St Agatha's Abbey, Easby

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Opening Times:

1 April-30 September 10am-6pm;
1-31 October 10am-5pm;
1 November-31 March 10am-4pm;
Closed 24-26 December and 1 January

Prices:

Free

Venue contact details:

T: 0870 333 1181
W: www.english-heritage.org.uk/

St Agatha's Abbey, Easby

Easby Abbey was a Premonstratensian or White Canons house, now notable for its lavish roof-height refectory of c.1300 and other monastic buildings. Within the precinct is the still-active parish church of St Agatha, displaying fine 13th century wall paintings.

Turner visited the Abbey of St Agatha, Easby twice, as part of his two trips to Richmond in 1797 and 1816.  On both visits Turner seems to have stayed in nearby Richmond, and enjoyed the walk of about a mile along the banks of the River Swale downstream to the abbey.

 

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Turner's Viewpoint

In 1797 Turner found a fine viewpoint of the abbey from slightly upstream and made a watercolour study of this (St Agatha's Abbey, Easby, Yorkshire, The British Museum, Wilton number: 274).  He also made a detailed study of the architecture of the north range but his preferred view was from downstream recorded in a detailed pencil sketch, which he afterwards developed into a major exhibition-scale watercolour (St Agatha's Abbey, Easby, from the River Swale, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Wilton number: 273).

Returning to Easby for a second time in 1816, Turner made new detailed studies as well as finding new views from the west, the first from near the mill and the second from slightly closer.  The subject that Turner developed into a finished watercolour for the history of York series was the view from downstream that he had first painted in 1797.  He developed it through a superb colour study (St Agatha's Abbey, Easby, Yorkshire: Colour Study, Tate Gallery, Finberg number: CCLXIII 360) into one of the most highly-wrought and serene compositions of all his Yorkshire subjects (St Agatha's Abbey, near Richmond, Yorkshire, British Museum, Wilton number: 561).  It is evening and horses have been brought down to the river to drink.  A milkmaid basks in the last rays of the sun as they shaft through the darkening air over the river.  In the foreground a mallard takes flight.  It has frequently been said that this is Turner punning on his own middle name of Mallord.

While his 1797 view from downstream is difficult to obtain today (and it's hard to see where Turner can have been if not in the middle of the river), the beautiful setting of the substantial Abbey ruins can be easily reached via a pleasant walk from Richmond Castle along the River Swale.

Discover The Landscape

The Turner Trails bench can be found within the grounds of St Agatha's Abbey.

Richmond Audio Tour

Follow in the footsteps of one of England's greatest artists to explore the routes that JMW Turner took around Richmond with our Turner Trails audio tours, which will work with any mp3 player or iPod, as well as mobile phones and PDAs that can play mp3 audio.

You can also visit the Turner Trails panel, which is located in Trinity Church Square in the middle of Richmond.

Turner's Religious Houses

Listen to Episode 4 of our Turner podcast series when Turner expert, Professor David Hill, is joined by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, as they look at Turner's sketches and paintings of Yorkshire's historic religious houses.

The Venue

Address:

Easby, Nr Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 7EU

Map reference: NZ185003

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Directions to St Agatha's Abbey, Easby:

4 miles SW of the A1 at Scotch Corner. Follow the A6108 to Richmond. From the town centre, follow the B6271 for around 1 mile. Follow the brown tourist signs

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