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Works Thomas Girtin

Kirk Deighton, near Wetherby


Primary Image: TG1647: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Kirk Deighton, near Wetherby, 1800, graphite, watercolour and scratching out on laid paper, 32.1 × 52.2 cm, 12 ⅝ × 20 ½ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1892.111).

Photo courtesy of The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Photo by Michael Pollard (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Kirk Deighton, near Wetherby
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and scratching out on laid paper
32.1 × 52.2 cm, 12 ⅝ × 20 ½ in

‘Girtin 1800’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; The Village; Yorkshire View

Kirk Deighton, near Wetherby (TG1646)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
394 as 'Called Godalming, Surrey'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and February 2020


George Wyndham Girtin (1836–1912) (lent to London, 1871); John Edward Taylor (1830–1905) (lent to London, 1891); presented to the Whitworth Institute, 1892

Exhibition History

London, 1871, no.90 as ’Village, with Church’; London, 1891, no.46 as ’Godalming Church’; Manchester, 1894, no number as 'Godalming Church'; Agnew’s, 1931, no.113; Arts Council, 1948a, no.66; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.100 as ’Godalming Church’; London, 1954, no.118; Arts Council, 1960, no.35; Manchester, 1973, no.53; Manchester, 1975, no.77 as ’A Village Street and Church with Spire’; London, 1993, no.144; London, 2002, no.132 as ’Kirk Deighton, near Wetherby, Yorkshire’


Monkhouse, 1894, pl.9 as 'Godalming Church'; Sparrow, 1902, p.90; Davies, 1924, pl.83 as 'Godalming, Surrey'; Davies, 1939, pl.12; Mayne, 1949, p.101; Turberville, 1957, pp.379–80; Nugent, 2003, p.132

About this Work

The correct title for this sadly faded watercolour has hitherto proved elusive, and it has variously been known as ‘Godalming’ and ‘Village Street and Church with Spire’. However, the discovery of the sketch on which the work is based (TG1646) and the fact that it is inscribed ‘near Wetherby’ led Charles Nugent, then at The Whitworth, Manchester, to confirm the identity of the village as Kirk Deighton and the church as All Saints (in a conversation with me in 2001). It is not surprising that this was not recognised sooner, since, although Girtin recorded the architectural details of the church reasonably closely, he flattened out the hill and opened up the scene as can be seen in a contemporary photograph (see TG1646 figure 1). Indeed, prompted by Nugent’s thoughts, my visit to the location suggested that the artist had made further changes to the scene. My initial thoughts were that the buildings to the right were invented, whilst those to the left seem to have been incorporated from another source, perhaps a location where the tripartite Georgian window and a prominent square tower – similar to that seen on the right-hand side of The Ouse Bridge, York (TG1649) – would have made a less incongruous appearance than here in a range of vernacular buildings that are out of scale with the rest of the composition. However, the fact that the other sketches in the sequence of Yorkshire subjects made in the summer of 1799 or 1800 were demonstrably made on the spot has caused a rethink and I now no longer believe that the sketch was made as a compositional study for the watercolour, trying out a combination of invented elements in relation to the church.

My initial doubts about the veracity of the view of Kirk Deighton stemmed from Girtin’s sometimes cavalier treatment of buildings ancillary to the main topographical subject, as in the case of Kelso Abbey: The West Front. Thus, in one version (TG1117), the right-hand side of the facade is obscured by a low thatched cottage, whilst in another (TG1717) its place is taken by a more substantial three-storey house. Therefore, even though I am no longer of the opinion that this is a hybrid scene, somewhere between a topographical view and an architectural capriccio - a composite image that signifies a typical English village rather than the depiction of an actual place - there is still something that does not quite add up. Perhaps if there was an element of invention in the composition, that might explain why Girtin went to rather greater lengths than was usually the case to populate his rural scene with a wide range of animals, figures and carts, all carefully observed and positioned.

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has identified the support used by Girtin as a coarse laid strong wrapping paper by an unknown English manufacturer (Smith, 2002b, p.171; Bower, Report). This is from the same batch as the support used for Bamburgh Castle (TG1104). This, in turn, was laid down on a contemporary off-white wove paper, probably produced by Robert Edmeads (unknown dates) and Thomas Pine (unknown dates) at Great Ivy Mill near Maidstone. The coarse support used by Girtin is particularly evident because of the work’s very faded condition, which has seen the greys of the clouds, the blues of the sky and the greens of the vegetation all reduced to an almost monochrome sepia, making the work’s compositional weaknesses even more apparent. Protected areas to the top and left suggest something of the scale of the problem.

1799 - 1800

Kirk Deighton, near Wetherby



The Ouse Bridge, York


1800 - 1801

Kelso Abbey: The West Front



Kelso Abbey: The West Front


1798 - 1799

Bamburgh Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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