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Works Thomas Girtin

Effingham Churchyard (formerly A Country Churchyard)

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1447: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Effingham Churchyard (formerly A Country Churchyard), 1798–99, graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper, 23.3 × 40.9 cm, 9 ⅛ × 15 ⅞ in. The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (735).

Photo courtesy of The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Effingham Churchyard (formerly A Country Churchyard)
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper
23.3 × 40.9 cm, 9 ⅛ × 15 ⅞ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
295 as '"A Country Churchyard"'; '1798–9'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 1 July 1833, lot 116 as 'Two views of Effingham church'; bought by 'Maine', £13 13s; ...Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to George Wyndham Girtin (1836–1912) (lent to London, 1875); by a settlement to his sister, Mary Hog Barnard (1829–99); her sale, Christie’s, 31 May 1886, lot 50 as 'Gray's Tomb, Stoke Pogis Churchyard'; bought by 'Palser', £31 10s; J. Palser & Sons; bought by George Tite; then by descent to Katherine Vulliamy, née Tite; presented to the Museum, 1912

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.28 as ’Old Church with Trees’; Cambridge, 1994, p.59 as 'A country churchyard'

About this Work

It has hitherto not been possible to identify the church shown in this watercolour as it includes little distinctive architectural detail and this is precisely the sort of humble structure that was commonly effaced by later Victorian rebuilding. However, comparison with Girtin's view of the church of St Lawrence in Effingham in Surrey (TG0345) combined with ongoing research into the architectural history of the building has established the subject of the watercolour as the thirteenth-century south transept seen from the churchyard. The change of title will be discussed in full in a revised version of this catalogue entry and this will be posted in the Spring.

It is one of two church views by Girtin that have been associated with Thomas Gray’s (1716–71) Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751) (the other being TG0858), though neither building resembles the poet’s inspiration (the graveyard at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire) or the evening scene he describes (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.174). To an earlier generation of Girtin scholars, the picturesque jumble of prominent gravestones, combined with the reclining figure seen from behind, was enough to suggest a link with Gray’s meditation on mortality and on the lives of the obscure country folk who were buried in the churchyard. This reading of the work was no doubt further encouraged by its faded state, which has seen the blues of the sky all but disappear, whilst some of the greens of the foliage have been transformed to a predominant brown tone that enhances the mood of melancholy. A touch of blue in the distance, presumably the sign of the use of a less fugitive pigment, and areas of bodycolour on the gravestones, give some indication of the deterioration that the work has undergone, which has obscured the fact that the church and the graves are actually illuminated by sunlight.


1797 - 1798

Effingham Church


1796 - 1797

Great Bookham Church


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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