1811 Sketchbook

Richard Stephens

Towne used this sketchbook when visiting Durham, Edinburgh, and Windsor in the summer of 1811. The book was inscribed by Towne on the front cover, “Durham &c / 1811”, in thick black ink and inside the cover, “Francis Towne / No31 / Devonshire Street / Portland Place / August 2nd. 1811”, in brown ink. Several blank pages, some watermarked “J WHATMAN 1808”, were left unused within the sketchbook. Most were prepared for drawing with a vertical and horizontal pencil line, dividing the page into four quarters. Towne travelled north from London to reach Durham by 7 August, where he stayed for several days (FT715, FT716, FT717, FT718). He continued on to Scotland and was sketching in and around Edinburgh between 13 and 17 August (FT719, FT720, FT721, FT722, FT723, FT724, FT725, FT726, FT727, FT728). Almost a month later Towne used the book again to draw some views of Windsor with dates of 10, 11, and 12 September and numbered from 2 to 5 (FT729, FT730, FT731, FT732). The first drawing of the Windsor series has been lost and is not catalogued here.

In a letter to Paul Oppé dated 9 July (1915?) Emily Buckingham mentioned that this sketchbook was given “to my cousin Mrs Antony Gibbs. I hope her son has it.”1 Janet Louisa Merivale (d.1909) was the cousin who had married Antony Gibbs, the owner of Barton Place. In a later letter to Oppé Emily Buckingham mentioned the sketchbook again: “George Gibbs (Col G) has I think only one Towne sketch book and that had pictures of Edinburgh in it. It had others too . . . I think there was one if not more of Durham.”2 “Col G” was George Abraham Gibbs (1873–1931) of Tyntesfield, Janet Louisa Merivale’s eldest son. The sketchbook remained largely intact and with the Gibbs family until its seventeen drawings were sold at auction in the early 1990s through Christie’s—although it seems that at least one Windsor drawing had by then become detached. Possibly other sheets had become separated from it, as on 12 June 1944 two drawings called “Eton” were sold by the Fine Art Society (nos.4039 and 4041) to G. G. de Gruy(?) for £50 the pair.

About the author

  • Independent Art Historian


  1. 1 Paul Oppé records.
  2. 2 Paul Oppé records: letter, 6 December 1918.


Article title
1811 Sketchbook
Richard Stephens
Article DOI
Cite as
Richard Stephens, "1811 Sketchbook", A Catalogue Raisonné of Francis Towne (1739-1816), (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016),

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