Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dudley: St Thomas’s Church; the Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 78 × 110 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXL 39

Catalogue entry

As part of unpublished Turner research informed by local knowledge, Dr Bernard Richards confirmed the subject as St Thomas’s Church, Dudley,1 with Dudley Castle in the distance to the north-east, inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation. It is unclear whether the spire and castle were viewed simultaneously, as later developments preclude a view of the castle from the church, although it can be seen along the Inhedge, a little to the north. At the bottom left is a view of the west side of the main body of the church with the lower stages of the tower at the left, and at bottom centre a slighter study of the south front. There is a similar thumbnail sketch of the east front in the contemporary Kenilworth sketchbook (Tate D22093; Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 61).
The town of Dudley, now in the West Midlands, was formerly in an enclave of Worcestershire at the southern end of Staffordshire, about eight miles north-west of central Birmingham. Dudley Castle, on a hill north of the centre of the town, originated in 1070. In the 1530s, John Dudley (later Duke of Northumberland) made additions including the Renaissance-style Sharington Range. Elizabeth I visited in 1575; her favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the Duke of Northumberland’s son, made comparable changes at Kenilworth Castle for the Queen’s visits at that time. For Turner and Kenilworth, see under Tate D22028 (Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 29) in the Kenilworth sketchbook. Dudley’s fortifications were slighted in 1647 during the Civil War, and the Sharington Range was badly damaged by fire in 1750, leaving the site as Turner saw it and largely as it survives today.2 In 1937 Dudley Zoo was opened, on terraced slopes encompassing the castle, with contrasting Modernist structures by Berthold Lubetkin and the Tecton Group. The limestone hill, an ancient sea-bed, is known for its fossils and is riddled with former mine workings,3 as is Wren’s Nest Hill, nearby to the north-west.
The latter is now a National Nature Reserve, and its wooded slopes are protected following a history of intensive limestone mining and quarrying for building stone and lime used in mortar and fertiliser and as a purifying flux in the blast furnaces of the local iron industry.4 Between the two hills lies Dudley Priory. Dating from the twelfth century,5 the ruins now stand off The Broadway in Priory Park; only the buildings on the south side of the priory complex survive above ground level. North-west of the ruins stands the castellated Priory Hall, built in 1825 by the Earl of Dudley, which now serves as the town’s register office.6
Conversation with the author, 14 May 2013.
See ‘Dudley Castle’, Dudley Zoological Gardens, accessed 22 July 2013,
See ‘History of the Zoo’ and ‘Tectons’, Dudley Zoological Gardens, accessed 22 July 2013,,
See ‘Wren’s Nest National Nature Reserve’, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, accessed 11 July 2013,; and ‘The Geology of Wren’s Nest Nature Reserve’, BGCS: The Black Country Geological Society, accessed 11 July 2013,
See ‘Priory Park, Dudley’, Midlands Heritage, accessed 24 June 2013,
See William S. Rodner, ‘Turner’s “Dudley”: Continuity, Change and Adaptability in the Industrial Black Country’, Turner Studies, vol.8, no.1, Summer 1988, pp.32–40; and Chapter 4, ‘Urban Industrialism: Leeds, Newcastle, Shields and Dudley’ in William S. Rodner, J.M.W. Turner: Romantic Painter of the Industrial Revolution, Berkeley and London 1997, pp.86–121, and pp.104–21 in particular, based on the Turner Studies article.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.400 no.858, pl.195; this sketchbook is mentioned without specifying particular pages.
Frank Milner, J.M.W. Turner: Paintings in Merseyside Collections: Walker Art Gallery; Sudley Art Gallery; Williamson Art Gallery; Lady Lever Art Gallery; Liverpool University Art Gallery, Liverpool 1990, p.53 under no.26; see also subsequent accounts in Anne Lyles, Turner: The Fifth Decade: Watercolours 1830–1840, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1992, p.53, James Hamilton, Turner and the Scientists, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1998, pp.97–8, James Hamilton, Turner’s Britain, exhibition catalogue, Gas Hall, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery 2003, p.24, and Ian Warrell in Warrell (ed.), Franklin Kelly and others, J.M.W. Turner, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 2007, p.123.
See Rodner 1988, ill.5.
Finberg 1909, II, pp.739–40.
Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.122.
Frank Milner, J.M.W. Turner: Paintings in Merseyside Collections: Walker Art Gallery; Sudley Art Gallery; Williamson Art Gallery; Lady Lever Art Gallery; Liverpool University Art Gallery, Liverpool 1990, p.53 under no.26.

Matthew Imms
August 2013

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