Hitherto unrecognised, this is a view of Hythe taken from the Ashford Road looking over the Royal Military Canal towards St Leonard’s Church and the coast running eastwards to Folkestone. It was probably Turner’s first sketch of the site, leading via a rather more detailed double-spread study in the Hastings sketchbook (Tate D10365–D10366; Turner Bequest CXXXIX 19a–20) to the watercolour (Guildhall Museum, London)1engraved by George Cooke in 1824 for Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England. In the watercolour Turner kept two of the trees seen here on the right and retained the balance of dark and lighter tones observed in his colour notes beneath, adding soldiers on the march with a wagon train, a parade outside the barracks and a cannon as a mark of the strategic importance of the Kent coast during the Napoleonic Wars.
For a drawing of St Leonard’s Church see folio 49 verso of this sketchbook (D10493; Turner Bequest CXL 43a).
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.354 no.475.