Eskdale Mill’s connection with JMW Turner lost

Until recently we believed that a 1798 colour-washed drawing by JMW Turner showed the mill, a copy of another artist’s work. Since the 1798 drawing was auctioned at Christies in 2006 under the title ‘Boot Mill in Eskdale on Whillan Beck, Lake District’, it has appeared, amongst other places, in the successful bid to UNESCO for World Heritage Site status for the Lake District.

Turner did not visit the Lake District until after 1798, and he did not reach Eskdale. Discrepancies in the artwork were put down to artistic licence. Cecilia Powell’s article in the Turner Society News Spring 2015 edition, however, convincingly demonstrates that this picture in fact is of Corwen, North Wales. Powell also notes that Turner’s copy is clearly based on an original watercolour by John Laporte from 1792. Several other artworks undoubtedly do show Eskdale Mill, but sadly our supposed connection with Britain’s greatest artist has been lost.