J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Barnstaple 1811

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 161 Verso:
Barnstaple 1811
Turner Bequest CXXIII 158a
Pencil on white wove writing paper, 75 x 117 mm
Part watermark ‘th | 6’
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘Old [?Barum]’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner’s Uncle John (his father’s brother John Turner, junior), was Master of the Barnstaple Poor House when the artist visited him on the North Devon leg of his 1811 tour; he had also visited his Uncle Price Turner in Exeter (for which see the contemporary Corfe to Dartmouth sketchbook, under Tate D08842; Turner Bequest CXXIV 30), earlier on his clockwise journey. Turner’s father, raised in nearby South Molton but long established in London, had visited Barnstaple earlier in the same year, apparently on family business.1
Turner’s inscription tails off, but Finberg’s ‘Old Barum’ is probably correct. ‘Barum’ is still in local usage as an alternative to Barnstaple, and the inhabitants are Barumites; the Poor House was presumably the workhouse formerly on the site of Barnstaple Library in Tuly Street2 (a union workhouse was subsequently built in 1837 in the town’s Alexandra Road3). Later developments make Turner’s viewpoint difficult to establish. The building(s) at the centre appear(s) to be shown from a different direction in the sketch on the recto (D08663; CXXIII 158).

Matthew Imms
June 2011

See Alexander J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Second Edition, Revised, with a Supplement, by Hilda F. Finberg, revised ed., Oxford 1961, p.182; and James Hamilton, Turner: A Life, London 1997, p.146.
See Elizabeth Hammett, ‘About Barnstaple’, Barnstaple Town Council, accessed 17 June 2011, http://www.barnstapletowncouncil.co.uk/about-barnstaple.asp.
See Peter Higginbotham, ‘Barnstaple, Devon’, The Workhouse, accessed 17 June 2011, http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Barnstaple/.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Barnstaple 1811 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, June 2011, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-barnstaple-r1137142, accessed 06 December 2023.