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Works James Moore and Thomas Girtin

Battle Abbey Gatehouse, from the South West

(?) 1795

Primary Image: TG0318: James Moore (1762–99) and Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Battle Abbey Gatehouse, from the South West, (?) 1795, graphite on wove paper, 17.3 × 22.4 cm, 6 ¾ × 8 ⅞ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1916.20.26).

Photo courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (All Rights Reserved)

James Moore (1762-1799) and Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Battle Abbey Gatehouse, from the South West
(?) 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
17.3 × 22.4 cm, 6 ¾ × 8 ⅞ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Town and Domestic Fortifications; Sussex View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2016


James Moore (1762–99); his widow, Mary Moore (née Howett) (d.1835); bequeathed to Anne Miller (1802–90); bequeathed to Edward Mansel Miller (1829–1912); bequeathed to Helen Louisa Miller (1842–1915); bought and presented anonymously to the Museum, 1916


Brown, 1982, p.471, no.1414 as 'Battle Abbey' by James Moore

About this Work

This unusual view of the gatehouse of Battle Abbey was made by Girtin’s first significant patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), and it probably dates from the third and final tour he undertook to record the medieval castles and churches of Sussex. It is contained in an album assembled from fifty-three drawings that were acquired by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, from Moore’s descendants after 1912. They were catalogued by David Brown as being by Moore himself, but Brown added a note to a sketch of St Clement’s Church, Hastings (TG0308), suggesting that Girtin may also have ‘taken a hand’ in the drawing (Brown, 1982, p.471). I think it is possible to go a step further and propose that, given perhaps half of the drawings in the album are significantly stronger than Moore’s generally unconvincing sketches (see source image TG0114), the professional artist had a ‘hand’ in many more of his patron’s outlines. In this case, such is the contrast in quality, particularly in the architectural details, that it is clear that the drawing has been corrected and enhanced by a superior artist working over Moore’s sketch with a sharper and more richly toned piece of graphite. The drawing is typical of the way in which Moore’s tentative outlines have been firmed up, his faulty perspective corrected and an exuberant level of decorative detail added. The manner in which the artist varies the pressure applied to the graphite to introduce subtle variations in tone, even within the same line, is characteristic of Girtin’s fine draughtsmanship, and it was surely he who elaborated Moore’s side view of perhaps the finest monastic gatehouse in the country in a way that was well beyond the amateur’s capabilities.

The drawing is not dated, but stylistically it is closely related to a view of St Mary’s Church at Battle that was probably made in August 1795 (TG0154), and it was presumably sketched at the same time. Girtin himself made a fine watercolour of the better-known view of the gatehouse from within the abbey precinct (TG0268). This is based on a pencil drawing (TG0277) that he almost certainly copied from an untraced sketch by Moore, probably dating from the same trip. Girtin, it must be remembered, almost certainly did not visit Battle himself. Although Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak argued that the young artist accompanied Moore on his 1795 visit to Sussex and the ‘Cinque Ports region’ (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.28), that now seems very unlikely, and all of his views of the county were made after his patron’s sketches, many of which, as here, the artist worked over on the amateur’s return to London.

(?) 1795

The West Tower, St Clement’s Church, Hastings; Studies of a Horse in Harness and Numerous Architectural Details


1792 - 1793

The Albion Mills, Southwark, after the Fire


(?) 1795

Battle Church, from the South East


(?) 1795

The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey


(?) 1795

The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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