George Fennel Robson (1788–1838)

View of Bywell Castle, Northumberland

Watercolour, 46 x 76.5 cm (18 x 30 in)

A Norman Castle, Bywell had a chequered and violent past, as an essential defence against the perpetual inroads of the Scots and as a bulwark in the War of the Roses. By the time of Robson’s visit, it had been derelict and most of the village of Bywell with it. Indeed the village,once the centre of considerable industry, was reduced to a handful of houses. The beauty of the area, on the banks of the Tyne, made it an ideal site for the building of the Hall in the late 18th century, with the added bonus of a derelict castle in the view- in accordance with Payne Knight’s advice on picturesque vistas. Robson’s purpose is to emphasise the feeling of decay (hence the broken arches of the bridge) within an idyllic pastoral setting, and thus make a statement about transience and impermanence.