JMW Turner’s Landscape of Dudley Castle – by David Ford

Having visited the collection of his paintings at the Tate Gallery in London, I could not resist researching the background behind J. M. W. Turner’s painting of Dudley Castle. It started with a simple sketch Turner made of the castle, canal and tunnel entrance, made during his visit to Dudley in 1830. But where was he when he drew the sketch?

I remembered that some years ago I joined a local history walk organised by Tipton Civic Society. It was during this walk that the guide mentioned Turner’s painting and that it was possibly drawn from a position near the canal bridge. I went back to that bridge, taking a couple of photographs in the direction of the castle and compared these with the Turner sketch, but the results were far from conclusive.

So I contacted Keith Hodgkins, Tipton Civic Society chaiman to see if he could help. The society keeps an archive of local history material some which covered the Turner painting and offered to send me what they had.

This additional information was perfect. It said that Turner visited Dudley in September 1830 possibly staying at the Dudley Arms Hotel, (now the site of Wilkinson’s). He was known for the spontaneous sketches of anything which caught his eye, even of the departing coach he arrived in from Birmingham!. And it was from these many sketches in the Tipton and Dudley Port areas that the Dudley landscape was produced.

There are two versions of this painting apparently, something I wasn’t aware of until I started the research, one in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool, the other in the art gallery here in Dudley, I don’t suppose many people know that.