Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Wenlock Priory
  • Wenlock Nunnery in Shropshire
  • Wenlock Nunnery
ca. 1780
Pen and ink, watercolour
  • image width 216mm,
  • image length 276mm
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “F Towne delt / No.4 1777”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “Wenlock Nunnery drawn on the spot, Saville House, No.5 Leicester Square
  • signed, inscribed, and indistinctly dated
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Leger records; Christie’s 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 Misses Maria Sophia Merivale (1853–1928) and Judith Ann Merivale (1860–1945), both of Oxford, inherited the drawing in May 1915 (BP101). It was probably given or sold to their cousin Bernard Merivale (see also FT069), as he sold it to Agnew’s (no.2783) in October 1938 for £8. On 2 April 1940 Agnew’s sold it for £15 15s. to Professor Geoffrey Emett Blackman of Oxford University (1903–1980). It was sold at Christie’s on 5 March 1974, lot 88, where it was bought by Leger Galleries, whereafter it is untraced.

Associated People & Organisations

Leger Galleries, London, 5 March 1974
Christie's, London, London, 5 March 1974, lot 88
Professor Geoffrey Emett Blackman (1903 - 1980), Oxford, 2 April 1940, GBP 15.15s
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, October 1938, GBP 8, no.2783
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP101
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP101
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
[?] Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 22 or 23 as 'Wenlock Nunnery in Shropshire'
[?] Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour & Pencil Drawings, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1936, no. 77
[?] 66th Annual Exhibition of Water Colour and Pencil Drawings, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1939, no. 146
67th Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour and Pencil Drawings, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1940, no. 127 or 131


1779, engraving

The twelfth- and thirteenth-century ruins of the Cluniac Wenlock Priory are close to Much Wenlock in Shropshire, a little further on from Bridgnorth (FT066) on the road to Shrewsbury. Three other drawings of the priory are known (FT070, FT070a, FT396), one of which is a version of this drawing, dated 1783. Paul Sandby’s treatment of this view shows the interest of topographers in Wenlock Priory.1 However, whereas Sandby has depicted the abbey ruin by itself, Towne took a different approach. By featuring the extant church of Wenlock—bathed in light—as a counterpoint to the shadowy ruin, Towne has made his view a statement of the past and the present, inviting a reading of the picture’s two halves as the ruin of Catholic absolutism and, by contrast, the triumph of the Protestant faith. The patron of Wenlock church was Sir Watkins Williams Wynn, North Wales’s largest landowner and client of Sandby and Richard Wilson.

Paul Oppé noted that BP100 and BP101—Bridgnorth and Wenlock—were not available for him to study when he made his notes of the drawings in the possession of the Misses Merivale in ca. 1915.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 After Paul Sandby, Wenlock Priory, 1779 (Witt Library).

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