1810 Sketchbook

Richard Stephens

This sketchbook was used on Towne’s summer excursions of 1810, when he once again visited North Wales and the West Country. As in 1809, Towne made drawings only occasionally and now that the sketchbook is broken up, his itinerary can only be partly reconstructed from the drawings and from Paul Oppé’s note of the book, made when intact. This reads: “August 19.1810. 2nd, 3rd neatly & fully inscribed August 23–24 1810. Worcester, Shrewsbury Devils Bridge. 25 Aug . . . Aberystwyth, Radnor . . . Gloucester . . . Brent Bridge Devon Septr, 5th. Ivy Bridge Devon. Sept 5. Plymouth Septr. 6. Mount Edgcumbe etc. stronger sketches, fuller colour [than the 1809 sketchbook].” If his movements the previous and following years is a guide, Towne set out from London on or around 19 August 1810, the date he inscribed on the inside cover of the sketchbook, reaching Worcester by 23 August (FT689). From there he continued north to Shrewsbury, from where he travelled west to Aberwystwth (FT696), drawing Moel y Golfa on 24 August (FT690) and Devil’s Bridge on 25 August (FT692, FT693, FT694, FT695) on the way. He travelled through Radnorshire (FT697, FT698, FT699, FT699a, FT700) to Gloucester (FT701, FT702) on his way to Devon, passing Brent Bridge on 5 September (FT704) and Ivy Bridge the following day (FT705) en route to Plymouth (FT706, FT707, FT708, FT709, FT710, FT711, FT712).

Seventeen drawings from the sketchbook (FT690, FT692, FT693, FT695, FT696, FT698, FT701, FT702, FT705, FT706, FT707, FT709, FT711, FT712, FT713, FT714) were sold to the Fine Art Society on 19th June 1963 for £3,750 by a Mr and Mrs Sutton of New Zealand, a couple who walked in off the street with the book.1 Their identities are unknown, but the assumption is that they were descendants of John Herman Merivale, who must have acquired the book since ca. 1915, when Paul Oppé made the record above while it was in the collection of Maria Sophia and Judith Ann Merivale, John Herman Merivale’s granddaughters. Although the Fine Art Society stock book recorded their 1963 purchase as “Book of water-colours (15) and drawings (2) see list”,2 it seems that some of the pages of the book may not have been included in the sale. Since then a further nine works (FT689, FT691, FT694, FT697, FT699, FT700, FT703, FT704, FT710) have emerged—most recently in 1999 (FT691)—that probably come from the same book. One of these was photographed by the Fine Art Society at an early date, though no record of its sale is known (FT694). Certainly one drawing (FT710) was sold by Mrs R. Sutton in 1970 and, according to Phillips (verbally) in 1999, the Suttons or their heirs then still owned an unknown number of further sketches, which have not been recorded in this catalogue. The 1963 sale of seventeen works locates them firmly within the 1810 sketchbook, and Oppé’s mention of Worcester, Radnor, and Brent Bridge confirms that at least some of the subjects that have emerged subsequently were once part of the sketchbook. Other sheets catalogued in the following entries are associated with the book because of similarities of size, style, and subject matter. The possibility remains, however, both that the 1810 sketchbook may have contained fewer than the twenty-six works here identified with it and that its numbers may increase if more drawings emerge.


About the author

  • Independent Art Historian


  1. 1 Conversation with a Fine Art Society employee, early 1990s.
  2. 2 The list cannot be located among Fine Art Society records, but all fifteen watercolours and both pencil drawings were exhibited in 1964.


Article title
1810 Sketchbook
Richard Stephens
Article DOI
Cite as
Richard Stephens, "1810 Sketchbook", A Catalogue Raisonné of Francis Towne (1739-1816), (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016),

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