Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Cockwood from the North Gate
No date
  • recto
  • indistinct date
  • verso
  • “Cockwood from the North Gate”
Object Type

Cockwood from the North Gate, after Francis Towne
Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Barton Place catalogue


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 (BP169), and before the death of Judith Merivale it passed to their nephew Charles Herman Merivale (1879–pre-1962). By 1956 the drawing was the property of Francis Temple-West, the second husband of Blanche Liddell whose first husband, John William Merivale (1887–1916), was another Merivale nephew and the brother of Charles Herman Merivale. On 18 June 1956 Temple-West sold the drawing to Agnew’s (no.8336) with FT096, FT566, FT603, FT803. Agnew’s sold it on 2 February 1957 to a collector for £75, whereafter it is untraced.

Associated People & Organisations

Private Collection, 2 February 1957, GBP 75
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 18 June 1956, no.8336
Francis Temple West, June 1956
Blanche Liddell
John William Merivale (1887 - 1916)
Charles Herman Merivale
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP169
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP169
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816


According to Paul Oppé’s notes, the date of this drawing was hidden by its frame. A copy of it was made by John Herman Merivale (FT857), whose father-in-law, Dr Joseph Drury (1750–1834), had acquired Cockwood as a retirement retreat, although he lived there from at least 1793. The Drury and Merivale families were close friends well before John Herman Merivale married Louisa Heath Drury in 1805 (see FT881), the year of Dr Drury’s retirement.

The Revd John Swete described Cockwood in 1799:

On the Eastern aspect of this Hill close on the shore is seated a House belonging to Dr Drury Master of Harrow School, surrounded on all sides but that in front by pleasure and improved grounds which are lain out with taste and judgement. . . . On the apex of the hill . . . has been erected a small rotunda pleasure house. . . . Around this elevated spot (prior to its being purchased by Dr Drury), A waste tract of land spread itself out to a considerable distance, wholly unproductive of any thing but a stunted furce. But this Gentleman animated by a most laudable spirit of enterprise not only reclaimed much of the Common from its state of barren Nature but by his Example stimulated others to do the same . . . the face of the Country has been converted from features that were rough and wild, into those of pleasure and fertility. I speak now as a rational member of Society, who prefers the utile to the dulce, – and not with the enthusiasm of a Painter, who beholds the incroachments of Art on Nature with a jealous eye – and who had rather cast that eye over tangled forest, gnarled Oaks, and deep-rutted lanes than over the richest pastures, the straitest and most luxuriant trees, and roads which for smoothness of surface might vie with a gravel walk . . . to be a Member of an Agricultural Society, or of the Royal Academy. These indeed cannot well coalesce.”1 The approval Swete gave Drury’s use of land is in marked contrast to his criticisms of Lord Courtenay’s development just a few miles up river at Powderham.

Judging by Merivale’s copy, Towne’s view was of the waters against this boundary wall. The water is handled in the same way as another Exe estuary view dated 1799 (FT603).

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Swete 1997, vol.4, pp.109–10.

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