Grouse Shooting on Beamsley Beacon (1816)

Grouse Shooting on Beamsley Beacon (1816) is an unusually rich and deeply hued watercolour by J.M.W. Turner, which hangs at Hertford House as part of the Wallace Collection. It recalls the 12th August that year when Turner was joining his patron Walter Fawkes and his brother Richard on a shooting party on Beamsley Beacon, near Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire. Turner is thought to be the second figure from the right, holding a gun. Upper class people going hunting was considered an excellent use of time and status, yet tragedy struck. Death was stalking men as well as grouse that week: the following day, Richard was fatally wounded during a shooting accident. In the middle ground, Turner has applied tonal washes to create a rainy, sombre atmospheric effect, perhaps hinting at the heavy grief the family was to suffer.

The day before, some few dozen miles to the west, poorer people had gathered at Martin Top Farm to witness the Rev George Partington from Colne and the Rev Adam Bray from Horton-in-Craven constitute The Church and Congregation called Independents Assembling in Salem Chapel, Newby Hills. I cannot vouch for the souls of that gentle hunting party, but one by one, they were summoned to appear before the great God in judgement. The poorer people of Martin Top, of whom no artist thought fit to record or memorialise, are certainly now with their Saviour, wealthier, healthier and happier than ever they were on earth, enjoying a greater bounty in heaven than Turner and his patrons enjoyed at Bolton Abbey.

In two hundred years' time, will your activities and life be thought worthy of remembrance? Christians are generally held in low regard, but what they do now will echo through eternity. The rich and fashionable will be forgotten, for ever. 

Let others boast of heaps of gold,
Christ for me.
His riches never can be told,
Christ for me.
Your gold will waste and wear away,
Your honours perish in a day,
My portion never can decay,
Christ for me.

-Richard Jukes