For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin

A Farmhouse in Malhamdale, Known as 'Kirkby Priory, near Malham'

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1689: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Farmhouse in Malhamdale, Known as 'Kirkby Priory, near Malham', 1800–01, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 31.8 × 52.6 cm, 12 ½ × 20 ¾ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.5).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Farmhouse in Malhamdale, Known as 'Kirkby Priory, near Malham'
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
31.8 × 52.6 cm, 12 ½ × 20 ¾ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Yorkshire View

A Farmhouse in Malhamdale, Known as ‘Kirkby Priory, near Malham’ (TG1608)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
433ii as 'Kirkby Priory, Yorkshire'; '1801'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.45; Davies, 1924, pl.43; Hardie, 1938–39, p.9; Hill, 1999, p.58; Malhamdale, online

About this Work

This watercolour, showing a barn and farm buildings that were said to have been built from the remains of Kirkby Priory, is based on a sketch in the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1608). The original drawing probably dates from 1800, when Girtin visited Malhamdale to sketch the sublime scenery of Gordale Scar (TG1630) on an excursion from Harewood House, where the artist was staying with his patron Edward Lascelles (1764–1814). Girtin’s inscriptions, ‘near Malham’ and ‘Kirkby’, are vague and ambiguous, however, and, as a local history website notes (Research Site for the Townships of Malhamdale), the precise location of the original priory has not surprisingly evaded identification. There are two likely locations, either in the village of Malham itself (a few kilometres to the south of Gordale Scar in front of the house called Malham Priory) or in the even smaller hamlet of Kirkby Malham. In either case, there are no visible remains of the priory itself, and Girtin’s view likewise contains nothing to suggest that the buildings were once the site of a religious settlement. Consequently, there is a strong argument that the title should be changed to concentrate on what is depicted, namely a typical dale farmhouse, not least because it is unlikely that Girtin was aware of anything of the site’s history. This becomes even clearer in this watercolour, where the artist added farm animals and figures to create a view that is a northern version of the vernacular Essex farm scenes that he painted for his father-in-law, Phineas Borrett (1756–1843), a year or so earlier (such as TG1413).

In contrast to those earlier farm scenes, the figures and animals, although individually satisfactory, are strangely out of proportion with each other, and they do not relate easily to the buildings, which, in turn, do not fit organically into the landscape setting. The more distant building facing us is also quite out of keeping with the rest, whilst the perspective of the adjacent road is awry. This last point may partly be down to the faded condition of the watercolour, which, though the sky has retained at least some of its colour, has seen the trees lose their green tones and, in consequence, their sense of depth. This is by no means as marked as in some contemporary watercolours, such as Richmond Castle (TG1688), but a simple picturesque view such as this seems to suffer disproportionally where the loss of colour is not compensated by a bold and dramatic composition and where the dark tonality does not enhance the subject. There is no reason to doubt the attribution to Girtin, however; it is just that there is a rather pedestrian quality to the work, which fits the standard size of the watercolours that the artist executed around 1800–1801 for Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who acted on behalf of the artist in his final years in a role somewhere between agent and dealer. As such, the drawing might be characterised as a rare example of something produced with an eye just to fulfilling a contract. 

(?) 1800

A Farmhouse in Malhamdale, Known as ‘Kirkby Priory, near Malham’


(?) 1800

Gordale Scar Waterfall


(?) 1799

Pinckney’s Farm, Radwinter



Richmond Castle, from the River Swale


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.