Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle: The North Side of the Hastings Tower


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 120 × 203 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 21

Catalogue entry

The town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch lies in north-west Leicestershire, about seventeen miles from Leicester itself (see folios 18 recto and 20 verso; D22006, D22011), and marks the northernmost limit of identified sites on the 1830 Midlands tour. The ruined castle which was the focus of Turner’s attention stands off South Street and is now under the care of English Heritage. There are dated remains from about 1300, although most of the complex was constructed in the late fifteenth century by William, Lord Hastings. It was slighted after the Royalists holding it under Henry Hastings surrendered to Parliament in 1646 during the Civil War. It is now rather hemmed in by school grounds to the east, with later buildings between the castle’s chapel and St Helen’s Church to the north, and sports pitches to the west; south of the castle are the remains of formal gardens, with a tower at the south-west corner, and modern housing to the south. The castle can be glimpsed between trees across the fields north-east of Prior Park Road. By the time of Turner’s visit it was famous for its fictional role in Sir Walter Scott’s medieval novel Ivanhoe (1819).1 For Kenilworth Castle, another Scott setting, see under folio 29 recto (D22028).
The Hastings Tower, seen here, was built in 1474 and partly demolished, probably with gunpowder, in 1648, leaving only the north side shown here intact.2 To the left is the west end of the chapel, and to the right the south-east corner of the kitchen block; Turner would have faced left and right from the same viewpoint to record these. There are details of heraldic carvings at the top right, apparently from inside the Hastings Tower: on the shield on the right is the Hastings ‘maunch’ (a stylised lady’s sleeve).3
There are further views of the castle on folios 22 recto opposite, 44 verso, 45 recto and verso, 46 recto and verso, 47 recto and 50 recto (D22014, D22058, D22059–D22063, D22067), and also on folio 92 verso (D22150; CCXXXVIII 90a) and inside the back cover (D41046). The sketch on folio 45 verso (D22060) is closest to Turner’s watercolour Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, c.1830 (currently untraced),4 engraved in 1832 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04593, T05090). A small sketch in the contemporary Birmingham and Coventry sketchbook appears to show a distant prospect of the castle and church (Tate D22355; Turner Bequest CCXL 19).
See [John Goodall], ‘History of Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle’, English Heritage, accessed 11 June 2013,; see also ‘Ashby-de-la-Zouch: Information for Teachers’, English Heritage, accessed 11 June 2013,; for Turner and Scott see Gerald Finley, ‘Scott, Sir Walter (1771–1832)’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.135.
See Goodall 2013.
See Tim Midgley, ‘Hastings & Earldoms’, Midgley: A Yorkshire One-Name Study, accessed 27 June 2013,
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.398 no.840.

Matthew Imms
August 2013

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