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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Prestonpans Mercat Cross; and ?Fa'side Castle, Tranent 1834

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 82 Verso:
Prestonpans Mercat Cross; and ?Fa’side Castle, Tranent 1834
Turner Bequest CCLXVIII 82a
Pencil on white wove paper, 111 x 181 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘array’ top
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The sketch at the right of this page, drawn with the book turned to the left, can be identified confidently as the Mercat Cross at Prestonpans in East Lothian. Turner visited the village on 30 September 1834 to sketch sites associated with the life of Sir Walter Scott and the battlefield nearby. On the opposite sketchbook page is Preston Tower, which stands just a few hundred metres away (folio 83; D26251). The Mercat Cross was erected in 1617 and consists of a drum-shaped ‘cross house’ with arched niches around its base, and a thin column topped with a small unicorn.
The sketch of a distant tower surrounded by trees across the top of the page is not so easily identifiable. The inscription appears to say ‘Array’, the significance of which was not been determined. If this was drawn around the same time as the Mercat Cross, then it is possible that this is Fa’side Castle, a tower house near Tranent about two miles to the south of Prestonpans. Although the castle has since been renovated, it once stood in a ruinous state. A drawing by Alexander Archer, made just a month after Turner was in Prestonpans, shows the shape of the castle ruins to be similar to those drawn by Turner, a similarity that is confirmed by a photograph taken before the restoration.1

Thomas Ardill
November 2010

Alexander Archer, Fallside Castle, from the west, the property of E. E. Suttie Esq. from nature by A. Archer, 27 Oct. 1834, NMRS Print Room, and General view from north west, photograph, reproduced under ‘Falside Castle’, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, accessed 10 November 2010, < http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/53666/digital_images/falside+castle/>.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Prestonpans Mercat Cross; and ?Fa’side Castle, Tranent 1834 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, November 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-prestonpans-mercat-cross-and-faside-castle-tranent-r1136178, accessed 16 January 2019.