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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Vale of Heathfield sketchbook c.1809–16

Turner Bequest CXXXVII
Sketchbook, bound in green boards with green leather spine and corners
74 leaves of white wove paper
Approximate page size 181 x 228 mm
Watermarked ‘J. WHATMAN | 1808’
Inscribed by Turner in ink ‘113’ on a label on the spine (D40863)
Endorsed by the Executors of the Turner Bequest in ink ‘No. 181’ and signed by George Jones in ink ‘George Jones’ and in pencil by Charles Lock Eastlake and John Prescott Knight ‘C.L.E.’ and ‘JPK’ inside front cover (D40864)
John Ruskin’s endorsement, ‘181. 6 taken out, many fine things left of the same kind. Contains the studies of Eddystone’, is recorded by Finberg
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
As now constituted, this sketchbook contains subjects in Cumbria, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, datable as early as 1809 and perhaps as late as 1816. It is an example of Turner’s habit of keeping a sketchbook in use for years at a time for a variety of interests and projects. Gerald Wilkinson describes the drawings as ‘particularly lively, with ‘virtuoso passages’.1
Finberg dated the book 1810–16 on the basis of a view of Somer Hill, near Tonbridge, Kent, made in 1810 (folios 3 verso–4, D10210–D10211) and its relationship to work in East Sussex for John Fuller beginning that year but including a view of Ashburnham (folios 44 verso–45; D10311–D10313; Turner Bequest CXXXVII 68–9) of which the resulting watercolour is dated 1816. Finberg believed the Sussex subjects ‘cannot be earlier than 1815’ on the basis that they were contemporary with those in the Hastings sketchbook (Tate D10343–D10348; D10350–D10408; D40814; D40834; Turner Bequest CXXXIX) watermarked that year. However most probably date from 1810 when Fuller first approached Turner for ‘three or four views’. Moreover the book was used earlier, during Turner’s tour to Cumbria in 1809 if views of Brougham Castle (folios 72 verso and 73 verso; D10314, D10315; Turner Bequest CXXXVII 70, 71) and Yanwath Hall (folio 71 verso; D10316; Turner Bequest CXXXVII 72), both near Penrith, properly belong to it as Finberg surmised. Finberg listed these with three other leaves which he ‘believed to have formed part of this book’. As these were away on exhibition at the time, his assessment might be treated with reserve. However, they are now bound in and can be seen to be uniform; moreover they include Ashburnham subjects more typical of the book.
The Cumbrian drawings were made early in Turner’s tour in 1809, when he visited Lowther Castle near Penrith to paint it for the Earl of Lonsdale. All are of sites on the River Eamont nearby. Some years later, Turner combined the two of Brougham to make the watercolour (Tate D18147; Turner Bequest CCVIII N) engraved by William Say in 1825 for The Rivers of England. The drawing of Yanwath seems to have served no further purpose although, as a Lowther property, Turner probably drew it in case some opportunity or commission arose. Most of the book remained untouched, ready for use in Kent, Sussex and the South-West later on.
Turner’s output of watercolours for John Fuller, begun in 1810, and the reproduction of four in aquatint by Joseph Stadler around 1818 and more as Views in Sussex engraved by William Bernard Cooke, 1816–20 is discussed in this catalogue in the Introduction to the Views in Sussex sketchbook (Tate D10320–D10324; D10326–D10342; D40296–D40298; Turner Bequest CXXXVIII) as it is the most productive of the preliminary drawings. In the present book Turner can be seen exploring scenery near Fuller’s home at Rosehill (now Brightling) Park and the estates of his neighbours, and four of Fuller’s watercolours originate in it. Folios 7 verso–8 (D10214D10215; Turner Bequest CXXXVII 6a–7) have views of Bodiam Castle used for Bodiham Castle, Sussex (private collection).2 Folios 37 verso–38 (D10254–D10255; Turner Bequest CXXXVII 36a–37) informed The Observatory at Rosehill Park, the Seat of John Fuller, Esq. (currently untraced);3 this double-spread must date from after 1810 if, as