Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • The Force above Skelwith Bridge
Pencil, pen and black and brown inks, watercolour
  • image width 235mm,
  • image length 152mm
  • sheet, verso
  • “Light from the left hand The Force” in pencil and “No18. The force above Skellit bridge / August 12th. 1786 / light from the left hand 3 O Clock. / F.Towne.” in ink
Part of
  • Partially-disbound sketchbook sold by Judith Merivale to H. B. Milling of Squire Gallery
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Paul Oppé notes; 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 within a partially disbound sketchbook containing FT455, FT462, FT470, FT471, FT472, FT475, FT476, FT477, FT478, FT480, FT494, FT495, FT496. In February 1945 Judith Merivale sold the book to H. B. Milling of the Squire Gallery for £25 (although it is not clear if this drawing was part of that sale). The drawing is untraced until its sale at Phillips on 21 November 1988, lot 18, for £3,600 to Leger Galleries and was in a “Private Collection” in 1997.

Associated People & Organisations

Private Collection
Leger Galleries, London, 21 November 1988, GBP 3600
Phillips, London, 21 November 1988, lot 18
[?] Horace Bernard Milling (1898 - 1954), London, February 1945, GBP 25
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
Loan Exhibition of Works by Early Devon Painters Born Before the Year 1800, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, 1932, no. 107
Francis Towne, Tate Gallery; Leeds City Art Gallery, 24 June 1997 - 4 January 1998, no. 50


Skelwith Bridge is a village two miles west of Ambleside. Just to its west is the small waterfall in Towne’s drawing, known as Skelwith Force. Presumably sketching while seated on the rocks at bottom right, Towne has cut short the wooded hills top right in order to let in some sky, and has bolstered the mass of stone in the right half of the picture by adding in the rock pile at the top-right corner.

This drawing was still in the 1786 sketchbook when Paul Oppé saw it but by the 1932 exhibition must have been extracted, as it was displayed on its own. It was on a sheet after a view of Clappersgate (FT471) and before an unfinished landscape (FT475).

As well as this drawing, both FT469 and FT473 are dated 12 August.

by Richard Stephens

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