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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

Interior of the Albion Mills, Southwark, after the Fire

1792 - 1793

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Interior of the Albion Mill after the Fire, 1791, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 31.7 × 42.6 cm, 12 ½ × 16 ¾ in. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (WA1916.20.11).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Interior of the Albion Mills, Southwark, after the Fire
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
19.1 × 22.9 cm, 7 ½ × 9 in
Object Type
Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Industrial Scene; London and Environs; Urban Ruins

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
13 as 'The Albion Mills After the Fire'; '1791–2'
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Christie's, 10 March 1882, lot 18 (2 items); bought by 'Palser', £1 10s; J. Palser & Sons; bought by 'Lord Greenock' (Alan Cathcart, 4th Earl Cathcart (1856–1911)), 30 October 1883, as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; E. Parsons & Sons, 1911


Brown, 1982, p.469

About this Work

Interior of the Albion Mills, after the Fire

This is one of two views of the interior of the Albion Mills after the fire that Girtin made from sketches by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see the source image above and  figure 1). Girtin’s earliest patron lived close by and was on the scene to sketch the still smouldering ruins after the fire that gutted the building on 2 March 1791, though curiously he dated one of his three drawings 27 February 1791. However, although Girtin clearly based this watercolour and its pair (TG0105) on Moore’s sketches, there is no evidence that they were commissioned by the antiquarian, and neither is there any record of their ever having been in the collection of the patron’s descendants. The subject of a ruin of a modern industrial building is certainly uncharacteristic of the watercolours Moore commissioned from Girtin, which generally depict the nation’s monastic and castle ruins and some of the great Gothic churches, and the drawings do not fit the standard format of 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm) employed for the main. It may be, therefore, that the young artist saw the pictorial potential in his patron’s sketches and developed a pair of drawings independently. Unfortunately, Girtin’s watercolour has not been seen in public for over a century and no photograph is known to exist, but we can get a good idea of its appearance from Moore’s sketch, which, unlike the drawing for the other view, has added colour washes to indicate that this was taken, as the inscription on the back notes, ‘immediately after the fire’. The drawing shows the rear of the east front, with its large circular openings leading to the riverfront with Blackfriars Bridge visible through the arch. From this angle, the remains of the most up-to-date mills in the world look even more like ancient Roman ruins than they do in the work’s pair. The monumental wall to the left, obscured here by smoke, is the rear of the west façade, which features prominently in the first section of Girtin’s London panorama (TG1851). Painted in 1801, the ruined interior of the mills was still visible through the unglazed openings ten years later.

Girtin’s contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) produced two watercolours of the effects of another spectacular fire, this time at the Pantheon in Oxford Street, that raged on a frosty night in January 1792. He exhibited The Pantheon, the Morning after the Fire at the Royal Academy in the same year (see TG0114 figure 1), and it is possible that this inspired Girtin to work up similar subjects from Moore’s sketches. Girtin might have expected a ready market for his views, such was the continuing public interest in the destruction of the Albion Mills. The fire that wrecked the monumental structure that housed the steam-driven mills was the subject of a number of popular prints amidst continuing rumours that the building had been the subject of an arson attack (Maidment, 1996, pp.36–38). Milling on an industrial scale with the aid of the latest technology threatened the livelihoods of the city’s traditional millers and, although the fire was almost certainly the result of the machinery overheating, the building and its fate became a potent and divisive symbol of progress and its problems.

1792 - 1793

Interior of the Albion Mills, Southwark, after the Fire


(?) 1801

The Albion Mills: Colour Study for the ‘Eidometropolis’, Section One


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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