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Works Thomas Girtin

A Distant View of Middleham Castle, with the River Ure in the Foreground (page 41 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)

(?) 1799

Primary Image: TG1619: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Distant View of Middleham Castle, with the River Ure in the Foreground, (?) 1799, graphite on wove paper, 14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1977.15.40).

Photo courtesy of The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Photo by Michael Pollard (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Distant View of Middleham Castle, with the River Ure in the Foreground (page 41 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)
(?) 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in

‘Middleham Castle’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin; ‘74’ lower left

Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; River Scenery; Yorkshire View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
389 as 'Middleham Castle'; '1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2022


Sale at Platt Vicarage, Rusholme, Manchester, 1898; sketchbook bought by 'Shepherd'; then by descent to F. W. Shepherd; his sale, Sotheby’s, 7 July 1977, lot 46; bought by Baskett and Day; bought by the Gallery, 1977


Hardie, 1938–39, no.17, p.94

About this Work

This simple pencil sketch of a distant view of Middleham Castle, with the river Ure in the foreground, is found on page forty-one of the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600–1625). Many of the drawings in the book were made on the spot, probably in 1800, but at least four were copied from earlier drawings, including another view of Middleham showing the castle from the village, which is located on the next page (TG1620). This was copied, perhaps even traced, from a drawing that is dated 1799 (TG1508) and that therefore seems to have been made on a trip the artist made to Wensleydale in that year. The replica made by Girtin must date from a couple of years later, however, as it is drawn on a paper with an ‘1801’ watermark. Such is the complicated and confusing history of the make-up of the Book of Drawings that the proximity of the two views of Middleham does not necessarily mean that they were executed at the same time. Thus, as the paper historian Peter Bower has argued, the book initially took the form of a number of gatherings of different papers by Girtin that were bound together after the artist’s death to create the curious hybrid we have today: a mix of copies and sketches made from nature at different times (Bower, 2002, p.141). This, I suspect, was done at the behest of the artist’s brother John Girtin (1773–1821) who appropriated material from the artist’s studio after his death including ‘4 little Books partly of sketches and partly blank paper’, a combination that accords with the unusual makeup of the book (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1 It is perfectly possible, therefore, that a rearrangement of Girtin's material means that a distant view of Middleham Castle sketched in 1799 is followed by a later copy of a drawing of the village that was made at the same visit (TG1508). Having said that, since there is no clear indication apart from the date of the paper and the inscription on the drawing of the castle and village of which is the original, there is no proof that this sketch too is not a later copy of a lost original.

In addition to using the gathering of paper to make the task of sketching on the spot more convenient, Girtin appears to have employed it as model book from which patrons might select views to be realised as finished watercolours. However, neither of the Middleham subjects seems to have found a customer, though the sale of the artist’s friend and colleague William Alexander (1767–1816) included a copper plate by Henry Edridge (1768–1821) that was recorded as showing ‘Middleham Castle, from a Drawing by Girtin’ (Exhibitions: Sotheby’s, 12 March 1817, no lot number).

(?) 1801

Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond



Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond



Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 Details are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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