Cornwall, Including Werrington, 1787–99

Richard Stephens

Most of Towne’s customers were based in and around Exeter, and its surrounding estates and beauty spots were his common sketching ground. However, Towne also made several visits to Cornwall, and notably to Werrington Park near Launceston, some forty miles west of the city, over a period of more than thirty years (in the eighteenth century Werrington was at the western edge of Devon, but is now in Cornwall). Indeed, Towne’s earliest-recorded West Country work was the view of a mill at Werrington, Devonshire, which he contributed to the 1767 Society of Artists exhibition (FT008). At that time Werrington was the home of Humphry Morice (1723–1785), MP for Launceston between 1750 and 1780, but it was sold to the Duke of Northumberland in 1775. Morice was a noted art collector to whose pictures Towne evidently had access, since many years later he made a sketch from memory of a Claude that had been in Morice’s collection (FT805).

Apart from visiting Werrington in connection with his 1767 exhibit, Towne must also have gone to Wadebridge near the north coast of Cornwall in the early 1770s, in order to make sketches for the two large oil paintings at Pencarrow (FT060, FT060a). In the post-Italy period only two visits to Cornwall can be established: in 1796, when Towne visited both Werrington (FT588) and Roche (FT587), and another in 1799 (FT610). Other undated Cornish sketches survive, including one of Pough Hill, near Bude (FT543), and three were part of a large series numbering at least eighty-one sketches (FT612, FT613, FT614), one of which is mounted on paper watermarked with the date 1801 (FT614).

Like the Peamore studies, at Werrington Towne made works in pure watercolour, notably in several woodland studies (FT588, FT589a, FT027), one of which is dated 1796 (FT588). But the Werrington drawings are more notable for their style of pen work, in Oppé’s words “quite unparalleled in his earlier work”1 and exemplified in a small pen and ink study at Newport, near Launceston, dated 1799 (FT604). In these drawings Towne marks the shaded areas with tight hatched lines, and seeks to outline almost every leaf in the tree with tiny curls (for example FT613) or else, for a view of distant woodland, discern the shape of every single tree (for example FT614). Oppé judged these drawings to be “reminiscent of de Cort, who toured Devonshire in 1794, under the patronage of Ozias Humphry”.1

About the author

  • Independent Art Historian


  1. 1 Oppé 1920, p.124.
  2. 2 Oppé 1920, p.124.


Article title
Cornwall, Including Werrington, 1787–99
Richard Stephens
Article DOI
Cite as
Richard Stephens, "Cornwall, Including Werrington, 1787–99", A Catalogue Raisonné of Francis Towne (1739-1816), (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016),

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