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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Brancepeth Castle 1817

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 15 Recto:
Brancepeth Castle 1817
Turner Bequest CLVII 15
Pencil on white wove paper, 116 x 185 mm
Part watermark ‘J Wh | 18’
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘15’ bottom right (now very faint)
Stamped in black ‘CLVII – 15’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The village of Brancepeth lies about five miles south-west of Durham on the road to Willington. Just to its south is the castle, above the valley of Stockley Beck. Turner’s view appears to be of the west front; an 1819 engraving after John Preston Neale shows a distant prospect from that side with the same sequence of windows, towers, and turrets.1
The medieval castle, remodelled in the late fourteenth century for the Nevill(e) family, had been purchased by William Russell, a banking and coalmining magnate, and was extensively remodelled between about 1818 and 1821 (shortly after Turner’s visit) and later in the nineteenth century.2 It is comparable in scale and style to another former Nevill(e) stronghold nearby, Raby Castle, which was one of the major objectives of Turner’s time in Durham (see the introduction to the tour). There are further sketches of Brancepeth on folios 16 recto, 74 verso and 75 verso (D12336, D12410, D12412).
Assuming they were the same unidentified building, Gerald Wilkinson has described the present subject and Witton Castle on folio 17 recto (D12338), each seen through ‘almost leafless’ trees, as providing ‘a theme of interpenetrating planes which Turner handles with summary skill’.3
See image and publication details, Structural Images of the North East, accessed 20 January 2010, http://www.sine.newcastle.ac.uk/view_image.asp?digital_doc_id=4209.
English Heritage listing quoted at ‘Brancepeth Castle, Brancepeth; Listed building (Brancepeth)’, Keys to the Past, accessed 20 January 2010, http://www.keystothepast.info/durhamcc/K2P.nsf/K2PDetail?readform&PRN=D12181.
Wilkinson 1974, p.170.

Matthew Imms
February 2010

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Brancepeth Castle 1817 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 2010, 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-brancepeth-castle-r1139336, accessed 28 November 2020.