Isle of Wight Council

Museum of Island History

The Thomas Rowlandson Collection

 Steephill by Thomas Rowlandson

In June 2002 the Isle of Wight Council, with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Art Fund, purchased 112 watercolour sketches by Thomas Rowlandson  (PDF, 374KB, 2 pages), Samuel Howitt (PDF, 778KB,3 pages) and others.


This remarkable collection came from Longleat House in Wiltshire, seat of the Marquess of Bath.  It was rediscovered in the library in two bound volumes (PDF, 247KB, 1 page, ).


The 112 watercolour sketches were made by Rowlandson and his friends during two tours of the Isle of Wight in the 1790s.


Whilst travelling to the Island the group visited locations on the mainland where they also produced watercolour drawings:



They travelled to the Island by passage boat (PDF, 282KB, 2 pages) landing at Shalfleet (PDF, 901KB, 6 pages).


Rowlandson’s party visited many sites around the Isle of Wight including Brading - Godshill and Ryde (PDF, 322KB, 3 pages), Cowes (PDF, 1.61MB, 11 pages) and its harbour, East Cowes and Newport River (PDF,725KB, 5 pages), Freshwater (PDF, 863KB, 7 pages), the county town of Newport and Carisbrooke (PDF, 964KB, 9 pages), Shanklin (PDF, 563KB, 4 pages) and Steephill (PDF, 747KB, 7 pages).


They also visited the west of the Island and sketched views of Alum Bay, the Needles and Yarmouth with its castle (PDF, 488KB, 5 pages).


Rowlandson’s first documented tour (PDF, 574KB, 4 pages) of the Isle of Wight was made in 1784.  A reproduction print of a Victorian publication held at the Isle of Wight County Record Office


You can see our Rowlandson paintings along with other watercolours in the Isle of Wight Council Heritage Service collections by visiting the "The Watercolour World website".