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Works Thomas Girtin

The Abbey Mill, near Knaresborough (page 25 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)

(?) 1800

Primary Image: TG1607: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Abbey Mill, near Knaresborough, (?) 1800, graphite on wove paper (watermark: 179), 14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1977.15.24).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Abbey Mill, near Knaresborough (page 25 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)
(?) 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper (watermark: 179)
14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in

‘at Knaresborough’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin; ‘45’ upper left

Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
River Scenery; Wind and Water Mills; Yorkshire View

The Abbey Mill, near Knaresborough (TG1672)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
437i as 'The Abbey Mill, Knaresborough'; '1801'
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.8, p.93

About this Work

This view of the Abbey Mill, which is on the left bank of the river Nidd, a kilometre or so downstream from Knaresborough, is found on page twenty-five of the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600–1625). It appears to date from 1800, the year that Girtin inscribed an on-the-spot sketch of Harewood House (TG1603) and when he produced a number of other drawings made in the vicinity (such as TG1610). The artist is also recorded in the diary of Mary Anne Lascelles (1775–1831) as staying at Harewood House in August of that year, and it is therefore likely that this drawing was made as part of a campaign of sketching at the mansion and its environs that Girtin undertook in preparation for a major commission for one of his most significant patrons, Edward Lascelles (1764–1814).1 This resulted in two very large watercolours of Harewood House (TG1547 and TG1548) as well as a distant view of Knaresborough (TG1669), the original sketch for which Girtin must have taken from a spot near to the Abbey Mill. However, although the evidence points to an 1800 date and to the likelihood that the drawing was made directly from nature, the fact that two of the views along the river Nidd that are included in the Book of Drawings can be shown to be copies – Grimbald Bridge (TG1604) and A Crag on the River Nidd (TG1611) – should give pause for thought. Such is the hybrid nature of the book, which prior to being bound together between endpapers with an '1803' watermark was no more than the artist’s own gathering of sheets of paper, that copies and on-the-spot sketches sit side by side, and it may be that this drawing also copies an original that has been lost.

The sketch was used as the basis for a fine watercolour, The Abbey Mill, near Knaresborough (TG1672), which follows the source closely. Somewhat surprisingly, given the subject’s proximity to Harewood, the watercolour was not commissioned by Lascelles, and instead it was produced as part of a sizeable group of works that were acquired by Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who acted on behalf of the artist in his final years in a role somewhere between agent and dealer. In fact, only one of the sketches in the Book of Drawings relates to a commission from Lascelles (TG1612), and so, in addition to being the repository for Girtin’s on-the-spot sketches, the gathering appears to have performed the important function of a model book for the guidance of potential patrons, though its efficacy was somewhat mixed. It is impossible to be sure about the details, but, whilst Girtin may have sold up to sixteen sketches from the book, many fewer studio watercolours were ordered from the drawings. In addition to The Abbey Mill, there can be found a view of Sandsend (TG1702), two views in Kirkby in Malhamdale (TG1689 and TG1690) and a group of Bolton Abbey subjects (including TG1677 and TG1679) that were made from sketches in the Book of Drawings. However, I suspect that this was a less substantial source of income than the money Girtin secured from Reynolds, and it was certainly not enough, on its own, to replace his dependence on the traditional pattern of patronage and support from landowners such as Lascelles.


Harewood House, from the South West


(?) 1800

Grimbald Crag, near Knaresborough


(?) 1801

Harewood House, from the South West


(?) 1801

Harewood House, from the South East



A Distant View of Knaresborough, from the South East


(?) 1800

Grimbald Bridge, near Knaresborough


(?) 1800

A Crag on the River Nidd


1800 - 1801

The Abbey Mill, near Knaresborough


(?) 1800

Guisborough Priory: The Ruined East End





1800 - 1801

A Farmhouse in Malhamdale, Known as ‘Kirkby Priory, near Malham’



Kirkby Malham


1800 - 1801

Bolton Abbey: The East End of the Priory Church, from across the River Wharfe



Bolton Abbey, from the River Wharfe


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 YRK York Papers, Borthwick Institute, University of York

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