The view is north-west from the precincts of St Augustine’s Abbey, beyond the turrets of its Great Gateway (or Fyndon Gate) gatehouse of 1300–9 at the junction of Monastery Street and Lady Wootton’s Green towards the east end of Canterbury Cathedral. The jumble of forms at the bottom right may indicate ruins on the future site of the north range of St Augustine’s College (now part of The King’s School), designed by William Butterfield in the 1840s,1 the ground plan of which encompasses Turner’s viewpoint.
The scene had been long familiar to Turner. There are two variant watercolours at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven,2 comparable with the present view but taken from nearer the foot of the tower; the first may have been the version exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1793.3 He had also made an elaborate, annotated pencil drawing of the street front of the gateway in 1794 (Tate D01110; Turner Bequest XXXVI P).
For other views of Canterbury in this sketchbook, see under folio 3 recto (D35761).