Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Elterwater
  • Elter Water
Pencil, pen and brown ink, watercolour
  • image width 156mm,
  • image length 477mm
two sheets
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “Francis Towne / delt 1786”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “Elter Water August 12th 1786 / light from the left hand / F.Towne. 19 / London / Leicester Square / 1790”
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Christie’s records 1997; Tate catalogue (image)


Untraced until sold by “A Gentleman” at Christie’s on 17 November 1981, lot 105, for £4,800 to Spink, where it was bought by the current owner, the Wordsworth Trust (WRD274289).

Associated People & Organisations

Wordsworth Trust, Dove Cottage, Grasmere, WRD274289
Spink & Son, London, London, 17 November 1981, GBP 4800
Christie's, London, London, 17 November 1981, lot 105
Exhibition History
[?] Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 84 as 'Elter Water'
The Discovery of the Lake District, Dove Cottage, 1982, no. 138
English Watercolour Drawings Annual Exhibition 1982, Spink, 1982, no. 11
The Discovery of the Lake District, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1984, no. 87
Francis Towne, Tate Gallery; Leeds City Art Gallery, 24 June 1997 - 4 January 1998, no. 51
Robert Upstone, Sketchbooks of the Romantics, Tiger Books International: London, 1993, pp. 140-141


Elterwater is a small lake two miles west of Ambleside, a short walk from Skelwith Bridge. Towne’s viewpoint looks west to the Lingmoor Fells and, in the right corner, the Langdale Pikes. The River Brathay flows from the lake in the foreground, down to Skelwith Bridge and into Lake Windermere. Towne has created more foreground incident than in the actual scene, has raised the height of the Langdale Pikes, and has rearranged the mountains in the left far distance. 

In addition to Towne’s recto inscription a later (nineteenth-century?) hand has added “Elter Water” bottom left.

by Richard Stephens

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