement weather.
Beneath this is a view of boats. At left, these are stationed in the distance, and seem to be engaged on the river. At right, the vessels sit closer to the foreground and appear moored. A darkly shaded box and horizontally hatched lines at far right might indicate buildings or port paraphernalia of some kind.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Finberg 1909, I, p.608.
‘Upnor Castle’, English Heritage, accessed 28 December 2015,

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