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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Entrance to Corfe Castle 1811

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 17 Recto:
The Entrance to Corfe Castle 1811
Turner Bequest CXXIV 17
Pencil on white wove paper, 170 x 209 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘[?Rubble]’ on wall in centre
Possibly inscribed, perhaps with a number, top left, ?upside down
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom centre
Stamped in black ‘CXXIV – 17’ top left, upside down
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Corfe Castle survived intact until it was systematically slighted in 1646 by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War.1 As Finberg notes, Turner followed the present drawing in his watercolour of about 1812 (Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts),2 engraved in 1814 for the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England3 (see the concordance of the series in the 1811 tour introduction). In the watercolour he added women laying out washing to dry on the hillside and bridge, and a laundry basket on a wall in the left foreground, emphasising the castle’s state of peaceful, picturesque decay. As part of his long, descriptive poem on the West Country, he wrote in such terms in the Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook, used on the same tour (Tate D08468; Turner Bequest CXXIII 54a):
The ruins of Corfe [‘ruind’ inserted above] turrets stand
Between two lofty downs whose shelving side
The lesser mountain for his towers supplyed
Caused by two slender streams which here unite
But early times give [blank] of their might
The arched causeway . . [blank] towring keep
And [‘yet’ inserted above] deep foss scarce fed the strggling sheep
While overhanging walls and gateways nod
Proclaim the the [sic] power of force and times keen rod
The castle keep is seen to the north across the moat and the stone bridge to the gatehouse.4 Turner does not indicate the foreground where he stood to draw, level with the roadway of the bridge; it is now the walled garden of the National Trust tea rooms, immediately beside the passage leading from the Square to the bridge.
Turner entered the Isle of Purbeck southwards from Poole Harbour – see the distant views of Corfe Castle in the Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08387, D08391; Turner Bequest CXXIII 14, 16). He seems to have had two campaigns at Corfe, on his way to and from Swanage, effectively at a dead end on the coast to the south-east (folios 12 recto–15 verso; D08818–D08822). His first views were mostly from around the periphery of the village: folios 1 recto, 1 verso, 2 recto, 3 recto, 4 recto, 5 recto, 6 recto, 7 recto and 8 recto (D08807–D08815), together with 9 recto (Turner Bequest CXXV 49, bound and stamped as CXXIV 9; D08940), and the related sketch of Poole Harbour on folio 10 recto (D08817). The view on folio 6 (D08813) seems unfinished and was reworked on a larger scale in the Somerset and North Devon sketchbook (Tate D08954; Turner Bequest CXXVI 8), presumably during the first visit.
On his second approach, passing westwards on the way to sketch East and West Lulworth, beginning at folio 19 recto (D08828), he made a drawing from a considerable distance to the south (folio 16 verso; D08824). Finally, there is a similar close-up view to the present drawing, but from a little to the west, on folio 18 recto (D08827).
A rather conventional view attributed to Turner, of the keep and upper gateway from immediately to the south-east (Victoria and Albert Museum, London),5 has been dated to about 1793 and appears to have been based on an eighteenth-century engraving, ‘Corfe Castle, No.2’.6 There is no definite evidence of an earlier visit to Dorset (see the 1811 tour introduction), although Corfe appears in lists of West Country sites on the flyleaf of the 1798 Dinevor Castle sketchbook (Tate D41434) and in the Dolbadarn sketchbook, in use a year or two later (Tate D02174; Turner Bequest XLVI 119).
See brief historical notes in Hanley 1992, p.22.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.351 no.450.
Finberg 1909, I, p.354; see also Wilton 1979, p.351; Shanes 1981, p.152; Shanes 1990, pp.45 under no.22, 283 note 22, in error as CXXIV ‘p.102’; and Hanley 1992, p.22.
See modern photograph in Hanley 1992, p.22 ‘Cat.13’.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.305 no.42, reproduced.
Impression with Grosvenor Prints, London, 2010, dated circa 1780.
Blank; four small tears to the edges have been repaired.

Matthew Imms
February 2011

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Entrance to Corfe Castle 1811 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 2011, 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-the-entrance-to-corfe-castle-r1137307, accessed 25 June 2022.