Joseph Mallord William Turner

Launceston Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 90 × 152 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXXII 106

Catalogue entry

Built on a large natural mound high on a hill, Launceston Castle dominates the town of the same name just inside Cornwall, west of the county border along the River Tamar. Now in the care of English Heritage, it dates from soon after the Norman Conquest and its thirteenth-century keep comprises a round tower inside an earlier circular shell.1
At the top right, the castle is seen from the south-west with the gatehouse at the junction of St Thomas Road and Western Road in the foreground. The viewpoint appears to be Westgate Street, although later buildings now allow only glimpses of the castle from this far back. Beyond are the St Thomas and St Stephen districts, in the valley and on the hill beyond with their respective church towers. The view of the castle continues to the right on folio 107 recto (D09597).
A watercolour of Launceston, Cornwall of about 1826 (private collection),2 was engraved in 1827 for the series Picturesque Views in England and Wales. There are numerous views in the contemporary Devonshire Rivers, No. 3, and Wharfedale sketchbook, noted under Tate D09873 (Turner Bequest CXXXIV 72), the closest compositionally to the watercolour.
In the present book there are other views in and around Launceston on folios 100 recto, 103 recto, 104 recto, 105 recto, 108 recto, 109 recto, 110 recto, 111 recto, 112 recto, 113 recto, 114 recto, 115 recto, 117 recto and 120 recto (D09590, D09593–D09595, D09598–D09603, D09605, D09607, D09610, D09616), and possibly 113 verso (D09604).
See ‘Launceston Castle’, English Heritage, accessed 28 April 2014,
Wilton 1979, p.392 no.792, reproduced; Wilton mentions ‘[d]rawings made at Launceston’ in this sketchbook, without further details.

Matthew Imms
June 2014

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