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Works Thomas Girtin

The Oriel Window of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0319: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Oriel Window of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace, 1794–95, graphite and watercolour on two pieces of wove paper, 40.5 × 24.2 cm, 16 × 9 ½ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1934.132).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Oriel Window of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on two pieces of wove paper
40.5 × 24.2 cm, 16 × 9 ½ in

‘27.0’ at the right of the window, by (?) James Moore

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Domestic Buildings; London and Environs

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
150 as 'King John's Palace'; '1796'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Francis Pierrepont Barnard (1854–1931); his widow, Isabella Barnard; bequeathed to the Museum, 1934


Mayne, 1949, p.99; Brown, 1982, p.336, no.733

About this Work

James Storer (1771–1853), after James Baynes (1766–1837), etching and engraving, 'Interior of the Hall of Eltham Palace, Kent' for <i>Select Views in London</i>, 1 May 1804, 29 × 21 cm, 11 ⅜ × 8 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.18513).

This interior view of a corner of the west end of the Great Hall at Eltham, south London, shows the same oriel window that is the dominant feature of Girtin’s pencil drawing of the exterior (TG1381). Seen from a low viewpoint close to the opening, the complex stone fan-vaulting of the ceiling of the projecting bay is shown to good effect, providing a vivid contrast with the magnificent hammerbeam roof to the right. The hall was constructed for Edward IV between 1475 and 1479 as part of a royal palace that for over three hundred years provided luxurious accommodation for successive monarchs. However, the palace was abandoned and largely demolished in the seventeenth century, and, long before Girtin visited, the hall was used as a barn by a local farmer. The lower part of the oriel was opened out to accommodate a set of wide doors that allowed access for carts, and the agricultural use to which the building was put featured prominently in many of the images that were produced at the end of the eighteenth century, including another of Girtin’s Eltham subjects (TG1383) and an engraving of a different view of the same corner published in 1804 (see figure 1).

The print, which is inscribed as after a ‘Drawing by Baynes’, might even have been copied from Girtin’s sketch, though it does contain more of the composition to the left. Its primary significance, however, lies in the inclusion of farm animals and labourers, which neatly point up the anomaly in Girtin’s view: the absence of any reference to the building’s current use. Instead, we have a relatively tidy interior occupied by a gentleman with a stick, and the emphasis is placed firmly on recording the architectural details of a magnificent medieval monument. Careful examination of the work also reveals an easily overlooked detail that points to the unusual character of the drawing. To the right of the window arch is inscribed ‘27.0’; extending vertically down, it indicates the height from the ground to the top of the window openings. With its monochrome colouring over a very detailed pencil drawing, this is clearly not a typical studio watercolour, therefore. Instead, it seems that Girtin added watercolour washes to a drawing made on the spot, there being no other way to explain the presence of an inscription recording the height of this part of the building. Indeed, it is very unusual for Girtin to have inscribed a drawing in this way and one cannot help but wonder whether this inscription might have been the work of Girtin’s first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99). He may have been the first owner of the drawing and we know that Girtin worked up many of Moore’s drawings, correcting his tentative lines, as in The West Tower, All Saints’ Church, Hastings (TG0227). I suspect, therefore, that this might have been a case of Girtin adding to and improving Moore’s drawing, and then colouring it to create a worthy composition. If this is the case, the gentleman shown so prominently is presumably Moore himself, and the stick he holds is a measuring rod ready to record the precise details of the building.

1794 - 1795

An Exterior View of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace


1796 - 1797

The Interior of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace



The West Tower, All Saints’ Church, Hastings


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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