Unidentified circle of Towne
  • Cowley Place, near Exeter
No date
Pencil, pen and ink, brown wash
  • image height 200mm,
  • image width 288mm
on a contemporary mount
  • artist's mount, recto
  • “View of the seat of William Jackson Esq., at Cowley Place near Exeter”
Object Type
Monochrome wash

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Museum records (image)


Untraced until purchased in 1935 by the present owner, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter (31/1935).

Associated People & Organisations

Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter, 1935, 31/1935
Exhibition History
Three Exeter Artists of the Eighteenth Century: Francis Hayman RA, Francis Towne, John White Abbott, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, 1951, no. 80
Paintings and Drawings by Francis Towne and John White Abbott in the collection of Exeter Museums and Art Gallery, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, 1971, no. 12
Francis Towne & John White Abbott: Paintings and Watercolours from the Exeter Museums and Art Gallery, Marble Hill House, 1973, no. 12
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 133


This is a view of Cowley Place, a suburban villa designed in 1788–1790 by Towne’s friend William Jackson (1730–1803) for his son William Collins Jackson. Jackson sketched the grounds at Cowley in a letter dated 1 August 1788.1 In 1790 William Collins Jackson married Frances Baring (b.1769), a daughter of Charles Baring (see FT350). John White Abbott was one of Jackon’s friends and drew his portrait in 1822.2 

This drawing is currently attributed to Francis Towne by the museum, although it must be the work of a pupil. Perhaps it was drawn by one of the Merivale family of Barton Place, which was just to the right of the picture. The path in the right foreground of the picture leads to Barton Place and its adjoining farm. The inhabitants of Cowley, including of Barton Place, Cowley Place, and Cowley Cottage, formed a neighbourly community in the early 1800s, evident in the letters of the Gibbs family of Cowley Cottage now at the Guildhall Library in London and in transcripts of Merivale family letters at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere. Frances Baring’s sister lived at nearby Pynes after her marriage in 1791 to Sir Stafford Northcote.

The museum dates this sketch to ca. 1812. However, it seems that as Cowley Bridge was rebuilt after damage in 1809, the sketch must be somewhat earlier.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Jackson 1997, p.124.
  2. 2 Sotheby’s, 21 March 2001, lot 182.

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