The Moore drawing that Girtin based his sketch on has not been found either, though a watercolour by Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804) (see figure 1), dated 1792, repeats the composition, and it was presumably based on the same lost prototype. Moore visited Newark on the way to South Wales in the summer of 1788, and he dated another view of the priory ruins ‘5 Augt’ (see figure 2). This was reproduced as an aquatint by George Isham Parkyns (1749–c.1820) in Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (Moore, 1792), as well as providing the basis for another watercolour by Dayes (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown (2007.20.17.14)). It is therefore possible that Girtin based his outline on a Dayes drawing, but, given that he must have had access to Moore’s sketches in order to produce so many of his copies, this was in all probability what happened here too.
The attribution of the pencil outlines in the Turner Bequest was a matter of considerable confusion until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s cogently argued article on the Monro School in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.9–10). Initially, Alexander Finberg, the first cataloguer of the bequest, ascribed the outlines to Girtin but thought that they were made on the spot (Finberg, 1913). Charles F. Bell, in turn, recognised that the drawings were copies, but suggested that they were made by George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles (Bell, 1915–17, pp.60–66). Then in 1938 Bell changed his mind and switched the attribution to Dayes, citing a letter from Turner in which he stated his opinion that the drawings he had bought from Monro’s sale had been produced by Girtin’s master (Bell, 1938–39, pp.97–103). Finally, Wilton’s article seems to have settled the argument, and I for one have no doubts about the attribution to Girtin of the set of drawings.