For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin

The Thames from a Window of the Old Toy Inn, Hampton Court

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1748: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Thames from a Window of the Old Toy Inn, Hampton Court, 1800–01, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 26.5 × 42.3 cm, 10 ⅜ × 16 ⅝ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.22).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Thames from a Window of the Old Toy Inn, Hampton Court
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
26.5 × 42.3 cm, 10 ⅜ × 16 ⅝ in

'2' lower right

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
London and Environs; Picturesque Vernacular; River Scenery; The River Thames

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
400 as 'View from the Window of the Old Toy Inn, Hampton Court'; '1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Thomas Girtin (1775–1802); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 1 June 1803, lot 94 as 'from the Toy, Hampton Court'; bought by John Girtin (1773–1821), £3 15s; his father-in-law, John Jackson (d.1828); bought from him by Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.47; Roget, 1891, vol.1, pp.118–19

About this Work

Hampton Court Ferry from the Artist's Lodgings

This rather undistinguished watercolour is nonetheless of some interest on account of both the subject and its intriguing provenance. Looking at the former first, Girtin’s view is taken from a window of the old Toy Inn, near Hampton Court, showing in the centre the East Molesey Mill, on a creek off the river Thames. The scene can be recognised from a watercolour by Sir James Thornhill (1675/76–1734) that is inscribed ‘A View of H. Court Ferry. From my Lodgings Apr.20 1731’ (see figure 1) as well as a drawing by John Inigo Richards (1731–1810) that omits the ferry and concentrates more on the rambling wooden buildings and the more substantial brick building of the Mill House (Baker, 1980). The Toy Inn, which is the common viewpoint for each of the drawings, was built by Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) for the accommodation of his troops in the Civil War, and its name seems to have been a corruption of ‘tow’, as in tow path. If Girtin did paint the view from the window, and there is no precedent in his career for a practice that was actually relatively common amongst landscape painters, then there is a possibility that the colour was added there too, making this an on-the-spot colour sketch by default. However, not only does the colour seem altogether too well planned and controlled for that, but also the washes are actually very crudely applied, so much so that I suspect that at least some of them were added by another hand.

All of this leads us back to the question of the work’s provenance, and the fact that it is one of only a handful of works that can be confidently identified as being amongst the almost 150 items that appeared at Girtin’s posthumous sale (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 June 1803, lot 94). This drawing must surely be the study ‘from the Toy, Hampton Court’, which was bought by the artist’s brother, John Girtin (1773–1821), for £3 15s, and which he subsequently sold on to John Jackson (d.1828), his father-in-law. Jackson features prominently in the accounts of Girtin’s early biographers, who report that he ‘used to play the patron … going about with him and supplying him with money, and promising him good dinners, on condition that he should first make his host a drawing’, citing a ‘view of the old Toy inn at Hampton Court, which he said he obtained in this manner’ (Roget, 1891, pp.119–20). Jackson was endeavouring to sell this work to Chambers Hall (1786–1855) at the time, and the benefactor of the British Museum seems to have believed the story as he bought the drawing. One wonders whether he was not in fact twice duped, with John Girtin having made the study all the more saleable in the first place by adding some colour of his own. Other late sketches by Girtin that passed through his brother’s hands – after John appropriated the contents of Girtin’s last studio in settlement of loans made to him, including Hawarden Castle (TG1350) – also feature colour, which seems suspicious at the very least; in this case, perhaps this is the reason why this uncharacteristically unfaded watercolour fails to impress.

(?) 1798

Hawarden Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.