Joseph Mallord William Turner

Barden Tower, Wharfedale


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 179 × 254 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXXIV 59 a

Catalogue entry

Barden Tower stands beside the River Wharfe about three miles up-river to the north-west of Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire (see under folio 7 recto; D09874; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 73), beyond Strid Wood (named after the narrow reach of the Wharfe at this point), which was opened to the public in 1810 when the Rev. William Carr and the 6th Duke of Devonshire designed walks and viewpoints for visitors to appreciate the scenery.1 The 30,000 acre Bolton Abbey estate remains in the ownership of the Dukes of Devonshire through the Chatsworth Settlement Trustees.2 As David Hill has noted (see under Tate D12110; Turner Bequest CLIV L), the ruined tower is a fifteenth-century medieval hunting lodge built by the Clifford family of Skipton Castle.
Here, the north front of the tower is seen from near the junction of the Bolton Abbey-Burnsall road and the lane to Barden Bridge. Only a few low, ruined walls survive at the point to the left where Turner indicates a farm or cottages, including an archway which he may indicate at the east end of this range. Barden Tower itself remains much the same, although the wall around the upper windows at the centre has since fallen away, and the opening below has been filled in, while the ragged hole towards the right now extends to the whole height of the wall. Finberg’s identification of the subject as the ‘Ruins of Bolton Abbey’3 seems to have been a slip, as there is no resemblance to the ruined church, which is shown on the recto (D09859) and elsewhere in the sketchbook.
David Hill dates a large sheet with a pencil drawing of Barden Tower in the distance up the Wharfe through trees (Tate D12110, as mentioned above) to 1808, among other separate drawings made in the area which were studies for watercolours commissioned by Turner’s Yorkshire patron and friend Walter Fawkes of Farnley Hall (see the Introduction to the present sketchbook). The 1808 sketch formed the basis of a finished watercolour Barden Tower on the Wharfe (private collection),4 apparently painted for Fawkes in about 1809.

Matthew Imms
July 2014

See ‘The Strid & Strid Wood’, Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale, accessed 28 April 2014,
See ‘Welcome’ pages, ibid., accessed 28 April 2014,
Finberg 1909, I, p.382.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.363 no.550, reproduced, as c.1815, without Fawkes-related provenance.

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