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

An Interior View of the Choir of Bolton Priory

(?) 1800

Primary Image: TG1615: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), An Interior View of the Choir of Bolton Priory, (?) 1800, graphite on wove paper, 14.7 × 21.3 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ⅜ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1206).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • An Interior View of the Choir of Bolton Priory
(?) 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
14.7 × 21.3 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ⅜ in

‘Bolton Abby’ lower right, by (?) Thomas Girtin

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

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
439 as 'Bolton Abbey'; '1801'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Walker’s Galleries, London, 1944; bought by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), £12; Tom Girtin (1913–94); bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

Walker’s Galleries, 1944, no.37; London, 1962a, no.166; New Haven, 1986a, no.84 as ’Bolton Abbey, Lancashire’, c.1801


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, pp.81–82

About this Work

This fine sketch of the interior of the ruined choir of the priory church at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire appears to have been detached from the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600–1625). The dimensions of the sheet of paper on which it is drawn match the book, and it may have originally formed page thirty-two. The collection of drawings includes three pencil sketches of the riverside ruins at Bolton Abbey (TG1616, TG1617 and TG1618) as well as a colour sketch of the stepping stones on the river Wharfe, which was made a few metres away and which was also probably removed from the book for sale (TG1613). Girtin almost certainly visited Bolton Abbey in the summer of 1800, when he is documented as having stayed with his patron Edward Lascelles (1764–1814) at Harewood House, and it was from here that the artist no doubt embarked on an excursion that was to prove very fruitful in terms of attracting watercolour commissions.1 In addition to one view on the river Wharfe painted for Lascelles himself (TG1554), at least half a dozen other depictions of the ruins of the Augustinian Priory and their picturesque location are known (such as TG1676 and TG1678), though this sketch does not appear to have attracted any orders. The commissioned watercolours all concentrate on the well-known and celebrated setting of the ruins, however, and I suspect that this more traditional close-up view of the roofless choir was better calculated to display Girtin’s skill as a draughtsman. Indeed, the more varied touch he employed to depict the ruined masonry, combined with the bold manner in which the composition is cropped to the left and to the top, recalls earlier sketches made for the antiquarian market, which from as early as 1796 had begun to attract purchasers. The idea that Girtin’s particular style of draughtsmanship was suited to the depiction of the nation’s Gothic architecture was presumably shared by the patron, who purchased the sketch from out of the Book of Drawings. An inscription, presumably relating to a drawing of Harewood House removed from page 16, records that a ‘Sketch … in Pencil Sold … £1.1.0’, and no doubt something similar was paid for this work. The inscription on this drawing – 'Bolton Abby' – appears to have been added at a later date over fainter lines in the foreground, presumably when the work was sold. A very similar inscription that wrongly identifies a sketch of Rievaulx Abbey as 'Bolton Abby' (TG1055) appears to be by the same hand, and though the artist's brother John Girtin (1773–1821) is a possible candidate, I suspect that this too was added by Girtin to identify the subject for its purchaser. 

(?) 1800

Bolton Abbey, from the River Wharfe


(?) 1800

Bolton Abbey: The East End of the Priory Church, from across the River Wharfe


(?) 1800

The East End of Bolton Priory Church


(?) 1800

Stepping Stones on the River Wharfe


1800 - 1801

On the River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey


1800 - 1801

Bolton Abbey: The East End of the Priory Church, from across the River Wharfe



Bolton Abbey: The East End of the Priory Church, from across the River Wharfe


1796 - 1797

A Distant View of Rievaulx Abbey


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 YRK York Papers, Borthwick Institute, University of York

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.