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Works Thomas Girtin

Castle Mill, Berry Pomeroy

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1268: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Castle Mill, Berry Pomeroy, 1798–99, watercolour on paper, 22.2 × 29.8 cm, 8 ¾ × 11 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Castle Mill, Berry Pomeroy
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper
22.2 × 29.8 cm, 8 ¾ × 11 ¾ in

Girtin' lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Picturesque Vernacular; The West Country: Devon and Dorset; Wind and Water Mills

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Thomas Girtin (1775–1802); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie’s, 1 June 1803, lot 56 as 'Mill, at Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon'; bought by 'Capt. Birch', £2 19s; ... J. Palser & Sons; Richard Wheatland (lent to Cambridge, 1937); Lucia Fulton; private collection, USA; Christie's, 8 December 2010, lot 283 as 'Berry Pomeroy Mill', unsold

Exhibition History

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1937, no.557

About this Work

This view of the mill located on Gatcombe Brook, the water that flows beneath Berry Pomeroy Castle, was almost certainly based on a sketch that Girtin made on his West Country tour in the autumn of 1797. The building, which still stands, albeit disused and altered in form, is located close to the spot from which the artist took a view of the ruined castle that formed the basis of two watercolours (TG1269 and TG1270), and he presumably drew the mill at the same time. Except in cases where an inscribed drawing has survived, Girtin’s images of the nation’s farms, mills and cottages – subjects that I term 'picturesque vernacular’ – are notoriously difficult to identify. However, in this case the location of the mill can be confirmed through a drawing made by William Brockedon (1787–1854) ten or so years later (see figure 1), though even then changes to the building had already taken place.

Berry Castle Mill

Attention has tended to be concentrated on the artist’s more dramatic views of landscapes and architectural monuments, but there is no doubt that Girtin himself saw the depiction of more overtly picturesque vernacular buildings as an important part of his output. Thus, in the same Royal Academy exhibition as he showed the view of Berry Pomeroy Castle (TG1270), he also exhibited a ‘Cottage, from nature’ and ‘A mill in Devonshire’ (Exhibitions: Royal Academy, London, 1798, nos.343, 575 and 677). The latter has been identified as a work known as An Overshot Mill (TG1427), but the earliest reference to it showing a Devon scene did not occur until 1881, and this watercolour of a confirmed West Country mill is a stronger candidate to be the work shown at the Academy. That said, I am not entirely convinced that Castle Mill is the 1798 exhibit since it feels a little later in date and, perhaps more significantly, although it is roughly the same size as An Overshot Mill, it is much less carefully worked. Areas such as the trees behind the mill, which appear in part to have been painted over the sky, betray an uncharacteristic slovenliness, and the structural integrity of the building itself has been compromised by particularly poor perspective, so much so that were it not for what looks like an authentic signature, I might have questioned the attribution. If not an exhibition piece, then, perhaps the work was painted for the portfolio as the sort of less formal sketch-like commodity that Girtin produced in the studio alongside more finished works. It may be significant, therefore, that the sale of the artist’s remaining works held by his widow in 1803 included a ‘Mill, at Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 June 1803, lot 56). Selling at £2 19s, this is the sort of price that we might expect for such a loosely worked piece.

1798 - 1799

Berry Pomeroy Castle


1797 - 1798

Berry Pomeroy Castle


1797 - 1798

Berry Pomeroy Castle


1798 - 1799

An Overshot Mill


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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