Turner’s Lancaster, from the Aqueduct Bridge

Let’s take a closer look at one of the sources featured in the video in step 3.2 - J.M.W. Turner’s ‘Lancaster, from the Aqueduct Bridge’.

Turner's painting from the Aqueduct Bridge J.M.W. Turner’s Lancaster, from the Aqueduct Bridge.

You can view a larger image as a jpg file or PDF doc - use the zoom feature of your browser to enlarge if if necessary.

This watercolour was completed in Turner’s studio around 1825. It’s based on a view that he had sketched in Lancaster long before then, though: first in 1797 and then in 1816.

As its long composition history suggests, Turner’s painting isn’t a snapshot of Lancaster in 1825 so much as a panoramic representation of the town and its surroundings based on studies taken at different points in time.

The figures and landmarks Turner chose to portray are not accidental, nor are they simply ornamental. Rather, they can be examined as indicators of important aspects of the town’s modern history.

Have a careful look at Turner’s painting and explore different parts of the work and make a note of anything that catches your eye. Take particular note of anything that surprises you.

You may find it helpful to look at some of the engraved versions of the painting available from the Tate’s website, such as Robert Wallis’s Tate reference no. T06072, which – as engravings – depict items in the background of the painting a bit more crisply.

Once you’ve collected your first impressions, try to locate the following items:

  • Lancaster Castle
  • A barge named ‘LANCASTER’
  • A pile of coal
  • A watermill
  • Skerton Bridge
  • The city’s quayside
  • Mowers at work in a field of grain
  • St Mary’s Priory
  • A pile of turnips

… and last but not least - the aqueduct bridge.

How did you do? Did you find all ten? If not, take a look at this image:

annotated jpg file or annotated PDF doc

As you work through the following steps, consider what this painting tells us about the city of Lancaster in the early part of the 19th century.

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This article is from the free online course:

Lancaster Castle and Northern English History: The View from the Stronghold

Lancaster University