The Magnificent Castle
Turner’s interest as a painter was often directed to modern marvels of civil engineering and he evidently found many of Lancaster’s more-recently built landmarks to be subjects worth portraying.
In fact, Turner’s painting was composed for a series of topographical studies entitled ‘Picturesque Views of England and Wales’ (1825–1838), which showcased notable buildings and landscapes – both ancient and modern.
For all the praise it bestows on landmarks, such as Skerton Bridge, the commentary that accompanies Turner’s painting in ‘Picturesque Views’ gives pride of place to Lancaster Castle and St Mary’s Priory.
Segment of Castle from Turner’s painting
The text of the commentary is worth quoting at length:
Among the public buildings, the most important and interesting is the magnificent Castle, now the county gaol…. Placed on the summit of a high hill, built of strong materials, with walls of amazing thickness … it must have been a grand and secure residence. Though much of its ancient character and dignity has been sacrificed, to adapt it to the purpose for which it is now employed, it is still worthy of admiration. As a prison it is now one of the completest establishments in the kingdom…. Immediately within the fortified tower gateway is a courtyard, surrounded with towers and fortified walls; and opposite the entrance is the keep, the walls of which are prodigiously thick, and the apartments of grand dimensions…. Close to the castle is the parish church of St. Mary, a fine Gothic building, which appears to have been erected about the eleventh century.
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