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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Witton Castle 1817

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 17 Recto:
Witton Castle 1817
Turner Bequest CLVII 17
Pencil on white wove paper, 116 x 185 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘arch’ or ‘Road’ left of centre, ‘[?yellow f...]’ centre and ‘[w]’ above water towards lower right
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘17’ top left, upside down (now very faint)
Stamped in black ‘CLVII – 17’ top left, upside down
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Witton Castle stands south of the River Wear, about four miles west of Bishop Auckland. The castle, probably dating from the late fourteenth century, was remodelled in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but remains externally much as shown here. It is now the headquarters of a caravan and leisure park occupying the extensive grounds.1 Turner’s view is from the east of the walled garden around the castle, across Witton Row Beck; the bridge has since been rebuilt. There is a slight continuation of the trees to the right on folio 16 verso opposite (D12337).
The castle had been gutted by fire in 1796 and was bought in 1816 (the year before Turner’s visit) by William Chaytor, later a baronet and MP for Sunderland, who opened a colliery on the estate in 1825.2 If the artist hoped for a commission from the new owner, none was apparently forthcoming.
The building is seen again in the view on folios 17 verso, 18 recto and 19 recto (D12339–D12341). Assuming they were the same unidentified structure, Gerald Wilkinson has described the present subject and Brancepeth Castle on folio 15 recto (D12335), each seen through ‘almost leafless’ trees, as providing ‘a theme of interpenetrating planes which Turner handles with summary skill’.3

Matthew Imms
February 2010

English Heritage listing quoted at ‘Witton Castle, Sloshes Lane, Evenwood & Barony; Listed building (Witton-le-Wear)’, Keys to the Past, accessed 21 January 2010. http://www.keystothepast.info/durhamcc/K2P.nsf/K2PDetail?readform&PRN=D13785.
E. Mackenzie and M. Ross, An Historical, Topographical, and Descriptive View of the County Palatine of Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne 1834, vol.II, p.277.
Wilkinson 1974, p.170.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Witton Castle 1817 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 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-witton-castle-r1139339, accessed 28 November 2020.