Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ships on the River Medway at Frindsbury


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIX 16

Catalogue entry

As described by Finberg, this prospect illustrates ships on the River Medway.1 The light craft in the foreground is apparent in its entirety, pulled up and beached on dry land. Furnished with a single mast, it seems likely to be either a rigged dingy or a gunter. Two neat, triangular flags flutter at the summit of the mast, and the timber panels of the shallow hull are described in places with long sweeps of the pencil. Further back, additional, larger vessels occupy the inlet.
An identification of Frindsbury, opposite Rochester, is provoked by the tall spire emerging from the cliffs at right. This seems likely to describe the Saxon structure of All Saints Church at Frindsbury.2 Turner looks towards the church from the east, occupying a position on the bank of the Medway. Beyond the spire, sketched onto the horizon at left, mills mark the hillside. At left, there is a pair of windmills close together, either on Prospect Hill or overlooking Strood. A similar duo of windmills is included at left in the later watercolour Rochester, Stroud and Chatham, Medway, Kent of about 1836 (destroyed by fire, 1955),3 engraved in 1838 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T05104, T06127). In the present drawing, closer to the church at centre, Turner records one of the Frindsbury mills, possibly Kimmin’s Mill. See the Folkestone sketchbook of 1821–22 for additional drawings made at Frindsbury (Tate D17303, D17343; Turner Bequest CXCVIII 58a, 80).
Finberg 1909, I, p.608.
‘History’, All Saints Frindsbury Church With Upnor and Chattenden, accessed 26 January 2016,
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.402 no.877.
Technical notes:
A leaf has been cut out between this and the facing page on folio 15 verso (blank), leaving a short, neat stub.

Maud Whatley
January 2016

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