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Works Thomas Girtin

Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond (page 42 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)

(?) 1801

Primary Image: TG1620: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond, (?) 1801, graphite on wove paper (watermark: E & P / 1801), 14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1977.15.41).

Photo courtesy of The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Photo by Michael Pollard (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond (page 42 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)
(?) 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper (watermark: E & P / 1801)
14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in

‘Middleham’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin; ‘76’ lower left

Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Replica by Girtin
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; The Village; Yorkshire View

Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond (TG1508)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
312ii as 'Middleham, Yorkshire'; '1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 2002 and 2022


Sale at Platt Vicarage, Rusholme, Manchester, 1898; sketchbook bought by 'Shepherd'; then by descent to F. W. Shepherd; his sale, Sotheby’s, 7 July 1977, lot 46; bought by Baskett and Day; bought by the Gallery, 1977


Hardie, 1938–39, no.18 as 'Middleham'; Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.15

About this Work

This view of the village of Middleham in Wensleydale, with a glimpse of the ruined castle in the distance, is found on page forty-two of the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600–1625). The majority of the drawings in the book, both in pencil and in colour, probably date from the summer of 1800 and were likely sketched on the spot, though at least four of the remaining twenty-two subjects can be shown to be copies of earlier images, including this view of Middleham, which replicates a sketch dated 1799 (TG1508). This is confirmed by the fact that the drawing in the book is worked on a paper manufactured by Robert Edmeads (unknown dates) and Thomas Pine (unknown dates) at Great Ivy Mill near Maidstone with an ‘1801’ watermark, just as with Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea (TG1601), which also copied an on-the-spot sketch produced a year or so earlier (TG1525). The original of that drawing is on a smaller piece of paper, whilst both views of Middleham are the same size. As a result, if images of the two sketches are overlaid, it can be seen that rather than copying the original freehand, it is possible that Girtin actually traced it. Details such as the blacksmith shoeing a horse and the dog to the right of the village cross are repeated exactly, so that the drawing in the Book of Drawings is to all intents and purposes indistinguishable from the original, which was worked on the artist’s earlier Yorkshire trip.

In order to understand what is going on here, we need to consider the curious hybrid nature of a book of drawings that I have very carefully not termed a sketchbook. One of the keys here is the role that it played in supplying the market for the artist’s studies, since we know that Girtin used it as a source from which to sell his on-the-spot sketches as some sixteen pages have been detached, with some of the sales recorded with inscriptions, such as ‘Rippon Minster cold on the spot Sold to … 8.8.0’ (p.39v). Could it therefore be that the original drawing of Middleham Village found a buyer and that Girtin made his copy to record a composition that he would otherwise have lost? The complex make-up of the book suggests another option, however, since, as the paper historian Peter Bower has argued, although it initially took the form of a gathering of a number of different papers by Girtin, extra sheets were bound in after the artist’s death to create the mix of copies and sketches made from life at different times that we see today (Bower, 2002, p.141). In this case, it may be that the juxtaposition of two Middleham views on successive pages was the result of the later rebinding, adding a 1799 on-the-spot sketch to accompany an 1802 copy, following on from a sketch of Bolton Priory executed in 1800. Prior to this rearrangement, the gathering of sheets still performed a range of functions, being both a working tool for the artist and a collection of models from which patrons might commission works, and for someone who spent increasing amounts of time away from home, including a six-month sojourn in Paris in 1801–2, this may have been its most important function. In this case, however, no finished watercolour appears to have been ordered from Girtin. Presumably, a view of the market cross and a row of nondescript buildings – with the castle ruins, which had formed the subject of his earlier watercolour for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), relegated to the distance (TG0279) – was not what his patrons wanted.

Image Overlay


Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond


(?) 1801

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea


1799 - 1800

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea


1795 - 1796

Part of the Ruins of Middleham Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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