Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Dunkeswell Abbey
Pen and black ink, watercolour, gum, on laid paper
  • image width 189mm,
  • image length 265mm
watermark similar to Heawood’s design no.107 c–k
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “F.Towne / delt”
  • in light brown ink
  • sheet, verso
  • “No11 / Dunkeswell Abbey August the 20th 1783”
  • in brown ink
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Museum records (image)


Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744–1825), on whose death it passed to Towne’s residuary legatee John Herman Merivale (1779–1844) and his successors. Merivale’s granddaughters Maria Sophia Merivale (1853–1928) and Judith Ann Merivale (1860–1945), both of Oxford, inherited the drawing in May 1915 (BP185) and gave it in 1921 to their nephew Philip Merivale (1886–1946). It descended to Mrs E. W. Evans (sister of John Merivale of 54 Eaton Square, London), who sold it (also FT073, FT623) on 1 December 1965 to Agnew’s (no.5730). On 17 January 1966 Agnew’s sold it for £500 to Paul Mellon (1907–1999), who gave it to the current owner, the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (B1986.29.232; gift to Yale, 1986).

Associated People & Organisations

Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1986
Mr Paul Mellon (1907 - 1999), London, 17 January 1966, £500
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1 December 1965
Mrs E. W. Evans, London
Philip Merivale (1886 - 1946), 1921
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 38
Benjamin Donn, 'A Map of the County of Devon', Benjamin Donn: A Commemorative Volume, Devon and Cornwall Record Society and The University of Exeter: Exeter, 1965, plate 8a
Todd Gray, The Garden History of Devon - An illustrated guide to sources, University of Exeter Press: Exeter, 1995, p. 92


Dunkeswell Abbey in the Blackdown Hills1 was an estate built by Elizabeth Simcoe on the site of a thirteenth-century Cistercian abbey,2 whose former gatehouse Towne has depicted. It is a mile or two north of Woolford Lodge, the home of Eliza and Graves Simcoe following their marriage in the early 1780s. Graves Simcoe was buried in a chapel at Dunkeswell.

The couple were clients of Towne, and a drawing by Eliza, perhaps a copy after Towne, is dated 1783 (FT883). A friend of the Simcoes called Miss Hunt wrote a poem on Dunkeswell in 1786:

Yet let the hand of desolating time

These sinking towers, and moulding walls revere!

For not with useless pride they rose sublime:

Fair Science stored her choicest treasures here

Though now in ruined Majesty they lie,

The fading reliques of departed days.3

The free curls of the black pen in the right-hand trees are very similar to the style used at Indicnowle (FT400, FT401, FT402). The rich red-brown structure covered in green foliage recalls some Roman drawings such as of the Baths of Caracalla. The verso contains some blotches of watercolour wash.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Donn 1965, pl.8a.
  2. 2 Gray 1995, p.92.
  3. 3 Quoted in Swete 1997, vol.2, p.100.

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.