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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Flood-Damaged Bridge at Cowley, near Exeter 1811

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 34 Verso:
The Flood-Damaged Bridge at Cowley, near Exeter 1811
Turner Bequest CXXIV 34
Pencil on white wove paper, 170 x 209 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘Cowley nr Ex’ bottom right
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘15’ top right
Inscribed faintly in pencil ‘34’ bottom right
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CXXIV – 34’ bottom right
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘643’ top right upside down on the recto (see discussion below)
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The drawing shows a bridge with at least one span missing at its centre. From Turner’s inscription it can be identified as the medieval bridge carrying the Exeter to Crediton road near the confluence of the River Creedy with the Exe south of Cowley, about three miles north of the centre of Exeter. It had been damaged by flooding in 1809 and 1810; between 1813 and 1814 it was replaced by a new structure which still stands.1
Not far beyond Exwick, his viewpoint for a distant view of Exeter on folio 33 verso (D08848), this seems to mark the northernmost point of Turner’s journey of roughly twelve miles inland up and down the Exe via Exeter (see also folios 30 verso, 31 verso and 32 verso; D08842, D08844, D08846), in a diversion from his general route westwards along the Devon coast.
The drawing was listed by Finberg as if it were on the recto of the leaf (without the ‘a’ suffix by which he usually indicates a verso), but it is bound as the verso of the sheet and the ‘recto’ is blank except for the number inscribed by Ruskin.

Matthew Imms
February 2011

[David Cornforth], ‘Cowley Bridge’, Exeter Memories, accessed 14 October 2008, http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/EM/cowley_bridge.html; see also R.A. Otter, Southern England, Civil Engineering Heritage, London 1994, p.81.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Flood-Damaged Bridge at Cowley, near Exeter 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-flood-damaged-bridge-at-cowley-near-exeter-r1137327, accessed 17 September 2019.