Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • A View at Ambleside
  • Ambleside at the head of Windermere
  • View at Ambleside
  • Ambleside, Lake Windermere, Westmorland
Pencil, pen and brown ink, watercolour, gum
  • image width 159mm,
  • image length 352mm
two sheets
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “No.1.F.Towne / delt 1786”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No.1. A View at Ambleside, at the head of the Lake of Windermere / drawn on the Spot / by / Francis Towne / August 7th.1786 / light from the right hand”
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Wilcox 1997 (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 granddaughter Emily Harriet Buckingham (1853–1923) inherited the drawing in 1915. On 1 May 1922 she sold it to Agnew’s (no.10143) for £30, where on 22 May it was purchased for the same price by Gerald Agnew, who presented it in 1922 to the current owner, the Whitworth Art Gallery (D.29.1922).

Associated People & Organisations

Manchester Museum & the Whitworth, University of Manchester, Manchester, 1922, D.1922.29
Gerald Agnew, London, 1 May 1922, GBP 30
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1 May 1922, GBP 30, no.10143
Emily Harriet Buckingham (1853 - 1923), 1915
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. 60 as 'Ambleside at the head of Windermere'
[?] Exhibition of Selected Watercolour Drawings by Artists of the Early English School, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1922, no. 72 as 'View at Ambleside'
Whitworth Watercolours, Arts Council, 1948, no. 6
British Painting from Hogarth to Turner 1730-1850, British Council, 1949, no. 93
Loan Exhibition of Water Colour Drawings from the Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester in Aid of the Funds of the Gallery, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1954, no. 37
Drawings and Watercolours from the Whitworth Art Gallery, Arts Council Gallery, 1959, no. 70
unidentified exhibition, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, 1967, no. 87
unidentified exhibition 1977, 1977, no. 5
The Discovery of the Lake District, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1984, no. 79
From View to Vision: British Watercolours from Sandy to Turner in the Whitworth Art Gallery, Whitworth Art Gallery, 1993, no. 24
John Keats, Wordsworth Trust, 1995, no. 100
Francis Towne, Tate Gallery; Leeds City Art Gallery, 24 June 1997 - 4 January 1998, no. 45
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 136


Ambleside was the standard base for a tour of the southern part of the Lake District, which typically included visits to Ambleside, Rydal Water, and Coniston. This and FT456 are views from the area of Ambleside called “Above Stock”, near St Anne’s Chapel. The building to the right of the brown foreground shrub appears to be How Head, now Ambleside’s oldest building, and the road sweeping left in the left foreground is immediately in front of the chapel. Towne’s view looks south over Waterhead to the head of Windermere, and FT456 looks north-west to Rydal. In the present work Towne’s description of the distant hills in the right-hand part of the drawing are topographically exact, but those in the central portion of the drawing, between the brow of the near hill at the left and the large green tree at centre right, are completely imaginary. Towne has created a false range of very prominent hills, presumably in order to help direct the viewer’s eye into the distance, where in reality the hills in the right part of the drawing, on the western shore of Windermere, continue to slope away gently into the central area. The actual appearance of these hills is clear from another view, FT522, looking south down Windermere.

Towne used dark golden-brown lines, like those surrounding this picture, on drawings that were mounted in the mid-1790s or later (FT326, FT580) and it may therefore be that this drawing was also mounted around that time.

by Richard Stephens

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