In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 140 × 215 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXV a 36

Catalogue entry

Turner’s viewpoint is Upcott Hill, looking north-north-east down the River Torridge, with the tower of St Mary’s Church above the west end of the medieval Long Bridge of twenty-four arches, of which Turner indicates only twenty-two. It was widened in 1865,1 but its characteristic, uneven arches remain recognisable. Apart from the general growth of the town, the most conspicuous change has been the construction of the high level Torridge Bridge, which opened in 1987 as part of Bideford’s northern by-pass,2 crossing at the point where the right bank is shown here beyond the centre of the old bridge. The hills in the distance mask the confluence of the Torridge and Taw Estuaries.
There are slighter sketches made at Bideford in the contemporary Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08394, D08396, D08397; Turner Bequest CXXIII 17a, 18a–19).
As discussed in the introduction, the pages of this ‘sketchbook’ appear to have originally been loose sheets, and are not recorded in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory of the Bequest, although he subsequently noted the subject mistakenly as ‘Barnstaple. (Bridge with 22 arches showing.)’ in a manuscript listing,3 while C.F. Bell described it correctly in his own notes as ‘Bideford, Devonshire’.4 Figures including one usually corresponding to Finberg’s MS catalogue page numbering, which differs from Bell’s sequence, are inscribed on the verso of most sheets, although in this case neither number matches Finberg’s.
Nikolaus Pevsner, North Devon, The Buildings of England, Harmondsworth 1952, p.52.
‘The Ancient Long Bridge’, Bideford Town Council, accessed 9 March 2010,
A.J. Finberg, MS addenda, [circa 1928–39], tipped into a copy of his A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, opposite p.357, as CXXV(a) 83.
C.F. Bell, MS addenda, [after 1928], tipped into a copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.I, p.356B, as CXXVa 36.
Technical notes:
The sheet is slightly wrinkled, possibly as a result of exposure to damp.
Blank, save for inscriptions: inscribed by C.F. Bell in pencil ‘Bideford, Devon’ bottom left; inscribed by Edwin Fagg in pencil ‘182 | 81’ bottom right. There are glue stains at the corners of the sheet.

Matthew Imms
July 2011

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