Joseph Mallord William Turner

Old London Bridge with Piledrivers and the Thames Waterfront below Southwark Cathedral


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 98 × 162 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCV 7

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, Old London Bridge is shown from the north-east across the River Thames, with the tower of St Olave’s Church and the nearby shot tower (both now gone) on the left. Below is a detail of the waterfront continuing to the right, with Southwark Cathedral beyond the rooftops; Turner subsequently extended the main drawing half-way across folio 6 verso opposite, leaving the corresponding section there in sketchy outline.
As David Hill has noted, ‘piling operations’ for the bridge’s replacement a little upstream are represented here by the sequences of narrow triangles indicating piledrivers for the coffer-dams from which the new structure’s piers would rise; work began in March 1824, suggesting Turner drew these preliminary stages that spring or summer.1
More than half the drawings in this sketchbook show the River Thames around Old London Bridge, and are likely to date from the same time; see the Introduction.

Matthew Imms
December 2014

Hill 1993, p.176 note 79.

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