February 2022


Latest news from The Athelstan Museum, home of Malmesbury’s own Turner

The Athelstan Museum has acquired an ink and wash drawing of Market Day at Malmesbury Market Cross. It’s thought the work could be by the famous English artist and caricaturist, Thomas Rowlandson.

The acquisition comes almost two years after the team acquired a genuine masterpiece. That being a watercolour over pencil of Malmesbury Abbey, painted by Joseph Mallord William Turner in 1827.

This latest find came when a new volunteer at the Athelstan Museum, Jonathan Tucker, heard that the drawing of Malmesbury Market Cross by ‘a follower of Thomas Rowlandson’ was coming up for auction. On hearing this intelligence the intrepid volunteer decided to investigate further.


Jonathan, an experienced art dealer, showed members of the museum council detailed photographs of the drawing. Further, he obtained favourable feedback on the work of art from former contacts in the art market world.

Based on this information, a top price was set on the drawing by the council and Jonathan bid for the work on behalf of the museum.

Jonathan had been a volunteer at the Athelstan Museum for less than a week when he first heard about the drawing coming up for auction.

He said: bidding for this drawing and supporting the museum using my art dealer experience to acquire a local piece of history for Malmesbury was delightful.

Athelstan Museum Gets More Malmesbury Art - Market Cross by Thomas Rowlandson
Market Cross by Thomas Rowlandson

About the piece

Mounted under glass, the ink and wash work of art, measures 15.5cm x 23.5cm (6” x 9¼”). It’s a lovely ink drawing, in reasonable condition and with some colour highlights,’ said Deborah Clogg, head of collections at the Athelstan Museum. ‘It shows the Cross area with a market in progress. In Rowlandson’s style, the picture is full of life with people, animals, stalls and the general hubbub of a busy market day.

‘The museum would like to undertake further research on its provenance. Some believe the drawing may be by Thomas Rowlandson himself. But there is currently insufficient evidence for this attribution.’

Thomas Rowlandson, born in London in 1756, was an English artist and caricaturist noted for his political satire and social observation. Like other caricaturists of his age, Rowlandson’s caricatures are often robust or bawdy. His caricatures included those of people in power such as:

  • The Duchess of Devonshire
  • William Pitt the Younger
  • Napolean Bonaparte

Rowlandson died in 1827 at the age of 71 at his lodgings in London after a prolonged illness.

Sharon Nolan, museum chair confirmed: ‘Once the necessary restoration work and provence research has been undertaken, we’ll put the piece on show in the museum.

I’d like to thank our new volunteer, Jonathan, for enabling the museum to get this wonderful drawing. And we would love to welcome more new volunteers to our team at the museum.’

Supporting bodies

Thanks to support from:

  • the National Lottery Heritage Fund
  • the Art Fund and …
  • … local Wiltshire donors …

… the Athelstan Museum was able to buy an original Turner watercolour of Malmesbury Abbey and secure the iconic picture for future generations. The Turner now has pride of place at the top of the stairs in the renovated mezzanine floor of the museum.

For more information visit https://www.athelstanmuseum.org.uk

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