Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Pont Aberglasllyn
Pencil, pen and grey ink, grey and blue wash
  • image width 278mm,
  • image length 431mm
  • sheet, verso
  • “1777 / July 9th No21 Pont Aberglasllyn. drawn on the spot by Francis Towne”
Object Type
Monochrome wash

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 (BP110). On 24 May 1921 they sold it to Agnew’s (no.9951) for £15 for onward sale (for £350 with FT072, FT074, FT108, FT111, FT237, FT260, FT366, FT469, FT504) the same day to the present owner, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Associated People & Organisations

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, 24 May 1921, GBP 350, 1921P97
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 24 May 1921, GBP 15, no.9951
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP110
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP110
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 135
Henry Penruddocke Wyndham, A Tour Through Monmouthshire and Wales Made in the Months of June and July 1774 and in the months of June, July and August 1777: Salisbury, 1781, pp. 125-126
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, p. 107


Pont Aberglaslyn is just south of Beddgelert. Translated, it means “bridge at the mouth of the river Glaslyn”. The Glaslyn flows southwards into the Traeth Bach at Porthmadog.

This is one of at least three drawings Towne made at Aberglaslyn (the others are FT087 and FT088), plus a later version close to this drawing dated 1795 (FT783). For Wyndham and, it seems, for Towne North Wales was at its most sublime along the path following the River Glaslyn:

We at last descended by a sudden turn, round a jutting mountain, all, improviso, upon the Pont Aberglaslyn, which divides Merioneth from Caernarvonshire. Here we paused, while the grandeur of the scene before us, impressed a silent admiration on our senses. We, at length, moved slowly onwards, contemplating the wonderful chasm. An impending craggy cliff, at least eight hundred feet high, projects from every part of its broken front, stupendous rocks of the most capricious forms, and shadows a broad, translucid torrent, which rages, like a cataract, amid the huge ruins fallen from the mountain. On the opposite declivity, the disjointed fragments, crushing their mouldering props, seem scarcely prevented from overwhelming the narrow ridge, which forms the road on the brink of the flood. . . . The eccentric and romantic imagination of Salvator Rosa was never fired with a more tremendous idea, nor has his pencil ever produced a bolder precipice. . . . The bridge of Aberglaslyn connects two perpendicular precipices with a semi circular arch of stone, the diameter of which is thirty feet, and the crown of the arch is forty above the water level.1

The fame of the Pont Aberglaslyn landscape was increased by its inclusion among Paul Sandby’s aquatints published in 1777, and Samuel Grimm also made a drawing in 1777 that was published in Wyndham’s 1781 edition. Towne’s vision is closer to Grimm’s than to Sandby’s, in that he has created less of a foreground with which to introduce the scene, although all three artists are fundamentally working with the same compositional elements to effect the same thing—landscapes that look majestic and forbidding. 

Paul Oppé’s description, “one monochrome drawing, Aberglaslyn (No.9, July 9) . . . has a fine composition with good lines and incidents well rendered in strong drawing and effective contrasts of light and shade”, refers to this drawing or FT087.2


by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Wyndham 1781, pp.125–26.
  2. 2 Oppé 1920, p.107.

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