Here Turner has rendered several sketches of Kirkstall, near Leeds in West Yorkshire (see Tate D18390; Turner Bequest CCX 48). The lower drawing is an expansive prospect of the Aire valley taken from the side of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal near the Lock. Kirkstall Bridge can be seen in the middle distance. Across the centre of the page is a view looking along the Canal through Broad Lane Bridge towards the Bradford Road Bridge, with Kirkstall Brewery buildings at left and part of Kirkstall Lock’s gates to the left of the Brewery in turn. Turner has inscribed the note ‘Mason side of canal’ just below the Brewery. The site was developed on the banks of the Canal after its lease to a local maltster in 1793 and was completed by 1811.1
At top right Turner pictures a distant view of Kirkstall Abbey, a twelfth-century Cistercian monastery on the banks of the Aire. At top left the artist shows the Bradford Road Bridge across the Canal with Kirkstall Abbey beyond. A bridge was built here in about 1822 to carry the new Leeds to Bradford turnpike road.2 The sketch is annotated ‘Canal Road Lock’.
The town of Kirkstall developed rapidly when the Aire became navigable in 1699 and following the construction of the Leeds to Liverpool Canal in the 1770s. Designed to provide access to the port and thus to overseas markets, the Canal facilitated the industrialisation of the outer Leeds area. Trade and manufacture flourished in the North of England as transportation links were strengthened and technology advanced throughout the nineteenth century. Kirkstall, with its Canal, Lock, new roads and bridges, is just one of the northern towns which underwent this transition. Set against the backdrop of the medieval Abbey, however, modern is juxtaposed with ancient in a particularly conspicuous way. Perhaps owing to this Turner pictured Kirkstall in not one but two designs for W.B. Cooke’s Rivers of England print series: one showing the Abbey, signifier of England’s historical and ecclesiastical heritage, and the other showing the Lock, symbol of the nation’s industrial progress (see Tate D18146; Turner Bequest CCVIII L, M and Tate impressions T04811, T04816).3
Ann Chumbley and Ian Warrell, Turner and the Human Figure: Studies of Contemporary Life, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1989, p.47 no.45.
Hill 2008, p.174.
For more information see Alice Rylance-Watson, ‘Kirkstall Abbey, on the River Aire 1824 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, August 2014, https://www
.tate and ‘Kirkstall Lock, on the River Aire 1824–5 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, August 2014, https://www .org .uk /art /research -publications /jmw -turner /joseph -mallord -william -turner -kirkstall -abbey -on -the -river -aire -r1146210 .tate .org .uk /art /research -publications /jmw -turner /joseph -mallord -william -turner -kirkstall -lock -on -the -river -aire -r1146209
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