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Works Thomas Girtin

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough


Primary Image: TG1550: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough, 1800, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper, 30.5 × 51.8 cm, 12 × 20 ⅜ in. Toledo Museum of Art (1954.38).

Photo courtesy of Toledo Museum of Art (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper
30.5 × 51.8 cm, 12 × 20 ⅜ in

‘Girtin 1800’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
River Scenery; Yorkshire View

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough (TG1549)
Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough(TG1589)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
380 as 'Unidentified Yorkshire Village'
Description Source(s)
Museum Website


Edward Lascelles (1764–1814); then by descent to Henry Lascelles, 4th Earl of Harewood (1824–92); his sale, possibly Christie's, 1 May 1858, lot 44 as 'Bethgellaert'; bought by 'Palser', £15 4s 6d; J. Palser & Sons; bought by Edward Cohen (1817–86), 1858 (lent to London, 1875); then by bequest to his niece, Annie Sophia Poulter (c.1846–1924); then by descent to Edward Alexander Poulter (1883–1973); J. Palser & Sons; bought by Frederick John Nettlefold (1867–1949), 30 July 1929, as 'Beddgelert'; Gilbert Davis (1899–1983); bought from him by the Gallery, 1954

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.107 as ’River with Village and Cows’; Arts Council, 1949, no.36 as ’In Harewood Park’; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.101 as ’An Unidentified Yorkshire Village’


Grundy, 1937, vol.2, pp.128–29 as 'Beddgelert'; Mayne, 1949, pl.34 as 'River with Village and Cows'; Museum Website as 'In the Grounds of Harewood Park, Yorkshire (A Yorkshire Village by a River)' (Accessed 18/09/2022)

About this Work

The subject of this very fine though little-known watercolour has hitherto either been misidentified or (latterly) been said to be unknown, though the fact that it appears to have been owned by Girtin’s key late patron Edward Lascelles (1764–1814) narrowed it down to a scene in Yorkshire. Certainly, the view does not show Beddgelert in North Wales, as it was thought to do when the work was sold from the collection of Lascelles’ descendants in 1858 (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 May 1858, lot 44). The work was sometimes referred to by this erroneous title until an exhibition in 1949, when it was listed as ‘In Harewood Park’ (Exhibitions: Arts Council, 1949, no.36), though this was amended by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak in their 1954 catalogue to ‘Unidentified Yorkshire Village’ (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.186). The identity of the subject was finally uncovered only as work was nearing completion of this online catalogue. A small-scale sketch depicting the same composition (TG1589) is inscribed ‘Knaresborough’, and with the help of Professor David Hill it has been possible to establish the location of the view along the river Nidd looking upstream (email dated 15 January 2022). The sketch is part of a group of small drawings of subjects in and near Knaresborough that appear to have been made in the summer of 1800, as Girtin explored the area around the Lascelles family mansion, Harewood House, in response to a commission to produce four monumental drawings. Two show the house set in the magnificent park at Harewood (TG1547 and TG1548) whilst the others feature scenes near Knaresborough: Plumpton Rocks (TG1553) and a distant view of the castle seen from the south east (TG1669). However, although the origin of the work in the Lascelles collection is established by details from the sales records of the Palser Gallery, this does not mean that it was actually commissioned by Girtin’s patron (Girtin Archive, 18). Indeed, the fact that it is dated 1800, conforms to a standard paper size of 12 × 20 ½ in (30.5 × 52.1 cm) and, in comparison with so many of the rest of the patron’s holdings, is in such fine condition, may suggest that it came from the stock of drawings that Girtin produced for Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835) for the latter to use in his capacity as the artist’s representative, acting somewhere between agent and dealer. The possibility that the work was acquired by Lascelles from Reynolds’ stock is confirmed by the existence of a second version of the composition in the collection of the British Museum (TG1549), which could conceivably be a copy by Reynolds.

The fact that the subject of the work has remained unknown for so long is hardly surprising given the paucity of specific topographical information. This initially led me to conclude that the view was an idyllic image of a small rural farming community seen on a sunny summer’s day and that it might even have been invented by the artist. The inclusion of two cows to the left – not found in the original sketch – combined with the work’s fine condition helps to reinforce the impression of a sequestered spot. However, although it has not been possible to establish the location of the scene with absolute certainty, the most likely option, according to Professor Hill, would put it roughly a kilometre downstream from the castle at Knaresborough so that the weir shown by Girtin would be the ‘Chapman’s Mill Dam’ marked on the 1854 Ordnance Survey map (Yorkshire Sheet 154). At that time, the dam was linked to a dye works. Though it is not known whether this dated back to Girtin’s time, there is a good chance that the sketch and the watercolour are related more closely to the textile industry than could have been appreciated before the discovery of the sketch.

1799 - 1800

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough


(?) 1801

Harewood House, from the South West


(?) 1801

Harewood House, from the South East


1800 - 1801

Plumpton Rocks, near Knaresborough



A Distant View of Knaresborough, from the South East


1800 - 1801

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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