This sketchbook was used on Towne’s summer excursions of 1809 in North Wales and the West Country. These are the first sketches that Towne is known to have made since 1805. James White accompanied Towne, for the first half of the trip at least. In a letter to Ozias Humphrey dated 6 September 1809, White wrote from London that

About a fortnight since I agreed to Meet Mr Towne at Bristol – on a little excursion – We went from thence to Caernarvonshire – where we spent some Days, in the midst of the mountains, – and then went over to Conway – from whence the Mail Coach brought us hither.1

The first fourteen drawings are from this part of the tour and must date from late (on or after 24) August 1809 to very early (before 6) September. The sketchbook begins with drawings made between Bristol (FT658) and Shrewsbury (FT660, FT661, FT662), before entering Wales and continuing with views around Snowdon and Capel Cerig (FT663, FT664, FT665, FT666, FT667), and Conwy (FT668, FT669, FT670). After a pause from sketching of some three weeks, Towne made a further eighteen sketches in Devon and Cornwall, whether with White or not is unknown. The last drawing in the sketchbook is dated 11 October (FT688). During the second half of his trip Towne made drawings of two ancient sites on his progress westwards, at Hingston Hill, east of Yelverton on the south-west edge of Dartmoor (FT671), and in the area of Liskeard (FT672), before reaching St Michael’s Mount (FT673, FT674, FT675, FT676, FT677). Towne then returned to Dartmoor’s eastern side, making sketches at Holne Chase (FT678, FT679, FT680, FT681, FT682, FT683, FT684) and in the adjacent parish of Buckland-in-the-Moor (FT685, FT686, FT687). Most of Buckland was owned by John Pollexfen Bastard (1756–1816, MP for Devon 1784–1816) of Kitley, east of Plymouth between Brixton and Yealmpton, to whom no doubt the Mrs Bastard mentioned in the sketchbook (FT685, FT687) was related.

This sketchbook is the only one known to have survived intact. It was acquired in 1923—very early on in the twentieth-century re-evaluation of Towne—by the Fitzwilliam Museum, who purchased it from Maria Sophia and Judith Ann Merivale for £20.2

The inscriptions are mainly in pencil, with some of the inscriptions from the Welsh leg gone over in pen in the hand of John Herman Merivale. In addition, all of the Holne Chase, Buckland, St Michael’s Mount, and Conwy inscriptions have been gone over in pen by a twentieth-century hand, evidently the same hand that inscribed the inside front cover. These have not been noted in the catalogue descriptions.


  1. 1 Royal Academy Library, HU7/75.
  2. 2 Towne’s 1811 sketchbook survived intact into the 1990s.


Article title
1809 Sketchbook
Article DOI
Cite as
"1809 Sketchbook", A Catalogue Raisonné of Francis Towne (1739-1816), (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016),

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