Joseph Mallord William Turner

Bolton Abbey beside the River Wharfe, from the South


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 73

Catalogue entry

The ruined priory at Bolton Abbey stands on the west bank of the River Wharfe about six miles east of Skipton in North Yorkshire, and about ten miles west-north-west of Farnley Hall, the home of Turner’s friend and patron Walter Fawkes (see the sketchbook’s Introduction). The priory was founded in 1154 and fell into ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. 1 Strid Wood, on the banks of the Wharfe (known as the Strid along the narrow reach at this point) a little to the north, 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.2 Barden Tower is about three miles upstream to the north-west (see under folio 15 verso; D09860; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 59a). The 30,000 acre estate remains in the ownership of the Dukes of Devonshire through the Chatsworth Settlement Trustees.3
There is a pencil view of the ruins from the south in the 1797 Tweed and Lakes sketchbook (Tate D01070; Turner Bequest XXXV 68), and an early watercolour colour study (Tate D08264; Turner Bequest CXXI I). Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, on the Wharfe, a watercolour of about 1798, is in a private collection.4 Turner subsequently recorded the abbey in a series of pencil sketches traditionally assigned to 1816 or later,5 but considered by David Hill elsewhere in the present catalogue as dating from Turner’s first visit to Farnley Hall in 1808, among a series of Yorkshire studies, some of which relate to watercolours of 1809: Tate D12115, D12116, D12117, D12118 (Turner Bequest CLIV Q, R, S, T). The first of these was the basis for a watercolour of about 1809 (University of Liverpool),6 and the third for another, dated 1809 (The British Museum).7 Finally, a watercolour vignette (Tate D27696; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 179)8 was engraved in 1833 for Samuel Rogers’s Poems (1834).9
Here the abbey is here seen from the west bank of the River Wharfe, looking north. There are further views on folios 8 recto, 9 recto, 10 recto, 12 recto, 13 verso–14 recto, 15 recto, 16 recto and 17 recto (D09851, D09793, D09886, D09795, D09848, D09875, D09859, D09876, D09878; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 54, 4, 81v, 6, 51a, 74, 59, 75, 76). Folios 10 verso–11 recto (D09885, D09887; Turner Bequest 81, 82) formed the basis of the watercolour Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire of about 1825 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight),10 engraved in 1827 for the series Picturesque Views in England and Wales.
See ‘Priory Ruins’, Bolton Abbey, Wharfedale, accessed 28 April 2014,
See ‘The Strid & Strid Wood’, ibid., accessed 28 April 2014,
See ‘Welcome’ pages, ibid., accessed 28 April 2014,
Not in Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979.
Finberg 1909, I, p.437.
Wilton 1979, p.360 no.531, reproduced.
Ibid., p.360 no.532, reproduced.
Ibid., p.443 no.1198, reproduced.
For some of these see Hill 1996, pp.142, 202 note 12.
Wilton 1979, p.391 no.788, reproduced.

Matthew Imms
July 2014

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