Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Northern Entrance to the Dudley Canal Tunnel below Castle Hill, with Lime Kilns

1830

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 78 × 110 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D22416
Turner Bequest CCXL 49 a

Catalogue entry

As part of unpublished Turner research informed by local knowledge, Dr Bernard Richards originally suggested1 that the tunnels in this sketch, inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, are associated with the Dudley Canal, though the inscription ‘Lime’ at the bottom left perhaps indicates that the scene shows the intensive limestone workings on nearby Wren’s Nest Hill, north of Dudley. There is a chimney, apparently issuing thick smoke, in the distance. Derek Gittings, of the Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust, has since observed that ‘there are no canal tunnels that opened to the surface on the Wren’s Nest Hill’ itself, although ‘there are several features in the sketch that suggest that it may show the northern portal of the Dudley Canal Tunnel on Dudley Castle Hill’, not far east of the Wren’s Nest and immediately to the west of the Canal Trust’s headquarters off Birmingham New Road:
As with the Wren’s Nest hill, there were extensive limestone workings here. In particular, the sketch [appears to show] two small tunnel entrances to the left of the main tunnel and a structure on the hill above them. There were two limekilns here, fed from the top, with the burnt lime extracted from two arched openings in the tunnel portal wall at the bottom and loaded onto boats. Although the surface works were destroyed when a railway was built in the 1850s, the two arched entrances to the kilns are still there today.
At the bottom left of the sketch there are a number of structures showing tall arched entrances. A row of limekilns were built on this site and their remains can still be seen today.2
Mr Gillings continues: ‘to the immediate left of the canal tunnel entrance in the Turner sketch there appears to be a tall structure. This could be the protruding buttress in the tunnel portal wall which is still present today. The tunnel entrance itself was re-built in blue brick in the 1850s when a railway was built over it.’ He has described the setting as it now appears: ‘The two openings to the left of the canal tunnel can [still] be seen’; to their left, a ‘wooded area hides the remains of a row of limekilns’, although ‘part of the original façade’ remains evident.3

Matthew Imms
August 2013

1
Conversation with the author, 14 May 2013.
2
Email to the author, 11 November 2019.
3
Ibid.

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