Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • The Cascade in the Groves at Ambleside
Pencil, pen and brown ink, watercolour
  • image width 375mm,
  • image length 267mm
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “F.Towne / delt. 1786’”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “The Cascade in The Groves at Ambleside / the Head of Lake of Windermere drawn / on the Spot August 1786 by / Francis Towne./ N.B. the paper this is drawn on I brought / myself from Rome”
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; 1997 Tate catalogue (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 (BP139 or 141). On 12 April 1946 Judith Merivale’s executors sold the drawing to Agnew’s (no.4554) only to buy it back on 24 April for £12. By 1967 it had descended to Rosamund, Mrs James Ross MacBrien (b.1912), who was the daughter of their nephew Philip Merivale (1886–1946). On 6 March 1967 she sold it to Agnew’s (no.6771), who on 8 May 1967 sold it to Hope Malins Keith (d.1973). It was on sale again at Agnew’s in 1983, where it was bought by Leger Galleries, who sold it to a private collection, where it remained until 2005, when acquired by Lowell Libson, who sold it to a US private collection.

Associated People & Organisations

Private Collection
Lowell Libson, 2005
Leger Galleries, London, 1983
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1983
Hope Malins Keith ( - 1973), 8 May 1967
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 6 March 1967, no.6771
Rosamund MacBrien (née Merivale, later Young) (1912), 1967
Philip Merivale (1886 - 1946), 24 April 1946, GBP 12
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 12 April 1946, no.4554
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP139 or 141
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP139 or 141
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. 96 or 97
Catalogue of a collection of pictures, drawings, furniture and works of art of the Empire and Regency period : select examples of Romano-British art, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1929
British Art, Royal Academy, 1934, no. 815
English Watercolours and Drawings, Leger Galleries, 1990, no. 6
Francis Towne, Tate Gallery; Leeds City Art Gallery, 24 June 1997 - 4 January 1998, no. 59
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, pp. 119-122
Thomas Gray, The Poems of Mr. Gray. To which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life and Writings by W. Mason, M.A: York, 1775, pp. 265, 366
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, pp. 106, 126


This is one of four views (FT514, FT515, FT516, FT517) of Stock Ghyll Force, a waterfall behind the Salutation Inn on the eastern edge of Ambleside. A photograph of this view dated ca. 1895 shows Towne’s fidelity to what he saw, at least in the upper part of the drawing.1 FT514 is dated 10 August, but in all probability the drawings of Stock Ghyll Force were made on separate occasions during Towne’s first few days at Ambleside. A drawing taken on the approach to this waterfall is dated 14 August (FT479) and another, undated (FT518), was made on Towne’s return from a visit to the waterfall. Two further drawings are uninscribed (FT519, FT528) but may show Stock Ghyll, the fast-moving stream into which the waterfall flowed.

The waterfall became famous when in 1775 William Mason named it as one of three “magnificent cascades” that Thomas Gray had missed seeing by not staying the night at Ambleside—this one “not above half a mile behind the inn” that Gray had rejected as being “dark and damp as a cellar”.2 It was Thomas West, however, who gave the cascade the name by which it became widely known—and that Towne used—by referring to its location in “the groves”. West considered it

the most curious you will see in the course of the tour . . . The parts of this cataract are noble. The deep dark hue of the rocks in the gloomy bosom of a narrow glen, just visible by day, and the foaming water tinged with a hue of green caught from the trees and shrubs that wave over the fall, render this scene highly awful and picturesque.3

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Anonymous photographer, Stock Ghyll Force, ca. 1895 (Cumbria Local Studies Libraries and Record Offices).
  2. 2 Gray 1775, pp.365, 366.
  3. 3 West 1778, pp.76–77.

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