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Works Thomas Girtin

St Winefride’s Well, Holywell

(?) 1798

Primary Image: TG1300: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), St Winefride's Well, Holywell, (?) 1798, pen and ink and watercolour on laid paper, 16 × 19.5 cm, 6 ¼ × 7 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • St Winefride’s Well, Holywell
(?) 1798
Medium and Support
Pen and ink and watercolour on laid paper
16 × 19.5 cm, 6 ¼ × 7 ¾ in

‘St. Winifreds Well / T. Girtin’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; North Wales

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


The Property of a Lady; Sotheby’s, 14 July 1994, lot 72, £3,680

About this Work

St Winefride's Church, Holywell

This sketch of the early sixteenth-century vaulted chamber on the site of St Winefride’s Well was produced by Girtin during the opening stages of his tour of North Wales in the summer of 1798. Having visited and sketched the nearby ruins of the castles of Hawarden (TG1350) and Flint (see print after TG1363), Girtin stopped at Holywell to record the late Gothic building, which had been erected on the site of the martyrdom and reputed miraculous restoration to life of the seventh-century saint Winefride. Built as a place of pilgrimage, the building continued to attract tourists as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Wales’, though it was presumably because of the monument’s status as an architectural monument that Girtin made his sketch. Thus, the artist carefully adopted a low, right-of-centre position, so as to record the details of the complex decorative vaulting that crowns the open chamber located beneath the chapel dedicated to the saint. Aside from the great medieval castles, North Wales was not noted for its Gothic architectural heritage, and, although Girtin’s close viewpoint invests the chamber with a monumental character, helped by cutting off the bulk of the chapel itself (see figure 1), perhaps not surprisingly the sketch was not realised as a studio watercolour. It does seem to have attracted the interest of a collector keen to own an example of the artist’s skill as a draughtsman, however. The inscription to the left was almost certainly added later when the work was sold, since such a neat record of the subject is quite out of keeping with the untidy scrawl more commonly seen on Girtin’s on-the-spot sketches. The formal version of the artist’s signature was no doubt inscribed at the time of the sale as well; again, it would have served no purpose on a working drawing kept by Girtin in the studio for reference.

(?) 1798

Hawarden Castle


(?) 1798

Flint Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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