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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Tabley No.3 sketchbook 1808–25

Turner Bequest CV
Sketchbook, bound in calf, with one brass clasp (broken), spine repaired
92 leaves of white wove paper
Approximate page size 108 x 185 mm
Made by ?William Balston and the brothers Finch and Thomas Robert Hollingworth at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent, and watermarked ‘J WHA[TMAN] | 180...’
Endorsed by the Executors of the Turner Bequest in ink ‘No.327. Contains 64 Leaves | Pencil Sketches’ and signed by Charles Turner in ink ‘C. Turner’ and by Charles Eastlake and John Prescott Knight in pencil ‘C.L.E.’ and ‘JPK’ on folio 93 verso (D07114)
Further endorsements by John Ruskin are recorded by Finberg: ‘327. English. Not very good’ and ‘Invent. 327. Interesting middle English Pastoral, London Bridge, &c. Essay on Reflections (optical) on first page’
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This sketchbook was used during Turner’s visit to Sir John Leicester at Tabley, Cheshire, in 1808 and later in London. Some of its many views of the Thames and City are datable as late as 1825. Accounts or payments dated 14 October and 3 November 1820 are recorded inside the front cover (D40628).
Ruskin’s endorsements show that he revised his first, poor impression of the book, which contains much information although many of its pencil sketches are quite slight. The ‘middle English Pastoral’ subjects include drawings of the estate at Tabley, including two for Turner’s pictures Tabley, Cheshire, the Seat of Sir J.F. Leicester, Bart.: Calm Morning (Tate T03878; displayed at Petworth House)1 and Tabley, the Seat of Sir J.F. Leicester, Bart.: Windy Day (Tabley House Collection, University of Manchester).2 These drawings, respectively folios 8 verso–9 (D07129–D06990; Turner Bequest CV [91 verso]–7) and folio 20 (D07002; Turner Bequest CV 17), together with folios 70 verso–71 (D07075–D07118; Turner Bequest 62a–85a) show the water tower that Sir John had built in the lake. Turner omitted it from his first ideas for the pictures, including drawings and an oil sketch for the ‘Calm’ in the Tabley No.1 sketchbook (Tate D06845–D06846, D06848; Turner Bequest CIII 15a–16, 18), and was presumably told to include it.
Especially interesting in the present sketchbook are views around the Old Hall and of the family chapel, St Peter’s (for example folio 17, D07116; Turner Bequest CV 84), then standing on an island in the Moat. The Old Hall dated originally from circa 1382 but was mainly seventeenth-century. It was abandoned when Sir Peter Byrne Leicester, 4th Bart., built the present Tabley House (completed circa 1767) At the time of Turner’s visit it was well maintained with its original furnishings. St Peter’s Chapel, built 1675–8 and with a tower added in 1724, stood beside it. In the 1920s, both buildings were undermined by subsidence owing to brine extraction. The Chapel was dismantled and largely rebuilt near the Georgian house and the former mansion was left to collapse in 1927, although fixtures and fittings including a chimneypiece and heraldic and painted glass from the windows were salvaged for an Old Hall Room alongside the rebuilt church. Today the island and the surviving ruins are overgrown and inaccessible and Turner’s drawings may be compared with the view of the island, bridge and Old Hall and Chapel drawn by Sir John Leicester’s friend Richard Colt Hoare and engraved by James Storer for The Beauties of England and Wales, 1802.
On folio 35 (D07025; Turner Bequest CV 32) Turner outlines a hang of pictures at Tabley, including a ‘Landscape’ by Sir John Leicester himself and a view of Beeston Castle by George Barret which its owner presented to the Royal Irish Institution, Dublin, in 1823. Turner made his own watercolour of Beeston, near Tarporley, circa 1809 (Ulster Museum, Belfast),3 and probably saw it during his 1808 visit, although no on-the-spot drawings from this year are currently identified. Décor such as curtains and drapery, as on folio 9 verso (D06991; Turner Bequest CV 7a), may have been seen at Tabley, where improvements to the Georgian house designed by John Carr of York were under way, including a picture gallery newly formed by Thomas Harrison of Chester from smaller rooms. This room, of which a floor plan appears on folio 34 verso (D40629) together with the hang of three pictures mentioned above, was completed and installed by the time of Turner’s visit. James Hamilton says that having built a gallery in his London house in Hill Street, Sir John was ‘now actively contemplating a second’ and that ‘Turner’s experience as a picture gallery designer will have been invaluable to him, and it is inconceivable that they did not discuss the subject’.4 In fact, most of the ideas for a picture gallery in this sketchbook are for Turner’s own London gallery and later in date. Although Turner made some alterations to his first Harley Street gallery during 1811, these drawings are for the new gallery at the back of his house in Queen Anne Street West, planned from about 1818 and opened in 1822. Probably he made them while referring back to his notes and sketches made at Tabley. Plans include heating, top-lighting and hangings to frame pictures or shield them from glare. While the octagonal glazed roof lights and sloped ceiling drawn on folio 48 (D07046; Turner Bequest CV 44) conform to Turner’s Gallery as later painted by George Jones (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), and Jones also shows simple fabric hangings on the walls, some of the designs for drapery sketched here seem rather grand and elegant for the frugal Turner, who in later years used herring nets to filter daylight from the roof.
