Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Cliff Road, Probably between Folkestone and Dover


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCVIII 5 a

Catalogue entry

The prospect describes, as noted by Finberg, a coastal road on the edge of a line of cliffs.1 The track is occupied at far right by a horse-drawn carriage. Turner records the view from the high point of the road, simultaneously looking down towards the shore at the foot of the cliffs. In the foreground an abrupt, rocky drop gives way to gently sloping turf, annotated ‘G’ by Turner possibly to remind himself of the sliver of green grass before the sea.
Finberg suggests that the view here was taken between Folkestone and Dover.2 Indeed, the prospect seems distantly to describe Folkestone with East Wear Bay to the left, observed from the coastal road situated along what is now known as the Dover-Folkestone Heritage Coast. It is possible to make out the squat forms of two Martello towers along the distant headland; two of a raft of small defensive forts built along the southern coast of England between 1805 and 1812 by the British government in response to the invasion threat posed by Napoleon.3 These distinctive landmarks feature throughout the present sketchbook, marking and distinguishing the Kent coast with their unmistakable squat profiles. The studies in which they are illustrated can be found on folios 17 verso, 20 verso, 21 verso, 24 verso, 32 recto, 36 recto, 37 verso, 38 recto, 40 verso, 44 recto, 47 recto, 54 recto, 57 verso, 58 recto, 59 verso, 61 recto, 73 verso, 74 recto, 75 verso, and 91 recto (D17235, D17240, D17242, D17248, D17261, D17268, D17270–D17271, D17276, D17280, D17285, D17295, D17301–D17302, D17305, D17308, D17332–D17333, D17335, D17363). Distinct slices of land on the far left of the drawing indicate where Folkestone harbour sits between the towers on this page.4
For a list of drawings in the present sketchbook which describe Folkestone, see the entry for folio 17 verso (D17235). For those which offer views of Dover, see the entry for folio 71 verso (D17329).

Maud Whatley
January 2016

Finberg 1909, I, p.604.
‘Dymchurch Martello Tower’, English Heritage, accessed 22 September 2015,
For a nineteenth-century account and engraving of the Martello towers at Folkestone, see Samuel Joseph Mackie, A Descriptive and Historical account of Folkestone and its Neighbourhood, London 1856, pp.55–7.

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