Turner visited Stirling on three occasions. The first was in 1801 as part of an extensive tour of Scotland where he made sketches of the town in the Scotch Lakes sketchbook (Tate D02927– D02984; D02992–D03276; D41240–D41249; D41411 complete; Turner Bequest LVI). He then returned in 1831 on his way from Edinburgh to the Clyde, and again in 1834 making sketches of the town in the Stirling and Edinburgh sketchbook (D26259–D26435; D41047–D41049 complete; Turner Bequest CCLXIX).
Turner certainly visited Stirling in 1831, making sketches in the Stirling and West sketchbook, as a sketch on folio 16 (D26466) is flanked by smaller sketches made later on the same tour and fitted into the limited available space. However, the possibility that he used the sketchbook again in 1834 is raised by a sketch on folio 15 verso (D26465) which includes the New Bridge, the foundation stone of which was laid on 8 September 1831 and which was completed in 1833.1 This raises the possibility that some of the sketches of Stirling in the Stirling and West book were made on the artist’s return to the town in 1834 when he was using the Stirling and Edinburgh sketchbook. However it seems unlikely that Turner would have brought an already rather full sketchbook with him to Scotland and used it alongside a half-empty sketchbook. Perhaps it is more likely that the Stirling and West sketches were all made in 1831, and that Turner simply added the New Bridge to folio 15 verso from memory on his return to London in October 1834.
Sketches of Stirling in this sketchbook are of the Holy Rude Church on folio 8 (D26450), the castle from the esplanade on folios 8 verso–9 verso (D26451–D26453), the castle from near the Old Bridge to the north (folios 10 verso, 11 verso, 15 and 15 verso; D26455, 26457, D26464, D26465), Cambuskenneth Abbey (folio 11 verso; D26457), the town from the north-east (folios 12 verso–14 verso; D26459–D26463), and the castle from Lady’s Rock (folios 16 and 16 verso; D26466, D26467).
After the 1831 tour Turner was commissioned to make a watercolour of Stirling circa 1834–5 (Glasgow Museums)2 to be engraved for Tales of a Grandfather, volume 23 of Sir Walter Scott’s Prose Works (1836). The illustrations for the Tales were apparently executed between 1834 and 1835,3 and the Stirling watercolour can be dated to 1834 or 1835 by the presence of the New Bridge.
‘Stirling Causeway Head Road, New Bridge: Architectural Notes’, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland, accessed 10 May 2011, < http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/121536/details/stirling+causewayhead+road+new+bridge/ >.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.433 no.1122.
Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, p.204.
‘Abbey Craig’, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, accessed 2 June 2010, < http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/47148/details/abbey+craig/>.
Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1990, p.17.
Crawford 1936, pp.22 – 3.