Joseph Mallord William Turner

St Martin’s-in-the-Bullring Church, Birmingham

1830

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

Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 120 x 203 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D22005
Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 17 a

Catalogue entry

The medieval St Martin’s-in-the-Bullring was largely rebuilt in 1875, although the tower and spire were preserved.1 It now stands in St Martin’s Square, a piazza within Birmingham’s Bullring Shopping Centre on the north side of Edgbaston Street, surrounded by modern developments. Nevertheless, the tower remains visible to the south-east from Turner’s viewpoint, along a pedestrian walkway. Turner’s numbering beside the tower and spire presumably relates to their proportions.
As part of unpublished Turner research informed by local knowledge, Dr Bernard Richards has identified the silhouette to the left of the tower as the bronze statue of Admiral Lord Nelson (1758–1805), which now stands in a different position on the same side of the church.2 Nelson died in the course of his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and the statue by Sir Richard Westmacott (1775–1856), showing him standing beside the much-reduced prow of a ship of the line, was unveiled in 1809;3 it can be seen more clearly in a watercolour of the High Street Market, Birmingham (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery)4 by David Cox (1783–1859), engraved in 1827,5 which shows the same view and confirms that Turner has loosely indicated a busy market in the foreground.
For Turner and Nelson, see David Blayney Brown’s section ‘Marine subjects c.1803–14’ in the present catalogue. For other views of Birmingham, see under folio 3 verso (D21980).

Matthew Imms
August 2013

1
See ‘St. Martin in the Bull Ring’, Birmingham Heritage Forum, accessed 5 May 2011, http://www.birminghamheritage.org.uk/st%20martins.html.
2
Conversation with the author, 14 May 2013.
3
See Jacqueline Banerjee, ‘Nelson Monument’, The Victorian Web, accessed 15 May 2013, http://www.victorianweb.org/sculpture/westmacottr/32.html.
4
See Stephen Wildman, David Cox 1783–1859, exhibition catalogue, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery 1983, p.125 no.128, reproduced p.127.
5
Reproduced in colour at ‘The Bull Ring and St. Martin’s circa 1830, by David Cox’, Birmingham City Council, accessed 15 May 2013, http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/cs/Satellite?c=Page&childpagename=Lib-Central-Archives-and-Heritage%2FPageLayout&cid=1223092759678&pagename=BCC%2FCommon%2FWrapper%2FInlineWrapper.

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