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Works Thomas Girtin

Mulgrave Park and Castle, from near Epsyke Farm

(?) 1800

Primary Image: TG1626: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Mulgrave Park and Castle, from near Epsyke Farm, (?) 1800, graphite on wove paper, 14.3 × 19.8 cm, 5 ⅝ × 7 ¾ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.65).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Mulgrave Park and Castle, from near Epsyke Farm
(?) 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
14.3 × 19.8 cm, 5 ⅝ × 7 ¾ in

‘The House and castle. very / Bright The..[?] lighter’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Coasts and Shipping; Yorkshire View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
431 as 'Brough, Westmorland'; '1801'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.61b as 'Brough, Westmoreland'; Binyon, 1944, p.95; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.82; Nygren, 1982, p.15; Lyles, 1994b, p.25; Hill, 1999, p.60 as 'Mulgrave Park and Castle from near Epsyke Farm'

About this Work

This pencil sketch, which was long thought to represent a distant view of Brough Castle in Cumbria on the basis of a misreading of the inscription to the left, has been identified by David Hill as showing Old Mulgrave Castle in North Yorkshire, seen across the park designed by Humphry Repton (1752–1818) (Hill, 1999, p.60). From this discovery, it is a simple matter to relate the sketch to the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600–1625), where adjacent to page forty-nine, which includes a close-up image of the ruins of the old castle (TG1625), there is a stub bearing pencil marks that correspond to this more distant view. Given that the size of the paper matches that of the book, there is no doubt that the drawing was detached from it for sale, probably by Girtin himself, and from other inscriptions it is likely that the artist received something in the region of '£1.1.0' for his pencil sketch. This and the close-up view of the old castle were sketched during the artist’s stay with Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave (1755–1831), at the new castle near Sandsend on the coast. The famous diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821) noted that Lord Mulgrave had recalled that ‘Girtin was with Him a little time at Mulgrave Castle’ at a point when he ‘laboured under symptoms of an Asthma which not long afterwards killed him’ (Farington, Diary, 24 May 1807), and Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak interpreted this to mean that the artist had travelled north again in the spring of 1801 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.41). Mulgrave’s testimony, and the fact that Girtin did not produce his watercolour of Sandsend until 1802 (TG1702), is not quite enough to convince me that the sketches were taken in a year other than 1800, however, not least because Girtin was documented as travelling as far north as the Scottish Borders in that year and Mulgrave Castle could have been taken in on the way (Jenkins, Notes, 1852). A date of 1800 would therefore appear to be more suitable for the sketches of the park, together with others that Girtin took along the coast stretching from Sandsend to Whitby (such as TG1609 and TG1628), including a series of views of shipping (such as TG1623).

Somewhat surprisingly, Girtin’s stay at Mulgrave Castle and the sketches that he made there did not result in any commissions for views of Lord Mulgrave’s property, or of the newly landscaped park. The family certainly owned a couple of Girtin’s watercolours, The Ruined Chancel, Netley Abbey (TG0354) and Rome: The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (TG0888), and a sale in 1873 listed a ‘Coast from Sandsend. Presented by the artist to Hon. E. Phipps’, but the fine studio watercolour of Sandsend (TG1702) was almost certainly not from their collection (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 29 May 1873, lot 78). According to Farington, Lord Mulgrave ‘spoke with much regard of the memory of Girtin the Artist’ and ‘He thought him a good natured open dispositioned man’ (Farington, Diary, 24 May 1807), but this was not enough, it seems, to have secured him a commission, and it is telling that Girtin probably produced Sandsend for sale on the open market through Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who acted on behalf of the artist in his final years in a role somewhere between agent and dealer. The fact that a time-consuming and presumably costly detour to Mulgrave did not result in any return for the artist points to the dangers of depending on the patronage of the landed classes. It also helps to explain why it was that Girtin turned to Reynolds to sell his watercolours.

Another drawing that was removed from the Book of Drawings was also almost certainly sketched in the vicinity of Mulgrave Castle (page fifty-two). Page fifty-three is inscribed ‘Gravel Caves with a peep of the Sea / Colord on the Spot; Coast of Yorkshire / Sold to Miss Winn / Nostel Priory £4. 4. 0.’, and the sketch almost certainly depicted the alum mines close to Mulgrave Castle. It is not known which member of the Winn family of Nostell Priory this refers to, however, and sadly the on-the-spot colour sketch of an intriguing subject has not been traced.

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has identified the support used by Girtin as a white wove paper by an unknown manufacturer, though he observed that it was not typical of English production at this time (Bower, Report). This is the same support that Girtin used for two other drawings that were probably removed from the Whitworth Book of Drawings, Stepping Stones on the River Wharfe (TG1613) and Gordale Scar Waterfall (TG1630). The paper appears well suited to taking the very rich tones of graphite that the artist employed in the boldly hatched foreground.

(?) 1800

The Ruins of Old Mulgrave Castle





(?) 1800



(?) 1800

A Distant View of Whitby


(?) 1800

Five Craft off the Coast on a Calm Sea


(?) 1797

The Ruined Chancel, Netley Abbey


1799 - 1800

Rome: The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina





(?) 1800

Stepping Stones on the River Wharfe


(?) 1800

Gordale Scar Waterfall


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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