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Works Thomas Girtin

The Ruined East End of Walsingham Priory Church

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0244: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Ruined East End of Walsingham Priory Church, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card), 12 × 7.7 cm, 4 ¾ × 3 in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX, 5 (D36630).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Ruined East End of Walsingham Priory Church
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card)
12 × 7.7 cm, 4 ¾ × 3 in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
East Anglia: Norfolk and Suffolk; Monastic Ruins

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26 June 1833, lots 81 or 82 as 'Views and ruins, in colours, on cards 10'; bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £8 18s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

National Gallery, London, on display up to 1904, no.815b


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1242 as 'Walsingham Chapel, Norfolk' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pl.66b, p.62; Tate Online as 'Part of the Ruins of Walsingham Priory' (Accessed 05/09/2022)

About this Work

This informal sketch-like view of the ruined east end of Walsingham Priory Church in Norfolk is based on TG0283 and is one of twenty or so small-scale watercolours that Girtin made after outline drawings that he had copied from the sketches of either his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and the young artist certainly did not visit the site himself. The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were produced for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), at whose posthumous sale many were purchased by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), and they are now therefore part of the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain.

Moore’s on-the-spot sketch of the imposing ruined east end of the church was reproduced as an aquatint in 1791 and it has been suggested that Monro too may have had a publication in mind when he commissioned Girtin to produce watercolours such as this (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). But, though its small scale certainly suits the watercolour to reproduction as a book illustration, its rapid execution and sketch-like appearance, suggesting that the work was made on the spot, indicate that it is a very different kind of commodity. The subjects chosen for this informal sketch-like treatment certainly do not follow any obvious pattern other than being generally amongst the lesser known of the nation’s medieval monuments. Monro was unsystematic in his commissioning habits and it may be that there was nothing that united the group other than the fact that Girtin’s outlines provided a ready resource from which sketch-like watercolours might be rapidly produced. Girtin’s work for Monro rarely rose above the level of the mechanical, but, in this case at least, it appears to have had a lasting impact on his practice. Girtin, it appears, returned to the basic compositional formula on a number of occasions, most notably in 1801 when he painted the similar ruins at Guisborough in Yorkshire (TG1698).

The paper is discoloured as a result of excessive exposure to light whilst on long-term exhibition. The differently toned area to the right was protected by an earlier mount.

1794 - 1795

The Ruined East End of Walsingham Priory Church



Guisborough Priory: The Ruined East End


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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