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Works Thomas Girtin

A Cave Cottage, Bridgnorth

(?) 1798

Primary Image: TG1356: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Cave Cottage, Bridgnorth, (?) 1798, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper, 11 × 17.6 cm, 4 ⅜ × 6 ⅞ in. Horne Museum, Florence (6024).

Photo courtesy of Horne Museum, Florence (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Cave Cottage, Bridgnorth
(?) 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper
11 × 17.6 cm, 4 ⅜ × 6 ⅞ in

‘Cottage at Bridgnorth N. Wales / no 302 - Value 3/-’ on the back

Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Picturesque Vernacular; Shropshire View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Exhibition Catalogue


Sotheby's, 26 June 1905, lot 29; Herbert Horne (1864–1916); bequeathed to the City of Florence, 1916

Exhibition History

Florence, 1966, no.46 as ’Cottage a Bridgewalt, nel Galles del Nord’; Florence, 2009, no.17


Collobi, 1963, no.198; Feather, 2014, pp.232–33

About this Work

Bridgnorth: The Hermitage 1896

The title under which this small sketch has hitherto appeared comes from an inscription on the back of the drawing, but we can be more specific about the ‘Cottage at Bridgnorth’ depicted here, since Girtin’s view shows one of the dwellings that were built into the town’s caves. Many of these occurred naturally, but others were carved into the soft sandstone that forms the town’s foundations, and there is some evidence to suggest that the curious residence, with its free-standing chimney seen here, was located in what was once a hermitage dating from the Saxon period. The solitary dwelling places for those who chose to live outside the traditional monastic communities fell out of favour after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the caves in Bridgnorth were occupied by a succession of poor and otherwise homeless people well into the twentieth century. A photograph of one of these, dating from 1896, may show the same structure depicted by Girtin (see figure 1). What we are looking at, therefore, is a humbler version of the famous hermitage at Warkworth, which Girtin made the subject of two large watercolours (TG1096 and TG1097), though the mood of solitary contemplation seen in those works has been dissipated in this work by the picturesque act of appropriation.

The artist probably visited Bridgnorth in the summer of 1798, either on his way to or returning from his trip to North Wales. This was presumably the occasion on which Girtin also executed the large-scale and highly detailed pencil sketch of the old Severn Bridge at Bridgnorth (TG1357), though the fact that that drawing was used as the basis for a dated watercolour from 1802 (TG1755) has suggested to some that the artist revisited the town at a later date (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.169). I suspect that it was the former that was the case and that, as with the comparable view Denbigh Castle and the Vale of Clwyd (TG1337), this work was actually sketched on the spot in 1798. The status of this Bridgnorth scene as a sketch from nature is not entirely clear-cut, however. Though there are plenty of signs of a work executed at speed, particularly in the vegetation behind the cave, and the red colour of the stone is barely indicated, other areas have been worked over in multiple layers of wash, which would have required time for each to dry before painting recommenced. The figure in the foreground may be the telling detail, however, as she lacks any sort of forethought and planning, and, on balance, I suspect that this work was not made in the studio as a saleable equivalent to the on-the-spot colour sketches, as was the artist’s practice from 1796 onwards.


Warkworth Hermitage


1798 - 1799

Warkworth Hermitage


(?) 1798

The Old Severn Bridge at Bridgnorth





(?) 1798

Denbigh Castle and the Vale of Clwyd


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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