Hornby Castle from Tatham Church


Image Copyright © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London [Museum no: FA.88]

Image Copyright © Tate, London [Museum no. D11135]

The watercolour shows the Lune Valley from a view point above Tatham Bridge Inn, with Tatham Church on the extreme right (not as the title suggests) and Hornby Castle in the distance. It was based on sketches produced by Turner as he travelled on a tour of North Lancashire & West Yorkshire in 1816, gathering material for future artworks for sale. On the journey from Lancaster to Kirkby Lonsdale he stayed overnight in Hornby and next morning (August 9th) visited Tatham, before continuing to Kirkby. The second image is his preliminary sketch; he later drew a larger, more detailed sketch, which is reproduced in Hill's book.1 The watercolour was painted back in London 1-2 years later. His paintings were often engraved by others, for sale as black & white images in books and prints and 560 prints of this work were published in 1822.1

Although based on the local landscapes, his paintings were intended to be more than just strictly topographical, being concerned with the use of colour and composition to create a work of art. The most notable subjective element here is the dramatic changes of scale, with a selective vertical exaggeration of up to six times, producing a Lake District-like landscape and bringing Hornby Castle into prominence - rather than being hardly visible, and a horizontal compression. He also adjusted the positions of various compositional elements, e.g. relationship of foreground birch tree to the bridge behind. His colours show his trademark handling of light, with the early morning sunlight suffusing the work and highlighting Hornby Castle.

The painting is full of human incident not shown in the sketches and, although scribbles on them refer to various components including an ox in harness, it said that Turner often added such subjects to the paintings from memory. This one has the convincing feel of an image of early nineteenth century rural life in Tatham. It is full of detail: the costumes of the women and children (perhaps the Nelson family, innkeeper in 1819) and of the be-smocked rider; the house-cow hobbled, haltered and blinkered to keep her still and prevent kicking (demonstrably not a castrated male ox!); the equipment - wood stave bucket, 3-legged stool, crockery pots - one broken to the delight of the cat; the saddle bag & "P" marked saddle cloth of the ancient nag; the 2-wheeled gig (perhaps Turner's transport back to Hornby); the workmen with ladder working on the roof of the next-door cottage.

Regrettably, the elegant bridge to the church no longer exists, having been demolished and replaced by an unremarkable one when the river was diverted in 1844 to make room for the railway, which ran along the foreground meadow. Today, Turner's original view cannot be seen exactly because of a new hedge & bushes along the road.

1   Hill, D., In Turner's Footsteps: Through the Hills and Dales of Northern England (John Murray, London, 1993)


MK 2009
Click here for further site authorship and copyright information