Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Coffer-Dam and Piledrivers on the River Thames above Old London Bridge, with the Shot Tower Beyond


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 100 × 160 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCVI 22

Catalogue entry

With boats and figures in the foreground, Old London Bridge is shown from the north-east across the River Thames, with the nearby shot tower (now gone) outlined on the south bank towards the right. The arches of the bridge are continued across folio 21 verso opposite (D17953) and briefly again on folio 20 verso (D40967). As David Hill has noted, ‘piling operations’1 for the bridge’s replacement a little upstream are represented here; the vertical features to the left of the tower indicate piledrivers for one of the coffer-dams out of which the new structure’s piers would rise; another has already been established on the left here, further out in the river. Work began in March 1824, and is a little more advanced here than in the Old London Bridge sketchbook; compare the view on Tate D17846 (Turner Bequest CCV 7) in the latter, probably dating to the spring or summer of 1824, which suggests that the present drawing was made a few months later. See also folios 23 recto, 23 verso–24 recto and 25 recto (D17956–D17958, D17960).
Turner seems to have taken the opportunity to revisit the works on 9 November, Lord Mayor’s Day.2 As well as Old London Bridge, the drawings between folios 20 verso and 34 verso (D40967, D17979) include rapid studies and notes of barges, flags, costumes and bridges along the River Thames, and appear to record or relate to that occasion, as discussed in the sketchbook’s Introduction.
Hill 1993, p.176 note 79.
See ibid.
Technical notes:
Glue has darkened on the surface around the repair to a diagonal tear at the bottom right.

Matthew Imms
December 2014

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