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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Shrewsbury from the South-East, across the English Bridge over the River Severn ?1831

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 12 Verso:
Shrewsbury from the South-East, across the English Bridge over the River Severn ?1831
Turner Bequest CCXXXIX 12a
Pencil on white wove paper, 114 x 191 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Seen from the south-east, on the skyline of Shrewsbury are the tower of St Julian’s Church (now St Julian’s Centre), and the spires of St Alkmund’s Church and St Mary the Virgin’s Church. Finberg described the bridge over the River Severn as the ‘English Bridge (New Welsh Bridge)’, but both he and watercolour and Turner scholar C.F. Bell crossed out the words in brackets in copies of Finberg’s 1909 Inventory.1 Indeed, this is simply the seven-arched English Bridge, built in 1768–74 by local architect John Gwynne, and widened in 1926.2 The foreground appears to be the junction of the Red Brook with the Severn, which a later bridge still crosses along Coleham Head. There is a variant view with details on folio 13 recto opposite (D22173). Turner had drawn a similar view in 1794 (Tate D00311; Turner Bequest XXI E), the basis of a watercolour made shortly afterwards (Shrewsbury Museums Service).3
For a 1794 drawing of the Old Welsh Bridge, with the New Welsh Bridge under construction in the background on the north-west side of the town centre, see Tate D00330 (Turner Bequest XXI D), developed as a watercolour exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1795 (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester).4 Also dating from the 1794 visit is a sketch of the Old Market House (Tate D00405; Turner Bequest XXIII e).
Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire, stands on the Severn with its centre almost surrounded by an encompassing loop of the river. Turner had already visited Worcester and Bridgnorth, down-river, on his way north (see the sketchbook’s Introduction). As well as on the opposite page, mentioned above, there are Shrewsbury sketches on folios 13 verso, 14 recto, 68 recto and verso (D22174, D22175, D22275, D22276), and on folios 71 verso, 72 recto and verso, 73 recto and 89 verso (D22280, D22281, D22282, D22283, D22316; Turner Bequest CCXXXIX 70a, 71, 71a, 72, 88a).

Matthew Imms
April 2014

A.J. Finberg, undated MS notes in a copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, vol.II, p.734; C.F. Bell, undated MS notes in another copy at the same location, vol.II, p.734.
See Nikolaus Pevsner, Shropshire, The Buildings of England, Harmondsworth 1958, pp.270–1.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.314 no.136, reproduced.
Ibid., p.310 no.82, reproduced.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Shrewsbury from the South-East, across the English Bridge over the River Severn ?1831 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, April 2014, 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-shrewsbury-from-the-south-east-across-the-english-bridge-r1148818, accessed 18 September 2021.