Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Oakhampton Castle
ca. 1778 - 1880
Pen and grey ink, grey wash
  • image width 203mm,
  • image length 324mm
paper watermarked “GR” and with a crown in a circle
  • sheet, verso
  • “57 / Oakhampton”
Object Type
Monochrome wash

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Barton Place catalogue; Chorley’s of Cheltenham (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 and his successors. Merivale’s granddaughters Maria Sophia Merivale (1853–1928) and Judith Ann Merivale (1860–1945) inherited the drawing in May 1915 (BP183) and it has descended within the Merivale family, a member of whom offered it for sale at Sotheby’s on 7 July 2011 (one lot with 804 and 561). It did not sell and was offered again for sale at Chorley’s of Cheltenham on 10 November 2011, lot 44, where it was acquired by the dealer Guy Peppiatt, who sold it to the current owner.

Associated People & Organisations

Private Collection
Guy Peppiatt, London, 10 November 2011
Chorley's, Cheltenham, 10 November 2011, lot 44
Sotheby's, London, London, 7 July 2011, one lot with FT804 and FT561
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP183
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP183
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816


This undated sketch of Oakhampton Castle in Devon was probably made in the early 1780s. The vigour of the outline suggests a date after Italy, but compositionally it is comparable to castle studies made in 1777, in which Towne remains fairly distant from the viewed object (FT108, FT115); it could easily date from 1778–80 when Towne’s drawing style became much sharper but lacked the enlargement of scale and vision that was to come shortly, in Rome. Perhaps more likely, it could date from his time in England in the years immediately afterwards, and may be compared to monochrome nature studies of the mid-1780s such as were drawn for the Acland family. Evidently it comes from a series of drawings numbering at least 57. Paper watermarked “GR” was much used by Towne until 1781 (but see also FT436), which argues for a date prior to the Italian journey. The fact that the broad dating of this drawing can remain in doubt highlights the cursory impact of Towne’s foreign studies on his later work once he had returned to England.

by Richard Stephens

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