Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lowestoft Lighthouse


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 115 × 118 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCIX 35 a

Catalogue entry

Here Turner studies Lowestoft lighthouse on Suffolk’s North Sea coast. The first lighthouse at Lowestoft was erected in 1609 and rebuilt in 1628 and 1676; Turner pictures it here in its third incarnation, positioned atop cliffs overlooking the Denes.1 The tower is topped with a glass lantern room from which Argand lamps and silvered parabolic reflectors projected beams of light to aid mariners navigating their vessels at sea (see Tate impression T05100).2 A small outbuilding can be seen at the foot of the tower; this is probably the keeper’s quarters, a fuel store or boathouse. Another view of the lighthouse overlooking the Denes is pictured at top right.
Turner has also jotted two coats of arms to the right of the lighthouse. The uppermost is the coat of arms for Trinity House: a private corporation governed under Royal Charter whose principal responsibility is to ensure the safe passage of shipping and the welfare of seafarers. The corporation was established in 1514 during the reign of Henry VIII, but it was his daughter, Elizabeth I, who granted Trinity House its first coat of arms in 1573.3 The design on the escutcheon is a red cross with four ships, their fore and topsails raised. Above the shield is a closed helm (helmet) and a crest with a demi-lion rampant holding a sword in his dexter paw. The coat of arms below belongs to Britain’s celebrated diarist Samuel Pepys. Pepys, in addition to his position as Tory MP, was Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under King Charles II and James II and also Master of Trinity House. Turner has rendered Pepys’ arms cursorily here: visible is a diagonal band running across the shield decorated with three fleur-de-lis and two lions rampant. The rest of Pepys’ coat of arms has not been sketched.
These sketches and those on Tate D18226–D18227; Turner Bequest CCIX 36–36a are connected to a watercolour and gouache drawing entitled Lowestoffe Lighthouse of around 1827 (Indianapolis Museum of Art). It is one of a series of eight vignette designs picturing sites along the east coast of England (see general introduction for more information). An engraving of this drawing exists, produced by J.C. Allen, though it was never published (see Tate impression T06613).

Alice Rylance-Watson
January 2015

‘Lowestoft’, Trinity House, accessed 14 January 2015,
‘History’, Trinity House, accessed 14 January 2015, and ‘Coat of Arms’, Trinity House History, accessed 14 January 2015,

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