Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Flood-Damaged Bridge at Cowley, near Exeter


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 170 x 209 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXIV 34

Catalogue entry

The drawing shows a bridge with at least one span missing at its centre. From Turner’s inscription it can be identified as the medieval bridge carrying the Exeter to Crediton road near the confluence of the River Creedy with the Exe south of Cowley, about three miles north of the centre of Exeter. It had been damaged by flooding in 1809 and 1810; between 1813 and 1814 it was replaced by a new structure which still stands.1
Not far beyond Exwick, his viewpoint for a distant view of Exeter on folio 33 verso (D08848), this seems to mark the northernmost point of Turner’s journey of roughly twelve miles inland up and down the Exe via Exeter (see also folios 30 verso, 31 verso and 32 verso; D08842, D08844, D08846), in a diversion from his general route westwards along the Devon coast.
The drawing was listed by Finberg as if it were on the recto of the leaf (without the ‘a’ suffix by which he usually indicates a verso), but it is bound as the verso of the sheet and the ‘recto’ is blank except for the number inscribed by Ruskin.

Matthew Imms
February 2011

[David Cornforth], ‘Cowley Bridge’, Exeter Memories, accessed 14 October 2008,; see also R.A. Otter, Southern England, Civil Engineering Heritage, London 1994, p.81.

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