Acland Estates, 1785–86

Richard Stephens

oil on canvas, circa 1790

In July 1785 Sir Thomas Dyck Acland (1752–94), 5th Bt, married Henrietta Ann Hoare (d.1841), daughter of banker Sir Richard Hoare, 1st Bt. Not long afterwards, they employed Towne to sketch on their land in and around Exmoor, and the orders they gave him for studio versions of these and other sketches make them Towne’s major documented client of the post-Italy phase of his career. Fragments of a numbered series survive in drawings of Bickham near Wythcombe, numbered 1 and dated 1 October (FT436), and of Holnicote near Minehead, numbered 3 and dated 3 October (FT437). Two Porlock sketches are dated 4 October (FT438, FT439), which is perhaps also the date of a further Porlock study (FT447), and a view at Killerton near Exeter is dated 21 October (FT440). 

Several commissions resulted. Towne’s major work was a large oil painting of Holnicote (FT449, based on FT437). He made a watercolour dated 1786 of Killerton (FT449a, derived from FT440), four watercolours dated 1788 (FT548, FT549, FT550, FT551, derived from FT072, FT099, FT103, FT114) showing scenes in North Wales near (according to Wilcox) Acland land there, and five dated 1790 (FT552, FT553, FT554, FT555, FT556; based on FT441, FT442, FT443, FT444, FT445) of West Country subjects. Two of the four views in North Wales were commissioned on 28 December 1785 (FT072, FT103) and perhaps the other two were ordered then; the Killerton view (FT440) must have been ordered not long after October 1785, as it was completed in 1786. The five watercolours dated 1790 were perhaps ordered later, maybe in 1786, since Towne was at Holnicote again on 22 December 1786 (FT453), or in 1788 when he delivered the Welsh views. According to Towne’s inscriptions, at least four of the watercolours were ordered by Sir Thomas Acland (FT072, FT441, FT442, FT443) and one by his wife (FT103). Oppé noted that Towne had recorded the price of 8 guineas that Acland had agreed.

As Oppé noted (see the Comment at FT436), Towne’s drawing style here is much the same as in several pen and wash studies in the late 1770s. This may be no more than a reflection of the fact that Towne was now, as in 1778–79, making clearly drawn studies to help his clients choose pictures to commission from him. In one study (FT436), though, the composition contains echoes of some Lake Como sketches (such as FT325, FT326) and is denser than he would have chosen to make it before his travels in 1781.

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Article title
Acland Estates, 1785–86
Richard Stephens
Article DOI
Cite as
Richard Stephens, "Acland Estates, 1785–86", A Catalogue Raisonné of Francis Towne (1739-1816), (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016),

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