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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Holy Trinity Church, Coventry 1830

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 9 Verso:
Holy Trinity Church, Coventry 1830
Turner Bequest CCXL 9a
Pencil on white wove paper, 68 x 110 mm
Partial watermark ‘Gat | 18’
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the east end of the medieval Holy Trinity Church, Coventry, is seen along Priory Row. Turner’s viewpoint is north of the medieval St Michael’s Cathedral, where the modern Coventry Cathedral now runs north-south, and tall trees stand east of the church. The church’s west end is apparently seen on folio 13 recto (D22343).
For other views of Coventry, see folios 10 verso, 11 verso, 12 recto, 13 verso, 14 recto and verso, 15 recto and verso, 16 recto and verso–17 recto, 25 verso–26 recto, 26 verso–27 recto and verso (D22338, D22340, D22341, D22344–D22351, D22368, D22369, D22370, D22371, D22372). There is a single view of the city from the south in the contemporary Kenilworth sketchbook (Tate D22051, D22052; Turner Bequest Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 40a–41).
Turner’s watercolour Coventry of about 1832 (British Museum, London),1 engraved in 1833 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impression: T06105), was based in particular on D22368–D22369 and D22370–D22371. This vision of ‘a kind of “celestial city”’2 is characterised by the three spires of Holy Trinity, St Michael’s and Christchurch, which feature in various juxtapositions Turner’s sketches as he skirted the centre of the city. The spires survive, though only Holy Trinity is fully intact, with St Michael’s an empty shell (adjoining Basil Spence’s new cathedral) and Christchurch an isolated tower following the severe bombing of the medieval city in November 1940 and subsequently. Later commercial and industrial development and the raised inner Ringway have left little else of what Turner would have seen unaffected.3

Matthew Imms
August 2013

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.399 no.849, reproduced.
Kim Sloan, J.M.W. Turner: Watercolours from the R.W. Lloyd Bequest in the British Museum, London 1998, p.100.
For the city’s history with extensive maps and historic and modern photographs see [Rob Orland], Historic Coventry, accessed 1 July 2013, http://www.historiccoventry.co.uk/main/main.php.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Holy Trinity Church, Coventry 1830 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, September 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-holy-trinity-church-coventry-r1148486, accessed 26 October 2021.