Ruskin’s mention of subjects of ‘London Bridge &c’ would seem to contradict Eric Shanes’s former theory that a number of views of the Pool of London and the Custom House have been ‘bound in the book by error’.5 Moreover, one of these, on folio 70 (D07074; Turner Bequest CV 62) is on the other side of half of a double-page spread view of Tabley (D07075; Turner Bequest CV 62a). Rather than insertions from another source, the Thames subjects must have been drawn in the book as part of a separate, later campaign. As Shanes observes, some show the new central façade added by Robert Smirke in 1825 to the Custom House as rebuilt by David Laing, 1813–17; see especially folio 75 verso (D07083; Turner Bequest CV 66a). Turner’s drawings are preparatory to the watercolour The Custom House (Vancouver Art Gallery)6 engraved by J.C. Allen in 1827. Folio 76 (D07115; Turner Bequest CV 83) is related to another watercolour Old London Bridge dated 1824 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)7 engraved by Edward Goodall while folios 64 verso–66 (D07063–D07066; Turner Bequest CV 56a–58) must be connected with a third, The Tower of London (private collection)8 engraved by William Miller in 1831. A group of drawings of Waterloo Bridge and Somerset House at the back of the book (for example folios 87 verso–88, D07105–D07106; Turner Bequest CV 77a–78) suggest that Turner was also planning a view of these important subjects. Somerset House was of personal significance as the home of the Royal Academy while the bridge designed by John Rennie, 1811–16 (renamed from Strand Bridge and formally opened in 1817) was still quite new.
The likelihood that these watercolours were intended for an engraved series of London scenes, first mooted by the publisher W.B. Cooke in 1820 and taken over by Allen by the time it was announced in The Repository of Arts in August 1824,9 is discussed in detail by Shanes.10 By 1824, it was titled ‘Views in London and its environs’, to be issued quarterly in numbers of two prints, together ‘comprising the most interesting Scenes in and about the Metropolis’ and ‘all that time or intrinsic worth has consecrated in London’. Besides Turner, other artists were to contribute including his friend Augustus Callcott whose large painting The Entrance to the Pool of London (Bowood House) had made a great impression on Turner in the Royal Academy in 1816.11 As Shanes explains, the project was not realised as it was overtaken by a rival ‘Picturesque Views in London and its environs’, published by Hurst and Robinson with engravings by Charles Heath after different artists. The prints after Turner’s Thames scenes were issued separately or in other publications. Their relationship to the Cooke/Allen scheme is speculative but seems likely on grounds of date and the richness and variety of the subject matter.
The written notes in this book range from the historical and antiquarian, based on old sources from Suetonius and Cassius Dio to Giraldus Cambrensis, to personal observations. Passages about the Roman occupation of Britain and the early history of its architecture (folios 90 verso and 91 verso, D07110, D07112; Turner Bequest CV 80a, 81a) may have been prompted by contact with Richard Colt Hoare, who had published an edition of Giraldus’s Itinerarium or Journey through Wales in 1806; Turner is likely to have overlapped with Hoare or stayed at his summer villa near Bala on an excursion into North Wales from Tabley during his 1809 tour.12 Other text is written in connection with Turner’s preparations for his forthcoming lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. On folio 92 verso and inside the back cover (D07114, D40630) he describes the tantalising effects of ‘currants, air and motion’ on reflections seen in water and the difficulty of finding technical means or ‘rules’ for depicting them, concluding wistfully that ‘panting art toils after truth in vain’. These notes might be read in conjunction with his remarks on the appearance of a ‘white Body’ floating down the Rive Dee, observed on the trip to Wales (Tabley No.2 sketchbook, Tate D06983; Turner Bequest CIV 88).
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.70–1 no.99 (pl.107).
Ibid., p.70 no.98 (pl.106).
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.359 no.525.
Hamilton 1997, p.108.
Shanes 1981, p.38; he has since changed his view.
Wilton 1979, pp.358–9 no.516.
Ibid., p.358 no.514, as ‘The Port of London’.
Ibid., p.358 no.515.
