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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Gerard's Bridge, with Witton-le-Wear in the Distance 1817

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 20 Recto:
Gerard’s Bridge, with Witton-le-Wear in the Distance 1817
Turner Bequest CLVII 20
Pencil on white wove paper, 116 x 185 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘[...]’ indicating stream to right of centre
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘20’ bottom right (now very faint)
Stamped in black ‘CLVII – 20’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
In the foreground is Gerard’s Bridge, crossing Linburn Beck on the Darlington to Consett road south of Witton-le-Wear and south-west of Witton Castle; both the road and the stream bend to the right before dipping down towards the Wear Valley. Turner has apparently inscribed a word where the stream appears between the trees in the middle distance. Witton-le-Wear is strung along the far hillside.
Blocks of stone are strewn about, and timber falsework or centring is visible on the downstream side of the bridge, suggesting that it is being widened if not replaced by the handful of workmen. The old road, shown here as a meandering, rutted track, still runs north-east today, but a new, straight main road diverges from it, travelling north-north-west over a later Gerard’s Bridge. This route would follow a near-vertical line if superimposed on Turner’s drawing, east of Fitches Grange farm on its crest to the left and passing just to the west of the prominent house at the top end of Witton-le-Wear. The tree-lined verges of the new road obscure the view from this point, but the far side of the valley is still visible from further south up the road, towards Toft Hill.
The distant house is Witton Tower, and lower down the village is the parish church of St Philip and St James, with its small tower and gabled porch. Both buildings are seen in another view of the village from east of Witton Castle on folios 17 verso and 18 recto (D12339, D12340). As with that drawing, the focus appears to be Witton Tower itself, the home of Turner’s former travelling companion Newb(e)y Lowson (see the introduction to the tour).
The drawing continues a little to the left on folio 19 verso opposite (D12342), and to the right on folio 21 recto (D12344). Linburn Beck appears again in a study of Witton Castle’s North Lodge in the Raby sketchbook (Tate D12263; Turner Bequest CLVI 2).
Technical notes:
There is a small brown stain between the horses and figures towards the lower left, showing through to the verso.

Matthew Imms
February 2010

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Gerard’s Bridge, with Witton-le-Wear in the Distance 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-gerards-bridge-with-witton-le-wear-in-the-distance-r1139344, accessed 17 February 2020.