Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lydford Castle and Church


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 28

Catalogue entry

Lydford’s square castle keep is seen silhouetted to the south-west on the near side of the village church’s tower, apparently from near the junction on the Okehampton-Tavistock road beside the present Dartmoor Inn, although trees now obscure the view. The upper end of Lydford Gorge is on the left, with Was Tor and the summit of Brent Tor beyond (for a view of the latter from further north see folio 24 recto; D09506). There are successive sketches around the castle and what appears to be the deep woodland in the nearby Lydford Gorge as far as folio 42 recto (D09525).
The village stands on a promontory is protected to the south by the River Lyd; there are Saxon defences around its north-eastern perimeter and traces of a Norman castle west of the church. The square structure known as Lydford Castle was built in phases in the late twelfth century and about a century later, as a court and jail, was notorious for its harsh administration of local stannary law (stannaries being the tin-mining districts of Devon and Cornwall); it was ruinous by Turner’s time.1
There is a single identified view of Lydford in the Devonshire Rivers, No. 3, and Wharfedale sketchbook (Tate D09840; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 45). Turner did not develop these Lydford studies further, although his later watercolour of Launceston Castle, a few miles to the west, apparently alludes to Launceston’s historical use as a prison (see particularly under folio 110 recto; D09600).
See [Katy Carter (ed.)], Heritage Unlocked: Guide to Free [English Heritage] Sites in Devon, Dorset and Somerset, London 2004, pp.22–5.

Matthew Imms
June 2014

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