These three church towers were all sketched at Manchester, which Turner passed through on his journey north to Scotland.
At the left, inscribed ‘St John’, is the tower of St John’s, Byrom Street, which was built by Edward Byrom, consecrated in 1769 and demolished in 1928. A comparison of Turner’s sketch with an engraving in Joseph Aston’s A Picture of Manchester, confirms the identification.1 The middle tower, inscribed ‘St Mat’, is St Matthew, Campfield on Liverpool Road, close by to St Johns. The church was consecrated in 1825 and closed in 1950.2 The tower at the right is not labelled, making identification less certain. A reasonable match, however, can be made with St Mary’s church, consecrated in 1756 and situated between Deansgate and the River Irwell and therefore not far from St Johns and St Matthews. The church was notable for having the highest spire in Manchester.3
The three churches all stood in the same area of Manchester and could have been visited within a few minutes of each other, making this side-by-side comparison easy. The churches, especially St Matthews, are close to Manchester’s Liverpool Road Railway Station, adding further circumstantial evidence that Turner may have travelled between Liverpool and Manchester by train (see Tate D25763; Turner Bequest CCLXVI 1a).4 Turner’s other sketches of Manchester were all made within a short distance between here and the Collegiate Church (now Cathedral) (folio 34; D25702).
Turner filled the left over space at the bottom of the page with a sketch of a sailing boat. This may have been made on a separate occasion.
Joseph Aston, A Picture of Manchester, third edition, Manchester 1826, p.92 reproduced.
This church is also recognisable from an engraving; Aston 1826, between pp.104–105 reproduced.
Ibid, p.89. Reproduced p.88.
Thomas Ardill, ‘Turner in Liverpool, 1831’, Turner Society News, no.112, August 2009, pp.12–14.