Joseph Mallord William Turner

Berry Pomeroy Castle


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 75 × 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIII 138

Catalogue entry

Berry Pomeroy Castle stands between Totnes (see under folio 94 verso; D08542; CXXIII 91a) and Paignton in South Devon, about a mile north-east of the village of the same name. The castle, including a prominent gatehouse on its south side, dates from the fifteenth century. Within the curtain wall at the eastern end of the site is an Elizabethan country house, already ruined in Turner’s time, overlooking the valley to the north.1 Turner had long been aware of Berry Pomeroy, listing it in notes on West Country subjects in the Dynevor Castle sketchbook (Tate D41434; Turner Bequest XL, flyleaf) and the Dolbadarn sketchbook (Tate D02174; Turner Bequest XLVI 119). Probably in preparation for his 1811 tour, he made notes on it from a recent edition of John Feltham’s Guide to All the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places in the Vale of Heathfield sketchbook (Tate D40864; Turner Bequest CXXXVII, inside front cover).
Here, in the first of several studies, the castle is seen here from the north-east, showing the range above the North Terrace, from near the mill pond in the valley of the Gatcombe Brook.2 A watercolour of about 1798 by Turner’s late friend and contemporary Thomas Girtin shows the castle from the same angle (private collection).3 There are further sketches on the verso and on folios 141 verso, 142 recto, 145 recto and verso, and 146 recto and verso (D08629, D08630, D08636, D08637, D08638, D08639; CXXIII 138a, 139, 142, 142a, 143, 143a). The water mill west of the castle is seen below it on folio 146 recto, and by itself on folio 148 recto (D08642; CXXIII 145).
Turner did not use the sketches in connection with the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast project which was the main impetus for his 1811 West Country journey (see the introduction to the tour), but he seems to have returned to the subject not long afterwards, producing a watercolour of a castle set in deep woodland which was engraved and published in 1816 as an untitled Liber Studiorum plate. It was known to early Turner scholars as ‘Raglan Castle’, but it has subsequently been linked with Turner’s mention of ‘Berry Pomeroy’, otherwise unaccounted for, in a list of published and unpublished ‘EP’ subjects in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12162; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 26a). For a full discussion see the entry for the Liber watercolour (Tate D08159; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII E).
See [Katy Carter (ed.)], Heritage Unlocked: Guide to Free [English Heritage] Sites in Devon, Dorset and Somerset, London 2004, p.86; see also Deryck Seymour and Jack Hazzard, Berry Pomeroy Castle, Torquay 1982.
See local map, castle plan and ‘old print’ from a similar viewpoint in Deryck Seymour and Jack Hazzard, Berry Pomeroy Castle, Torquay 1982, pp.14, 18, 168 respectively.
Greg Smith, Thomas Girtin: The Art of Watercolour, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain 2002, p.85 no.59, reproduced (colour).

Matthew Imms
June 2011

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