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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

The Albion Mills, Southwark, after the Fire

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0114: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), The Albion Mills, Southwark, after the Fire, 1792–93, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 18.9 × 22.7 cm, 7 ⁷⁄₁₆ × 8 ¹⁵⁄₁₆ in. Newport Museum and Art Gallery (1940.22).

Photo courtesy of Newport Museum and Art Gallery (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Interior of the Albion Mills after the Fire, 1791, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 15.9 × 19.5 cm, 6 ¼ × 7 ⅝ in. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (WA1916.20.10).

Photo courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • The Albion Mills, Southwark, after the Fire
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
18.9 × 22.7 cm, 7 ⁷⁄₁₆ × 8 ¹⁵⁄₁₆ in
Object Type
Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Industrial Scene; London and Environs; Urban Ruins

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
14 as 'The Albion Mills After the Fire'; '1791–2'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2016


Guy Bellingham-Smith (1865–1949); Squire Gallery, London; bought from them, 1940, £15

Exhibition History

Manchester, 1968, no.170


Brown, 1982, p.469; Maidment, 1996, pp.36–38; Smith, 2018, p.47

About this Work

This is one of two views of the interior of the Albion Mills after its destruction by fire that Girtin made from sketches by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see the source image above). Girtin’s earliest patron lived close by and was on the scene to sketch the still smouldering ruins after the fire that gutted the building on 2 March 1791, though curiously he dated one of his three drawings 27 February 1791. However, although Girtin clearly based this watercolour and its pair (TG0105) on Moore’s sketches, there is no evidence that they were commissioned by the antiquarian, and neither is there any record of their ever having been in the collection of the patron’s descendants. The subject of a ruin of a modern industrial building is certainly uncharacteristic of the watercolours Moore commissioned from Girtin, which generally depict the nation’s monastic and castle ruins and some of the great Gothic churches, and the drawings do not fit the standard format of 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm) employed for the main. It may be, therefore, that the young artist saw the pictorial potential in his patron’s sketches and developed a pair of drawings independently. Certainly, Girtin has reimagined Moore’s rather prosaic view, which records the picturesque tangle of the ruined building and its machinery without attempting to suggest that this was the result of a catastrophic fire. The ruins in Girtin’s watercolour are therefore partially obscured by areas of smoke and at their heart is a warm glow as the fire continues to burn; the artist also introduced a dark sky, presumably to indicate that the conflagration broke out at night. The latter detail is not entirely successful and, whilst the watercolour substitutes fascinating patterns of colour for Moore’s careful depiction of the various parts of the ruined interior with its discarded millstones and cranes, it is clear that Girtin did not have the formal means to realise such a complex effect as the aftermath of a fire at night. It is possible that Girtin painted his watercolour later than the first batch of watercolours after Moore’s sketches, which are documented as having been created in the winter of 1792–93 (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 However, whilst the flat areas of colour he employs recall the broader style he developed after 1796, the unconvincing effects suggest that, on balance, it was made earlier.

The Pantheon, the Morning after the Fire

Girtin’s contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) produced two watercolours of the effects of another spectacular fire, this time at the Pantheon in Oxford Street, that raged on a frosty night in January 1792. He exhibited The Pantheon, the Morning after the Fire at the Royal Academy in the same year (see figure 1), and it is possible that this inspired Girtin to work up similar subjects from Moore’s sketches. Girtin might have expected a ready market for his views, such was the continuing public interest in the destruction of the Albion Mills. The fire that wrecked the monumental structure that housed the steam-driven mills was the subject of a number of popular prints amidst continuing rumours that the building had been the subject of an arson attack (Maidment, 1996, pp.36–38). Milling on an industrial scale with the aid of the latest technology threatened the livelihoods of the city’s traditional millers and, although the fire was almost certainly the result of the machinery overheating, the building and its fate became a potent and divisive symbol of progress and its problems.

1792 - 1793

Interior of the Albion Mills, Southwark, after the Fire


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The document detailing the payments made to the young Girtin by Moore is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1792–93 – Item 1).

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