The first stop on Turner’s 1831 visit to Northern England and Scotland was at Liverpool. Scholars have tended to assume that Turner did not stop at Liverpool, as it is a little off his route which is recorded in correspondence as taking him north via Manchester and Preston (see Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border sketchbook Introduction). However, folios 1 verso–7 verso (D25763–D24775) have been identified as depicting views of Liverpool and the Mersey, proving that he stopped there before heading onto Manchester.1 A conversation about the Liverpool-Manchester railway between Turner and Robert Cadell, recorded in the latter’s diary, raises the possibility that the artist covered the distance by rail, although there are no sketches or any other direct evidence to prove this.2
The sketches were all made around the Birkenhead and New Brighton areas of the Wirral peninsular, and show the newly constructed New Brighton lighthouse and fort as well as looking across the Mersey to Liverpool.
Across folios 1 verso–2 (D25763–D25764) is a view towards Liverpool from the beach of New Brighton. The townscape (Liverpool achieved city status in 1880) includes on the hill at the left the church tower of St George in Everton, notable as one of the first church buildings to make use of cast iron in its construction. Beneath this to the right is the spire of St Martin-in-the-fields, which has since been demolished. To the right are a series of windmills indicated by simple ‘X’ shapes, and the masts of ships docked in the harbour represented by short vertical strokes. Two domes can be seen against the skyline. The one on the left is the dome of St Paul’s Church (no longer standing) and to the right is the Town Hall, which is still there.3 The masts to the right indicate the position of Princes Dock. The drawing continues on folio 2 where New Brighton beach is shown in the foreground.
Martin Butlin, Andrew Wilton and John Gage, Turner 1775–1851, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1974, p.125 under cat.449.
Robert Cadell, National Library of Scotland, MS Acc. 5188, Box 1, fols 103, 103v, 4 August. 1831; see Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, p.103; Thomas Ardill, ‘Turner in Liverpool, 1831’, Turner Society News, no.112, August 2009, pp.12–14.
These were identified by Joseph Sharples in an email to the author, 22 April, 2009, Tate catalogue files.
- River Mersey(16)