This is the left half of a double-page spread continued to the right on folio 48 (D10955), opposite, recording the north-west angle of Middleham Castle from the market square. The market cross is in the foreground, an old range of shops (including a ‘Cooper’ indicated in Turner’s inscription in the first arch of the arcade) lies on the far side of the square, and the Black Swan hotel (whose sign is also indicated) stands to the right of the cross. The Black Swan is still present, but rebuilt, along with most of the market square buildings recorded here. Turner’s friend Thomas Girtin drew the same subject in about 1800 (versions exist at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, and Leeds City Art Gallery).
This spread is the first of a major series of sketches of Middleham, particularly of the castle, from near and far, extending (with one or two interruptions) to folios 59a–60 in this sketchbook (D10978–D10979), and also including four detailed and panoramic studies in the Yorkshire 3 sketchbook (Tate D11403–D11404, D11405–D11406, D11407–D11408, D11409–D11410; Turner Bequest CXLVI 22a–23, 23a–24, 24a–25, 25a–26). Of all the sites visited on this 1816 tour, Middleham elicited the greatest number of sketches from Turner.
Middleham stands on high ground overlooking the junction of the Rivers Cover and Ure, and guards the entrance to both valleys from the North Yorkshire lowlands. Its strategic potential made it the historic capital of mid-Wensleydale, and the site of a large medieval castle. The keep was begun around 1170, and by the fifteenth century it had become the home of some of the most powerful lords in Britain, and served as the childhood home of Richard III.