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Works Thomas Girtin

Seaton Sluice

(?) 1796


Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Seaton Sluice
(?) 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite on paper
12.4 × 17.2 cm, 4 ⅞ × 6 ¾ in

‘Seaton Sluce’, ‘Hartley’; ‘Mrs Park’ on the back, by (?) Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Durham and Northumberland

Seaton Sluice (TG1088)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
199 as '1796'
Description Source(s)
Girtin and Loshak, 1954


Charles Sackville Bale (1791–1880); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 16 May 1881, lot 391?; Edward Cohen (1817–86); then by bequest to his niece, Isabella Oswald (1838–1905); her posthumous sale, Robins & Hine, 30 March 1905, lot unknown; Henry Melville Gaskell (1879–1954), by 1929

About this Work

This pencil sketch of the coast at Seaton Sluice, between Newcastle upon Tyne and Morpeth, was made in 1796 on Girtin’s first independent sketching tour. Only one of the twenty or so pencil drawings and on-the-spot colour sketches that survive from the trip is dated, but it is still broadly possible to trace Girtin’s progress through Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders from the titles of the works that he sent to the 1797 Royal Academy exhibition, and from the dated watercolours that were subsequently produced from these and other untraced sketches. In this case, even though the small studio watercolour that Girtin executed from his sketch is not dated (TG1088), the proximity of Seaton Sluice to a series of other subjects that must have been sketched in 1796 – such as Newcastle (TG1080) and Lindisfarne Priory (TG1105) – confirms that this tour was the occasion for its creation. Indeed, such is the obscurity of the subject that it is unlikely that the artist would have visited were it not for the fact that Seaton lay on the route that Girtin must have taken in 1796 between the more obviously picturesque sites of Tynemouth (TG1086) and Bothal Castle (TG1089).

Such is the unconventional nature of Girtin’s choice of subject that it requires some explanation, since what we are looking at is actually an artificial channel with its dock gates prominent above. Behind, the ship masts show the position of the harbour, which was first equipped with a sluice by Sir Ralph Delaval (1622–91) in the seventeenth century and around which glassworks, a brewery, brickworks and a lime kiln gathered. However, as a result of its continuing problems with silting, Sir John Hussey Delaval (1728–1808) undertook further improvements, completed in 1764, which saw the cutting of a deep channel through the rock, with large sluice gates added to control the water level. Although widely acclaimed as a major feat of engineering, this was nonetheless an unlikely subject for a commission, unless perhaps the two names recorded on the back of this sketch, a ‘Hartley’ and a ‘Mrs Park’, had a personal interest in the business enterprise.

1796 - 1797

Seaton Sluice


(?) 1796



(?) 1796

Lindisfarne: An Interior View of the Ruins of the Priory Church


1797 - 1798

Tynemouth Priory, from the Coast


1796 - 1797

Bothal Castle, from the River Wansbeck


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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