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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Kirkstall sketchbook 1808

Turner Bequest CVII
Sketchbook, bound in calf, with one brass clasp now missing
95 leaves of white wove paper
Approximate page size 109 x 186 mm
Made by William Balston and Finch and Thomas Robert Hollingworth at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent
Watermarked ‘J WHATMAN | 1805’
Inscribed by Turner in ink ‘5’ on spine
Endorsed by the Executors of the Turner Bequest in ink ‘No 348 Contains | 17 leaves. Pencil’ and signed by Charles Turner in ink ‘C Turner’ and by Charles Lock Eastlake and John Prescott Knight in pencil ‘C.L.E.’ and ‘JPK’ inside front cover (D07255)
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This sketchbook was used for a handful of views of Kirkstall Abbey outside Leeds. There are also several notes and accounts and two sketches of boats. The book was dated by Finberg 1808–9 and 1808 has been the preferred date since, and is retained in this catalogue.
The evidence for the earlier date rests on interpretation of Turner’s inscription inside the front cover (D07255) which cites Dorfold Hall, Nantwich, Cheshire and its owner, Henry Tomkinson,1 along with the date ‘20 July 1808’ and a payment of £100 to or from Sir John Leicester. Taken together, this evidence would link the sketchbook with Turner’s visit to and work for Sir John at Tabley, near Knutsford, in the summer of 1808 as part of a larger tour including a trip into North Wales, to Lancashire and Yorkshire to stay for the first time with Walter Fawkes at Farnley Hall. Folio 1 (D07257) notes alternative routes and times from Manchester to Otley, near Farnley, which would be consistent with preparations for a first visit – although places drawn in the 1808 Tabley No.1 sketchbook indicate that in the end he went a different way. The Kirkstall drawings would thus have been made while at Farnley that year, just as more seem to have been made during another visit to Fawkes in 1809, on the way to Cumbria.2
David Hill has recently suggested that the date ‘could also be read as 1818’, adding that ‘while the inscription does not certainly date the sketchbook, the style of the drawings seems rather too free to date to 1808’.3 However, he now accepts that 1808 is the year given by Turner. To the present writer, the date is clearly 1808 and Turner’s apparent presence at Dorfold tallies with his visit to North Wales from Tabley, with Nantwich conveniently on the way. Moreover, the £100 might relate to a payment made by Sir John and receipted by Turner on 1 September 1808; see notes to D07255 for more detail.
Kirkstall Abbey stands by the River Aire about three miles west of the centre of Leeds. It was founded in 1152 for a community of Cistercian monks and was dissolved in 1539. Turner first visited it on a northern tour in 1797 and returned on several occasions.4
As recognised by Hill, Warburton and Tussey 1980, p.26.
Kirkstall Lock sketchbook (Tate D12240–12260; Turner Bequest CLV).
Hill 2008, p.189 note 20.
Hill 2008, pp.20–35, 165–74.

David Blayney Brown
October 2010

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How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Kirkstall sketchbook 1808’, sketchbook, October 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/kirkstall-sketchbook-r1135915, accessed 13 July 2024.