Jack Pickup Exhibition

Paintings of Plymouth’s Waterfront


Turnchapel is on the edge of a stretch of water known as The Cattewater.  It is here that the River Plym meets Plymouth Sound. In the painting The Wharf, Turnchapel, the buildings are stacked one behind the other on a steeply rising, narrow strip of land beside the water. Near the water’s edge is an entrance with a small slipway. Above this is the cottage, known as Drift Cottage, which was built in the 18th century. It was originally a lifeboat house, and believed to be one of the oldest lifeboat houses in the country (according to records in Plymouth Archives).  In the courtyard, is a shed with rich rusty red weathered corrugated iron panels, which blend well with the warm hues of the painting. Jack Pickup possibly caught the Turnchapel Ferry from the Barbican when he went to Turnchapel for his painting and sketching trips.

The artist painted another view from Turnchapel, from a higher position looking over the roofs of this village towards The Power Station (since dismantled). The oil painting of this same view is owned by The Box.

A little further around the waterfront is Teat’s Hill, Coxside. In this painting there is a view over the water to the Barbican and the old Fish Market. The disused and deteriorating Nissen huts are a reminder of earlier military presence here. An oil painting of this scene is owned by The Box, Plymouth City Council.

In this recent photograph of Teat’s Hill beach the roof of the aquarium can be seen over the brow of the slope. The aquarium opened in 1998, about 40 years after Jack Pickup painted this scene.

Images © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: Tessa Hall


Pickup’s studio was in Southside Street on the Barbican, in the 1950s, and he spent many hours painting and drawing in this area. Some parts of the Barbican and Sutton Harbour have changed considerably since then. For example, what was once Sutton Wharf and Sutton Jetty is now Sutton Harbour Marina with numerous pontoons. However, some parts of the Barbican have retained features that are still recognisable.

The painting Roofs and Boats in Harbour is a view from the rooftop above Jack Pickup’s studio. Here in a very sheltered part of Sutton Harbour boats are moored near Quay Road. The base of the customs house can be seen on the other side of the water. 

In the painting Seated Fisherman, the boxes that the fisherman is sitting on and resting his foot upon have the Plymouth Harbour registration code ‘PH’ printed on them. The warehouse roof-top from where Roofs and Boats in Harbour was painted can be seen behind the fisherman. The upper floors of these warehouses in Quay Road are now apartments and at street level there are many eating places with seating outside overlooking the water. (See the 2017 photograph of Quay Road). The fishing boat in The Trawler is also moored next to Quay Road. The Custom’s House can be seen in the background. 

The building in the foreground in The Barbican is situated where the café ‘Cap’n Jasper’s’ now stands, at the end of Quay Road in a corner next to the old Fish Market (now a restaurant). A little further along the Barbican, in View across to Teat’s Hill, people are about to board the small ferry boat that ran from the end of West Pier to East Pier at Teat’s Hill (where Plymouth Aquarium now stands). The footbridge and lock between East and West Pier did not exist at this time.

Sutton Jetty alongside Vauxhall Quay can be seen in View over the Harbour and Harbour looking towards St Judes. The trees in the distance are in Beaumont Park and the church is St Judes Church.

All the other paintings in this section: Barbican, boat; PH163; Trawlers, Sutton Harbour; Harbour Steps and Boat; and Two Trawlers are all studies of locations around Sutton Harbour and the Barbican.

Images © the artist’s estate. Photo credit: Tessa Hall


The scene in Bathing Pool, The Hoe is typical of this part of West Hoe with its early C20 concrete sun and bathing terraces, alcoves and platforms. The painting Early Morning, West Hoe is a view of West Hoe Basin, an enclosed basin style harbour built from blocks of Plymouth limestone in 1880.  The building in the foreground was a residence called Rock Cottage and had a café attached. Next to the basin was The Yacht Club (the Royal South Western Yacht Club). The yacht club was originally used as public baths but the building is now a restaurant. In West Hoe and Drake’s Island it is possible to see how the basin and yacht club are positioned in relation to each other.

Further west, on the far side of Mount Wise, Mutton Cove has a wide cobbled public slipway, and a collection of boats and storage sheds. The roof that can be partially seen in the top left hand corner of the painting is covered No. 1 slipway. Slip No. 1 is the oldest remaining covered slipway in any royal dockyard. It is sited adjacent to the dockyard wall and dates from around 1763 — its roof was added in around 1814. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument. In this painting, it is the function and the history of the location that gives the scene its character.

Images © the artist’s estate. 

13 thoughts on “Jack Pickup Exhibition

  1. I love these paintings. It’s wonderful to see familiar places in the light and colours of the fifties.

  2. Wonderful mural and paintings. Powerful and yet sensitive, full of feeling yet restrained. His visionary spirit and compassion are completely present in the work. I love it. He is a great artist and I hope to see the originals when I next visit Plymouth.
    Thanks for this enlightening exhibition.

    1. Hello Beverley. So glad you enjoyed the exhibition. Do let us know when you’re next in Plymouth so we can show your the mural. Of course, the building is closed at the moment, but as soon as we’re open again we’d love to see you.

  3. Such beautiful paintings. Lovely to read about the history of the artist and Plymouth.

  4. Wonderful paintings. I am proud to be a cousin of Jack living in NZ at the moment ‘and last saw him in 1950. He did some great paintings of Plymouth and its environs. The colours so fresh and the paintings so crisp. It was wonderful seeing so many of them on the internet. It is also interesting seeing the pictures of Plymouth foreshore at that period after the war.

    Thankyou to his family for making it so easy for me to look at them.

    Maureen “née Pickup” McMillan

    1. Thank you for your comment Maureen. Jack Pickup certainly created an impressive and unique collection of paintings. (I helped Jack Pickup’s family organise this virtual exhibition of his work.) Tessa Hall

  5. This a wonderful exhibition of Jack Pickup’s work. His mural of Christ Calming the Storm, hangs in our Unitarian Church in Notte Street; I recognise the detail, the arms pulling on the oars, at the top of this virtual exhibition. Tessa Hall gave an interesting talk about that and some of his other paintings in History week a few years back. This ‘virtual’ exhibition shows many more of his works. They are very atmospheric, giving a real sense of being in Plymouth a generation ago. Having moved to Plymouth in the early 1970’s, I can recognise some places, while others have changed so much! Through these paintings seeing places and people as they were, going about their daily business, which must have been so much harder in those post war years, when people were rebuilding their lives. I have ‘shared’ this with my brother and my sister-in-law, also an artist, living in Southampton, another coastal city which was much damaged by bombing and has been rebuilt.

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