some accounts suggest, Robert Smirke’s Observatory was only begun that year. Folios 42 verso–43 (D10261–D10262; Turner Bequest CXXXVII 41a–42) served for The Vale of Heathfield (British Museum, London)4 and folios 44 verso–45 (D10311–D10313; Turner Bequest CXXXVII 68–9) for The Vale of Ashburnham (British Museum).5 Among the related material in the book, folios 15 verso–16 (D10230–D10231; Turner Bequest CXXXVII 14a–15) are the basis of Eridge Castle (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester),6 not known to have been owned by Fuller but perhaps intended for his friend Lord Abergavenny, who owned this estate. Presumably en route to Sussex in 1810 Turner visited Somer Hill, the seat of William Francis Woodgate. His careful drawing across folios 3 verso–4 (D10210–D10211) served for Somer-Hill, near Tunbridge, the Seat of W.F. Woodgate, Esq. (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh)7 exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1811. It is not known if Woodgate commissioned the picture but it did belong to James Alexander, who bought the estate from him in 1816.
Besides Turner’s other sketchbooks used in Sussex and the West Country, there is some overlap with the Sandycombe and Yorkshire sketchbook, which has views of Eridge presumably made on the same occasion (D08989, D08991, D08996; Turner Bequest CXXVII 18a, 19a, 22a). The Harvest Home sketchbook contains another, less detailed sketch of Somer Hill (D05375; Turner Bequest LXXXVI 19).
Turner also used this book for drawings and notes leading towards his watercolours for George and William Bernard Cooke’s Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England. This project got under way in 1811. On folio 1 recto and inside the front cover (D10206, D40864) are topographical and historical notes on places of interest in the West Country, taken from a contemporary guidebook presumably in preparation for Turner’s tour of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall that summer; in Finberg’s view these suggested that ‘the book formed part of Turner’s baggage on his “Southern Coast” tour’. Views of Christchurch on folio 5 recto (D10310; CXXXVII 67) and Lulworth Cove on folios 22 recto and 23 recto (D10237, D10238; CXXXVII 21, 22) supplement or complement those in other sketchbooks devoted to that tour alone.
What appear to be studies for a subsequent watercolour of Eddystone Lighthouse on folios 40 recto, 41 recto and 42 recto (D10257, D10258, D10260; CXXXVII 39, 40, 41), assuming they are based on first-hand observation, were probably made or begun on Turner’s more leisurely stay in Plymouth in the summer of 1813, when he explored the countryside of Devon more thoroughly, particularly the Rivers Tamar and Tavy. There are numerous views of these valleys between folios 46 verso (D10265; CXXXVII 43a) and 58 verso (D10289; CXXXVII 55a), including some relating directly to the important painting Crossing the Brook, exhibited in 1815 (Tate N00497),8 and they probably also date from 1813. Other sketchbooks used in 1811 and 1813 are dealt with in two separate sections of this catalogue. Walter Thornbury described the present sketchbook as comprising ‘peaceful Devon rivers; water-mills among hills; champaign dotted with trees; and cows feeding on quiet river banks.’9
A few subjects remain unidentified; some may be continuations of other drawings, wrongly bound; in other cases it has not been possible to determine where they fit within Turner’s travels as recorded elsewhere in the sketchbook.
Wilkinson 1974, p.157.
Wilton 1979, p.348 no.428.
Ibid., p.348 no.424.
Ibid., p.348 no.427.
Ibid., p.348 no.425.
Ibid., p.349 no.439.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.82–3 no.116, pl.121 (colour).
Ibid., pp.93–4 no.130, pl.123 (colour).
Thornbury 1862, I, p.371; Thornbury 1897, p.484.

David Blayney Brown and Matthew Imms
May 2011

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How to cite

David Blayney Brown and Matthew Imms, ‘Vale of Heathfield sketchbook c.1809–16’, sketchbook, May 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/vale-of-heathfield-sketchbook-r1131244, accessed 21 May 2024.