For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin

Knaresborough Castle, from the High Bridge

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1511: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Knaresborough Castle, from the High Bridge, 1799–1800, graphite on wove paper, 11.6 × 17.8 cm, 4 ⁹⁄₁₆ × 7 in. Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI, anonymous gift (73.204.18).

Photo courtesy of Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Anonymous gift (73.204.18) (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Knaresborough Castle, from the High Bridge
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
11.6 × 17.8 cm, 4 ⁹⁄₁₆ × 7 in

‘Knaresbro’ on the back

Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; River Scenery; Yorkshire View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website


Arthur Henry Holland-Hibbert, 3rd Viscount Knutsford (1855–1935); his posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 11 April 1935, lot 66, one of three; bought by Tancred Borenius for Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood (1882–1947), £7; then by descent to George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood (1923–2011); his sale, Christie’s, 13 July 1965, lot 164 as 'A View of the River at Bilton Bank, Knaresborough, Yorkshire, with the Abbey on the skyline'; bought by 'Agnew', 70 gns; Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.5447); bought from them by an anonymous collector, 1966, £200; presented to the Museum, 1973

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1966, no.197 as ’The River at Bilton Bank, Knaresborough’


Borenius, 1936, no.312; Hill, 1999, p.44

About this Work

This view of Knaresborough Castle from the High Bridge is one of seven surviving sketches that Girtin executed on the river Nidd in and around the town, probably on his visit to Yorkshire in the summer of either 1799 or 1800 (the others being TG1509, TG1510TG1512TG1539TG1542 and TG1589). Each of the drawings was executed on a piece of wove paper of the same vertical dimensions, and there is some evidence that they were all removed from a sketchbook. Two other drawings on the same paper have matching holes, which suggests that they had been bound into a book (TG1508a and TG1525). The latter sketch (Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea) is missing a small section, which, as a later copy indicates (TG1601), must have strayed onto the opposite page. It seems that on just this one occasion Girtin did execute his sketches in a book, though, as the paper historian Peter Bower has argued, it is unlikely that this was made commercially, and it may be that the artist himself assembled sheets of paper into a convenient gathering which would account for slight variations in their size (Bower, 2002, p.141). Whatever the case, this sheet is likely to have featured amongst the ‘180 Sketches’ or ‘4 little Books partly of sketches and partly blank paper’ that John Girtin (1773–1821) records taking possession of following the artist’s death in November 1802 and which he subsequently sold on (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1

One of the views on the river Nidd (TG1589) was used as the basis for a finished watercolour (TG1550), and a fine view titled The Abbey Mill, near Knaresborough (TG1672) was also based on what appears to have been another, lost sketch from 1799, which is today known from a copy in the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1607). Girtin also produced an imposing distant view of Knaresborough Castle from the south east for Edward Lascelles (1764–1814) (TG1669), and it is likely that all of the sketches that he made in the area were created in the hope of securing a similar order from his patron. Lascelles lived at Harewood, about fifteen kilometres to the south, and Girtin probably visited Knaresborough on an excursion from the great house where he was said to have had a room put aside for him to work (Roget, 1891, vol.1, p.96). 

Girtin’s view from the river Nidd looking up to the castle keep, set dramatically above the gorge, was a popular one with artists and patrons alike and it bears a striking resemblance to a small watercolour of Knaresborough that appears to have been produced by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (TG1397). The drawing was at one time attributed to Girtin, but it now seems that Turner based it on a sketch he made on his trip to the north east in 1797 and that its resemblance to Girtin’s sketch arose because both artists independently chose as their viewpoint a convenient position on the High Bridge, looking east to the spectacular site of the ruined castle.

1799 - 1800

Grimbald Bridge, near Knaresborough


1799 - 1800

A Crag on the River Nidd


1799 - 1800

Bilton Banks, on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough


1799 - 1800

Knaresborough, from the North West


1799 - 1800

Knaresborough, Looking across Bilton Banks


1799 - 1800

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough


1799 - 1800

Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck


1799 - 1800

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea


(?) 1801

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea


1799 - 1800

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough



Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough


1800 - 1801

The Abbey Mill, near Knaresborough


(?) 1800

The Abbey Mill, near Knaresborough



A Distant View of Knaresborough, from the South East


1797 - 1798

Knaresborough, from the River Nidd


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 Details are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.