Ackermann’s The Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, Manufactures, etc., 1 August 1824, vol.IV, no.20, p.121.
See also James Hamilton, Turner’s Britain, exhibition catalogue, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, 2003, pp.126–30.
David Blayney Brown, Augustus Wall Callcott, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1981, pp.78–9.
See Introduction to Tabley No.1 sketchbook (Tate D06830–D06857; D40065; D40720–D40721; Turner Bequest CIII).
A concordance follows:
FolioTateTurner Bequest
Inside Front CoverD40628 
1D06984CV 1
2D06985CV 2
3D06986CV 3
4D06987CV 4
5D06988CV 5
6D06989CV 6
7D07126CV 90
8D07128CV 91
8 versoD07129 
9D06990CV 7
9 versoD06991CV 7a
10D06992CV 8
11D06993CV 9
12D06994CV 10
12 versoD06995CV 10a
13D06996CV 11
14D06997CV 12
15D06999CV 14
16 D06998CV 13
17D07116CV 84
18D07000CV 15
19D07001CV 16
20D07002CV 17
21D07003CV 18
22D07004CV 19
22 versoD07005CV 19a
23D07006CV 20
23 versoD07007CV 20a
24D07008CV 21
24 versoD07009CV 21a
25D07010CV 22
25 versoD07011CV 22a
26D07012CV 23
27D07013CV 24
28D07014CV 25
29D07015CV 26
30D07016CV 27
30 versoD07017CV 27a
31D07018CV 28
31 versoD07019CV 28a
32D07020CV 29
32 versoD07021CV 29a
33D07022CV 30
33 versoD07023CV 30a
34D07024CV 31
34 versoD40629 
35D07025CV 32
36D07026CV 33
37D07027CV 34
38D07028CV 35
38 versoD07029CV 35a
39D07030CV 36
39 versoD07031CV 36a
40D07032CV 37
40 versoD07033CV 37a
41D07121CV 87a
41 versoD07120CV 87
42D07034CV 38
42 versoD07035CV 38a
43D07036CV 39
43 versoD07037CV 39a
44D07038CV 40
44 versoD07039CV 40a
45D07040CV 41
45 versoD07041CV 41a
46D07042CV 42
46 versoD07043CV 42a
47D07044CV 43
47 versoD07045CV 43a
48D07046CV 44
48 versoD07047CV 44a
49D07048CV 45
49 versoD07049CV 45a
50D07050CV 46
51D07051CV 47
52D07052CV 48
53D07053CV 49
54D07054CV 50
55D07055CV 51
56D07056CV 52
57D07057CV 53
58D07058CV 54
58 versoD07059CV 54a
59D07119CV 86
59 versoD40638 
60D07130CV 92
60 versoD07131CV 92a
61D07125CV 89a
61 versoD07124CV 89
62D07060CV 55
62 versoD07061CV 55a
63D07122CV 88
63 versoD07123CV 88a
64D07062CV 56
64 versoD07063CV 56a
65D07064CV 57
65 versoD07065CV 57a
66D07066CV 58
66 versoD07067CV 58a
67D07068CV 59
67 versoD07069CV 59a
68D07070CV 60
68 versoD07071CV 60a
69D07072CV 61
69 versoD07073CV 61a
70D07074CV 62
70 versoD07075CV 62a
71D07118CV 85a
71 versoD07117CV 85
72D07076CV 63
72 versoD07077CV 63a
73D07078CV 64
73 versoD07079CV 64a
74D07080CV 65
74 versoD07081CV 65a
75D07082CV 66
75 versoD07083CV 66a
76D07115CV 83
77D07084CV 67
77 versoD07085CV 67a
78D07086CV 68
78 versoD07087CV 68a
79D07088CV 69
79 versoD07089CV 69a
80D07090CV 70
80 versoD07091CV 70a
81D07092CV 71
81 versoD07093CV 71a
82D07094CV 72
82 versoD07095CV 72a
83D07096CV 73
83 versoD07097CV 73a
84D07098CV 74
84 versoD07099CV 74a
85D07100CV 75
85 versoD07101CV 75a
86D07102CV 76
86 versoD07103CV 76a
87D07104CV 77
87 versoD07105CV 77a
88D07106CV 78
88 versoD07107CV 78a
89D07108CV 79
90D07109CV 80
90 versoD07110CV 80a
91D07111CV 81
91 versoD07112CV 81a
92D07113CV 82
92 versoD07114 
Inside Back CoverD40630 

David Blayney Brown
February 2011

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How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Tabley No.3 sketchbook 1808–25’, sketchbook, 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/tabley-no3-sketchbook-r1134499, accessed 21 May 2024.