Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Passage House Inn, Saltash, from the Waterfront


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 75 x 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIII 62 a

Catalogue entry

As acknowledged by Butlin and Joll, Jerrold Ziff1 identified this drawing as the basis of Turner’s painting Saltash with the Water Ferry, exhibited at his gallery in 1812 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York),2 which shows additional figures, horses and boats in the foreground. The patriotic Nelsonian graffiti on the buttress on the right of the painting (‘England expects...’) is not recorded in the sketch. The Saltash ferry crossed the Tamar to the Plymouth side from just south of where the piers of Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge now stand, carrying the Great Western Railway into Cornwall; Old Ferry Road still leads to the slipway on the waterfront.
Turner’s view is from the north-east, with the slipway sloping down to the left. Today one of the bridge piers rises immediately north of the Boatman pub, formerly the Passage House Inn spanning Tamar Street, identified by Sylvia Joyce as the building in the background of Turner’s view.3 Its function is clarified in the painting by a sign promising ‘BEER’. The area, including some sixteenth-century buildings, was extensively redeveloped in the 1950s and 1960s. Only part of the much-altered pub now stands between Tamar Street and the bridge,4 corresponding with the section to the right of the passageway in the drawing. There are photographs showing of the inn’s front5 and back6 before the partial demolition; Tamar Street, Saltash, a painting of about 1905 by Agnes Hope Fynemore (Saltash Heritage Museum and Local History Centre), also shows the rear aspect.
For other sketches in the Plymouth area, see under folio 3 verso (D08367; Turner Bequest CXXIII 3a). An 1825 watercolour of Saltash, Cornwall (British Museum, London),7 showing a distant view from the south, was engraved in 1827 for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales; it may be based partly on the sketch on folio 198 recto (D08721; CXXIII 195).

Matthew Imms
June 2011

Ziff 1980, p.169 (review of 1977 first edition of Butlin and Joll); cited in Butlin and Joll 1984, p.86.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.85–6 no.121 pl.125.
Sylvia Joyce, ‘History 1800 to 1850’, Welcome to Saltash, accessed 5 August 2008,
Ibid., ‘History 1950 to 1975’, accessed 5 August 2008,
A Pictorial and Descriptive Guide to St. Ives, Carbis Bay, Penzance, Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly, London [circa 1912], pl.g.
Nikolaus Pevsner, Cornwall, The Buildings of England, 2nd ed., revised by Enid Radcliffe, Harmondsworth 1970, pl.5 (the passageway from Tamar Street).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.392 no.794, reproduced.

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