Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • St John’s in the Vale, looking towards Grasmere
  • The Vale of St. John, in Cumberland
  • The Vale of St John
Pencil, pen and brown ink, watercolour
  • image width 155mm,
  • image length 235mm
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “F.Towne. / delt 1786 No32”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “The Vale of St. John in Cumberland. / looking towards Grassmere / the distance Helvellyn / Drawn at 1 o’Clock / by Francis Towne / light from the right hand”
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Sotheby's records; Bridgeman Art Library (image)


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 (BP147) and in 1921 gave it to the widow of their nephew John William Merivale (1887–1916). It was sold by “a gentleman” at Sotheby’s on 10 December 1958, lot 77, for £260 jointly to the Fine Art Society and Agnew’s (Agnew’s no.J9592, Fine Art Society no.6709), who sold their half share to the Fine Art Society on 12 May 1959. The Fine Art Society sold it to Joseph Hawksley Elliot of Sheffield (1884–1978), whose daughter sold it at Christie’s on 14 March 1978, lot 80, for £7,500 to Agnew’s. It was sold again at Sotheby’s on 19 November 1992, lot 34, for £18,000 to Agnew’s, where it was on sale the following year, whereafter it is untraced.

Associated People & Organisations

Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1993
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 19 November 1992, GBP 18000
Sotheby's, London, London, 19 November 1992, lot 34
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 14 March 1978, GBP 7500
Christie's, London, London, 14 March 1978, lot 80
Joseph Hawksley Elliot (1884 - 1978), Sheffield
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 10 December 1958, GBP 260, no.J9592
Acquired jointly with the Fine Art Society Fine Art Society (no.6709). Agnew's sold their half share to the Fine Art Society on 12 May 1959.
The Fine Art Society, London, London, 10 December 1958, GBP 260, no.6709
Acquired jointly with Agnew's (no.J9592)
Sotheby's, London, London, 10 December 1958, lot 77
John William Merivale (1887 - 1916), 1921
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP147
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP147
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 63, 64, or 65 as 'The Vale of St. John, in Cumberland', or 88 as 'The Vale of St John'
Thirty-Ninth Exhibition of Early English Water-Colours and Drawings, Fine Art Society, 1959, no. 25
English Watercolours and Drawings Agnew's 120th Annual Exhibition, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1993, no. 14
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 30
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 119


This is a view looking south on the road between Ambleside and Keswick, visible in the bottom-left corner. It was very probably drawn on 17 August, when Towne made other drawings nearby. As in the two previous drawings, here Towne was probably not yet in St John’s in the Vale itself but on a hillside a little north of Thirlmere.

by Richard Stephens

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