Joseph Mallord William Turner

?St John the Baptist’s Church, Croydon (Croydon Minster)


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

Support: 75 x 129 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXLII 15 a

Catalogue entry

With the page turned horizontally, Turner shows a church tower set in an open, undulating landscape, labelled ‘Croyden’ [sic]. There is a separate view or continuation of wooded hills along the top of the page. The tower is probably that of Croydon Minster, at that time St John the Baptist’s Church, although an 1839 painting by Ramsay Richard Reinagle (1775–1862) of Croydon Parish Church, Surrey (Museum of Croydon) shows the church tower with large trees close by to the west and south, which are not immediately evident in Turner’s slight sketch. The main body of the medieval building was severely damaged by fire in 1867 but soon rebuilt.1
While isolated areas of parkland survive, Croydon (formerly in Surrey, and the focus of the London Borough of the same name), about ten miles south of the centre of the capital, has seen much twentieth-century development, and it is particularly notable for a large number of tower blocks including Ryland House, not far east of the church, and many more to the north-east. Assuming Turner shows St John’s rather than another church in the area, the viewpoint is difficult to establish owing to the major changes in its surroundings.
There is a sketch at Addiscombe, just north-east of Croydon, on folio 16 recto opposite (D22575). It is unclear what Turner was doing in the Croydon area; he may have been travelling to the South Coast, as suggested in the Introduction to this sketchbook.

Matthew Imms
May 2014

‘History’, Croydon Minster, accessed 3 March 2014,

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