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Works Thomas Girtin

A Farmhouse in Malhamdale, Known as 'Kirkby Priory, near Malham' (page 26 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)

(?) 1800

Primary Image: TG1608: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Farmhouse in Malhamdale, Known as 'Kirkby Priory, near Malham', (?) 1800, graphite on wove paper, 14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1977.15.25).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Farmhouse in Malhamdale, Known as 'Kirkby Priory, near Malham' (page 26 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)
(?) 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in

‘near Malham' lower left, by Thomas Girtin; 'Kirkby’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin; ‘38’ lower left; 'Kirkby Church' on the back, by Thomas Girtin

Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Yorkshire View

A Farmhouse in Malhamdale, Known as ‘Kirkby Priory, near Malham’ (TG1689)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
433i as 'Kirkby Priory, Yorkshire'; '1801'
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.9, p.93 as 'Kirkby Priory'; Hill, 1999, p.58

About this Work

This sketch of a barn and farm buildings, said to have been built from the remains of Kirkby Priory, probably dates from 1800, when the artist visited Malhamdale to sketch the sublime scenery of Gordale Scar (TG1630). This, it seems, was undertaken on an excursion from Harewood House, where the artist stayed with his patron Edward Lascelles (1764–1814). The excursion resulted in at least one other subject in the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600–1625), where this drawing is found (TG1606). 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 is even clearer in the watercolour that was executed from this drawing (TG1689), where the artist added farm animals and figures to create a view that is a northern version of the vernacular Essex farm scenes – such as Pinkney’s Farm (TG1413) – that he created for his father-in-law, Phineas Borrett (1756–1843).

The sketch is found on page twenty-six of the Whitworth Book of Drawings, where it was probably made directly onto the page of what, at this time, would appear to have been a simple gathering of different papers, put together by Girtin himself. At some point after the artist's death the group of Yorkshire subjects was added to others and bound between endpapers with an '1803' watermark. 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 The artist, or possibly John Girtin, sold as many as sixteen of the sketches, cutting out the pages for collectors, who paid prices varying from a guinea (£1 1s) for a pencil drawing to possibly as much as £8 for a coloured sketch. But the collection of drawings also functioned as a model book for the guidance of potential patrons, and a number of watercolours, like this view of a farmhouse, appear to have been ordered from its sketches, including The Abbey Mill (TG1672), Sandsend (TG1702) and a view of the church at Kirkby Malham (TG1690). However, only one of the sketches in the book was realised as a watercolour for Lascelles (TG1612), and I suspect that Girtin created the gathering as part of a broader strategy of minimising his reliance on the older pattern of patronage from the gentry classes.

The back of this page includes a slight pencil sketch of trees on a bank, inscribed ‘Kirkby Church’. This refers to the sketch on the next page, Kirkby Malham (TG1606), which was removed for sale.

(?) 1800

Gordale Scar Waterfall


(?) 1800

Kirkby Malham


1800 - 1801

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


(?) 1799

Pinckney’s Farm, Radwinter


1800 - 1801

The Abbey Mill, near Knaresborough






Kirkby Malham


(?) 1800

Guisborough Priory: The Ruined East End


(?) 1800

Kirkby Malham


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


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

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