Joseph Mallord William Turner

Heriot’s Hospital


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 159 × 99 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXV 68

Catalogue entry

In this double-page drawing of Heriot’s Hospital school – continued on folio 51 (D13446; CLXV 67a) with the book in the portrait format – Turner shows the north front and eastern side (folio 51) of the structure. Because the building, a quadrangle, has similar eastern, western and southern sides, Turner’s choice of view contained all the information he needed: the unique grand frontage at the north, and the more typical east side which stands in for the other two aspects.
The drawing captures the main architectural features of Heriot’s Hospital: the four corner towers and taller central clock tower (the clock is on its southern side), the turrets and convex domes, the fluted chimneys, the vaulted entrance known as the Pend with its four pillars supporting an ornamental entablature above the arched doorway, the shape of the roof and design of the windows. Turner has also paid attention to decorative details such as the buckle quoins design on the corner of the central tower, and the frieze above it. The letters ‘GH’ inscribed to the right of the door show where there is a tablet engraved ‘G.H.’ for George Heriot, the founder of the school. Surrounding the main drawing are carefully sketched details of the turrets and towers.
Turner, as always in his architectural drawing, demonstrates a great economy, never wasting time or cluttering his picture by repeating details that are drawn elsewhere. The corner tower, for example, drawn across two pages, is very faintly depicted, omitting all the details that are present on the tower to the left of folio 51, but the turret has been drawn clearly as it is seen from a slightly lower angle than the others and therefore provides new information. It is not clear to whom the inscription ‘Tommy’s Gothic Dome’, written above a detail of one of the domes, refers.
Heriot’s Hospital was one of the subjects in the seventh number of Scott’s Provincial Antiquities: Heriot’s Hospital, circa 1819 (National Gallery of Scotland).1 While Turner’s design was based on a sketch in the Scotch Antiquities sketchbook (Tate D13744; Turner Bequest CLXVII 86), the drawing here probably helped Turner to record the architectural details, and he no doubt took an interest in the eclectic design of William Wallace and William Aytoun’s building that mixed ‘Gothic, neoclassical and English Domestic’ styles.2 Scott’s description of the subject concentrates on the founding of the school for ‘poor fatherless boys’ and the character and prospects of the ‘Herioters, as they were termed’.3

Thomas Ardill
November 2007

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1064.
B.R.W. Lockhart, ‘George Heriot’s School – History’, George Heriot’s School,, accessed 7 November 2007.
Sir Walter Scott, ‘View of Heriot’s Hospital from the West Bow’, Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland with Descriptive Illustrations by Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Vol.II, London and Edinburgh, 1826, pp.98, 102.

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