Turner visited Barnstaple in 1813 and sketched its bridge and the wide reaches of the river Taw on several pages in this sketchbook. He developed no.39 from a synthesis of those sketches. As he could not be bothered to draw every arch of the sixteen-arched bridge in the present sketch, he merely recorded twelve of its spans and economically appended the number '16' underneath. To the right of the bridge may be seen the broach-spire of the church of St Peter and St Paul which is still twisted out of shape by the weight of its own lead.
Gallery label, February 1997
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