Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Ship at Anchor, ?the Nore Guardship


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 115 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XCIX 58

Catalogue entry

Drawn with the sketchbook inverted. The sketch is too slight to confirm Finberg’s suggestion, but the subject on the verso (D06458; Turner Bequest XCIX 58a) is of the ‘Nore Light’ and compare also folio 63 verso (D06460; Turner Bequest XCIX 59a), ‘Guardship at the Nore’.
Combined with the panorama of Thames shore from Queenborough past Sheerness to the River Medway on folio 60 verso (D06454; Turner Bequest XCIX 56a) this sketch might have suggested Guardship at the Great Nore, Sheerness, &c (private collection), exhibited at Turner’s Gallery in 1809.1
Evidently, Turner thought or misremembered that the guardship for the naval anchorage near the Nore sandbank was the Sandwich, a second-rate ship of the line dating from 1759 which had been on harbour duty since 1790.2 In a letter to Sir John Leicester of 12 December 1810, Turner annotated a thumbnail copy of the 1809 picture ‘Old Sandwich. G Ship at the Nore’.3 However, although only broken up in 1810 she had been withdrawn after the Nore mutiny in 1797 and was replaced in 1807 by the Namur, another second-rate launched in 1756; she was a 90-gun three-decker, reduced in 1805 to 74 guns and two decks.4

David Blayney Brown
March 2009

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.67–8 no.91 (pl.101).
Brian Lavery, The Ship of the Line, vol.I, The Development of the Battle Fleet 1650–1850, London 1983, p.182.
John Gage ed., Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 1980, p.44 reproduced.
Lavery 1983, p.174. The author is grateful to Pieter van der Merwe for further information on the Nore guardships.

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