Joseph Mallord William Turner

57 High Street, Prestonpans, the Former Residence of Walter Scott


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 × 181 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVIII 86

Catalogue entry

This sketch has been identified as depicting 57 High Street in Prestonpans, where Sir Walter Scott was sent for a time as a child in 1777 to recover from polio.1 With the house on the right (it is not certain which one it is), this must be a view west down the high street, as the building overlooked the sea.2 The accuracy of Turner’s sketch is demonstrated by comparing it with a pre-nineteenth-thirties photograph of the same view.3
Turner visited the village of Prestonpans with Scott’s publisher Robert Cadell on 30 September 1834. They visited the house of Mr Warroch, which Scott had showed to Cadell in 1830,4 and went to look at the nearby Preston Tower and Prestongrange Church (folio 83; D26251), as well as seeing the nearby battlefield which featured in Scott’s novel Waverley (folios 83 verso, 84; D26257, D26258). The house must have been considered as a possible subject to illustrate the Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, which Scott’s son-in-law John Gibson Lockhart was writing, Cadell was publishing and Turner was illustrating. The previous day Cadell had taken Turner to see 39 Castle Street, a former Edinburgh home of the poet (see Tate D26336; Turner Bequest CCLXIX 40a). Turner’s approach to sketching both houses was the same: an oblique view along the street with Scott’s house in the foreground.
There is a brown mark at the right of the page.

Thomas Ardill
November 2010

Finley 1980, p.180.
J.G. Lockhart, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, second edition, Edinburgh and London 1839, p.350.
Reproduced in Finley 1980, p.180 pl.77, p.181 pl.78.
Lockhart 1839, pp.349–52.

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