Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Arches of London Bridge under Construction, with the Monument and St Magnus the Martyr’s Church Beyond


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 110 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXVII 12

Catalogue entry

The view is to the north, from just upstream of the new London Bridge, under construction since 1824 (and eventually opened in 1831), looking north to the Monument and the tower of St Magnus the Martyr’s Church at the centre. Turner’s keen interest in the early progress of the bridge is charted in numerous studies in the Old London Bridge and London Bridge and Portsmouth sketchbooks (Tate; Turner Bequest CCV, CCVI), as set out in the introduction to this catalogue’s ‘Thames, London and South of England 1821–7’ section.1
The present drawing shows construction at about the half-way stage, with the massive segmental stone voussoirs of the arches being formed over cross-braced timber falsework or centrings, with cranes and gantries above and piledrivers to the left. There are numerous figures in the foreground, apparently including women, perhaps awaiting a ferry. At the top right is a slight frontal sketch of one arch, effectively continued from the right of the main drawing, and an isolated detail of distant buildings.
An engraving after Edward William Cooke, showing the same view with the virtually the same construction plant and the arches in a similarly incomplete state, was published in 1827; compare also the 1828 engraving after T.H. Shepherd, with the bridge bedecked with flags for the waterborne November 1827 Lord Mayor’s parade passing beneath (impressions: London Metropolitan Archives).
There is a complementary view from the opposite bank on folio 34 verso (D20784; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 32a). James Hamilton’s 1998 Tate exhibiton catalogue Turner and the Scientists lists both pages,2 and it is unclear which was exhibited on that occasion.
For other London views in this sketchbook, see under the view of St Magnus’s Church on folio 10 verso (D20748).

Matthew Imms
November 2015

See also Hamilton 1998, p.133 note 28.
See ibid., p.141.

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