Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • The Wrekin, on the Road between Much Wenlock and Shrewsbury
ca. 1777 - 1783
Pencil, pen and grey ink, grey wash
  • image length 366mm
laid paper
  • sheet, verso
  • “The Wrekin in the Road / between Wenlock & / Shrewsbury / by Francis Towne”
Object Type
Monochrome wash

The Wrekin
A View of the Wrekin, Shropshire
Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination (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 (BP128). Judith Merivale sold it in November 1933 to Squire Gallery for £6 10s. This is presumably the drawing described by Colnaghi’s (no.A11906) as “The Wrekin, pen and wash”, which they bought on 6 July 1943 from Iolo Anuerin Williams (1890–1962). The following day it was bought by J. Leslie Wright (1862–1953) for £12 (according to Colnaghi’s records, but Wright’s own notebook gives the price as £13 10s.; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery archives, 2007.117). By 1962 it had entered the collection of Professor John Malins (1915–1992). It remains in a private collection.

Associated People & Organisations

Private Collection
Professor John Malins (1915 - 1992), 1962
James Leslie Wright (1862 - 1953), 7 July 1943, GBP 12
P&D Colnaghi & Co, London, London, 6 July 1943, no.A11906
Iolo Anuerin Williams (1890 - 1962), 1943
Squire Gallery, London, November 1933, GBP 6.10s
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP128
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP128
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 150
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 13


Towne sketched this hill on his 1777 tour (FT067), and a second version, exhibited in 1805 (FT068), was presumably made at the same time. A version dated 1783 is also known (FT397). Oppé noted the size of the drawing catalogued here as 267 x 368 mm; the smaller dimensions given above suggest that a horizontal band of paper is obscured by the frame. Oppé described the drawing thus: “Loose sepia or brown ink, over pencil & sometimes pen outlines. Very muddled in places. Cloud over Wrekin like volcano smoke.”1

This drawing is the same size as the 1783 version and shares some of its formal elements, like the bank of foreground foliage and human figures, which are are commonly found in Towne’s commissioned views of the late 1770s and earlier 1780s (for foliage see also FT056, FT137, FT139). The drawing appears not to be an “on the spot” sketch from the 1777 tour itself, but rather a more formal composition preparatory to a later commissioned work—perhaps even the 1783 version itself. Towne’s 1805 exhibit title, The Wrekin in ditto [Shropshire] going off of a storm, accounts for the dark cloud in this study, but perhaps the cloud’s similarity to a volcano (see also FT232) was also the reason for its rejection.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Paul Oppé records: notes, ca. 1915.

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