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Turner passed through Cowthorpe, a small village three miles north of Wetherby, in late August 1816, as he made his way from Farnley to York on the second of his Grand Tours of Yorkshire.

Turner made three sketches in total.  His subject was the (then) famous Cowthorpe Oak, a regular subject for artists in Turner's time, and it seems obvious from the particularly detailed sketches that he was intending a finished watercolour of the subject, though none seems ever to have been made.


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Turner's Viewpoint

This sketch (Cowthorpe Oak (on Banks of River Nidd), 'Yorkshire 1' sketchbook, Tate Gallery, Finberg number: CXLIV 9a - 10) is the first of Turner's three studies of the Cowthorpe Oak, which in 1816 was one of the best-known and most venerable of ancient English oaks.  Although by this time in a state of some decay, its truck measured 20 metres in circumference, and the leading branch extended some 15 metres from the bole.  It was estimated to be 1800 years old and at its peak, in about 1700, it covered half an acre.

Sadly, anyone hoping to see any ancient oak tree will be disappointed. It was already in decay when Turner sketched it and finally expired by about 1950. It has virtually disappeared altogether, but the remains of its base are still visible.

Turner's drawing also clearly shows St Michael's Church, a grade I listed building, in the background, which is worth visiting and is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  In fact, Turner has clearly combined a whole set of impressions of the church, the oak and the village into a collage.  In reality, the orientation of buildings behind the oak and next to the church are incorrect but are recognisable as older buildings around the village.

Discover The Landscape

The Turner Trails bench can be found at St Michael's Church.

Cowthorpe is also included on the Turner Trails panel at Wetherby.

The Venue


St Michael's Church, Oak Road, Cowthorpe, Wetherby, LS22 5EZ - Co-ordinates, 53 58 06.0N 1 21 02.50W

Map reference: SE427527

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Directions to Cowthorpe:

Exit A1(M) J46, follow B1224 for approx. 2 miles, take the slip road signed to Cowthorpe and follow minor road to village. In village take first left turn and the Church can be found at the end of this road on the right hand side.