OWNERS of a museum in Malmesbury have recently acquired a famous Turner watercolour painting of a historical landmark in their town. 

Renowned English Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner's (also known as William Turner) watercolour painting of Malmesbury Abbey is currently being displayed at Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury.

Turner was inspired by the 12th-century abbey ruins on his first visit to Malmesbury in 1791 when he was just 16 years old.

He painted the watercolour over pencil in 1827 when he returned to the area, aged 52.

This painting was purchased from a London seller through a mixture of local fundraising and funding from the National Lottery and from the Art Fund. 

The seller had originally been looking for a buyer in America, but spotted an advert in Country Life by Athelstan Museum trustee Angela Sykes.

A selection water colour paintings by Malmesbury Secondary School pupils have also recently been displayed alongside Turner's piece in an exhibition.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Ben Hobbs, a young artist from Malmesbury School who took part in the Turner project next to his workBen Hobbs, a young artist from Malmesbury School who took part in the Turner project next to his work (Image: Athelstan Museum)

Angela said: "J.M.W. Turner is one of the country's greatest painters and to have his interpretation of Malmesbury Abbey hanging in our museum is no better place for it to be seen by many people who would not have been able to do so."

One of the principal criteria expressed by the National Lottery for the successful funding of the purchase was for the museum to involve a ‘wider range of people in heritage’. 

As a result, the Turner Diversity Programme was developed, which aims to take art connected to the Turner painting to as many different sections of society as possible.  

Athelstan museum now runs workshops and events for young people during the school holidays and invites schools to visit the museum for tours and talks. 

Susan Mockler, vice-chair of the Athelstan Museum management team, said: "This project has brought in more young people to enjoy the museum – our living history will only be appreciated if it can be experienced in places such as museums.”

Sue Gibbons, curriculum leader for Art at Malmesbury School, said: “The pupils see the Abbey every day, and a lot of them would have taken it for granted.

"A lot of effort went into making the exhibition look as professional as possible, all the pieces were professionally mounted, and it looked great.”

Lucy Horlick was one of the pupils Malmesbury Secondary School whose painting was chosen to be exhibited alongside Turners.

Lucy said: “All I really knew was that he had lived in Malmesbury and had sketched it, but finished the painting later in life.

“He used to paint from what he felt as well as what he saw, so I tried to paint my piece from what I felt while I was standing in front of the Abbey.”

For more information about the museum and Turner’s watercolour, visit tinyurl.com/4fska6pu