Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • From the Heathfields Seat, Lympstone
  • Lympstone, Devon
ca. 1813
Pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour
  • image height 114mm,
  • image width 356mm
two sheets
  • sheet, verso
  • “From the Heathfield seat, Lympstone”
  • in pencil
Part of
  • 1812-1815 Sketchbook
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Museum records (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 within a sketchbook containing FT733 to FT751. Probably the book was among the “two small sketchbooks and five small drawings late in date” that Judith Merivale sold to Squire Gallery in 1945 for £50. In 1946 it was on sale at the Fine Art Society, where on 7 March 1946 it was bought for £42 with another drawing by the present owner, the Lady Lever Gallery, Liverpool (LL 3769).

Associated People & Organisations

Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool, 7 March 1946, GBP 42, LL 3769
The Fine Art Society, London, London, 7 March 1946
[?] Squire Gallery, London, 1945, GBP 50
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915
Inherited within a sketchbook containing FT733 to FT751.
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915
Inherited within a sketchbook containing FT733 to FT751.
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
Winter Exhibition of Early English Watercolours and Drawings, Fine Art Society, 1946, no. 120 as 'From Heathfield Spar, Lympstone'
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 138


Lympstone was a village on the Exe estuary near Exmouth, opposite Powderham. The “Heathfield Seat” was Nutwell Court, on the edge of Lympstone, built by 2nd Lord Heathfield, who died in 1813. Heathfield strenuously discouraged visitors to Nutwell; Revd John Swete colourfully described his unsuccessful efforts to gain entry, although sketches by White Abbott exist of the estate. This, and Towne’s uncertain understanding of Nutwell’s ownership when inscribing this sketch implicit in his phrase “Heathfield Seat”, argue for a date of execution after Lord Heathfield’s death, and surely in 1813 when the sketch of the Topsham Road was made (FT738).

Evidently Towne was not at sea level when he drew this work and he probably sat at the edge of a field overlooking Lympstone waterfront, adjoining the present-day harbour (now National Trust land). A windmill at Exmouth is visible in the far distance.

by Richard Stephens

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