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  • The Turner Family of Hampshire

    Godfrey Wordsworth Turner

    21st May 1825 to 20th December 1891

      Godfrey Wordsworth Turner was the son of John Turner and Elizabeth Wordsworth. He was born on 21st May 1825 and baptised a few weeks later at St Pancras Church on 12th June. In the baptismal register, his father is described as Gentleman, living in Kentish Town. Two years later, when Godfrey's younger sister was baptised, the family home was described as Chapel House, Kentish Town. Previously John and Elizabeth Turner had been living at 402 The Strand and in 1836, when John Turner died, the address given was 177 The Strand. John Turner's occupation is shown variously as merchant and tobacconist. Elizabeth, Godfrey's mother, was the daughter of Samuel and Sarah Wordsworth and was born in Bristol, the church register for St Mary le Port recording her baptism on 17 July 1793.

      From a very early age, five or six years, Godfrey would accompany his father and uncle to various London theatres, soon developing an appreciation for the performing arts. Still yet very young, he would join the company backstage and meet off-stage the famous actors and actresses of the day. Many years later in 1886, he recalled vividly those early experiences in an article he wrote for The Theatre, a monthly review of drama, music and fine arts. The piece was entitled: The First Nights of My Young Days, wherein he also included a charming description of his uncle, Edward Holdsworth Turner..

      A very welcome visitor to the family home was Godfrey's great uncle, Edward Wollstonecraft. Edward was the son of Edward Bland Wollstonecraft, who was the half cousin of Mary Wollstonecraft, pioneer in women's rights. Godfrey had very fond memories of Edward and included an account of him in his book: Art Studies of Home Life. Edward was a merchant and spent many years in Gibraltar. He lived to his 80th year and died in 1849 at his home in Wales. Click here for Godfrey's description of his great uncle, Edward Wollstonecraft.

      Showing an aptitude for art, Godfrey received instruction from, we are told in his obituaries, the artist, Leigh. In Newman Street, there was an art school run by the artist, James Mathews Leigh, one of the very few art schools in London at that time. However, on the advice of his father's, his uncle's and his own good friend, the writer, Leigh Hunt, he chose to embark on what was to prove a very successful career in writing and journalism.

      His first position was with the Spectator, then published under the guidance of Thornton Hunt, where his talent was soon recognised. He contributed to other publications including the Morning Chronicle and the Leader. Subsequently he became art critic for the John Bull and later, editor. He moved on to work for the Daily News and, in 1860, joined the staff of The Daily Telegraph. There, he was engaged in various capacities including, special correspondent, leader writer, art critic and reviewer.

      He was much travelled, as the dedication of his book, Art Studies of Home Life, reveals:



      F.R.S., D.C.L., LL.D.


          If I had written a book of all my wanderings in this world,
        and had dignified such work with the name of "Travels," I should scarcely have
        thought of dedicating the volume to you. But, sitting at home, over a homely
        piece of labour, I have often caught my fancy running back to old days and
        old scenes, far off on the ocean of time, yet always in hail of memory.

          So often has your kind presence come back with those old scenes and
        days. Recollections of Scandinavian journeys, of delightful cruisings among
        Baltic isles, of tropic loveliness and grandeur, and the thousand beauties of the
        Caribbean seas, are all more precious to me for the advantages conferred on
        them by your companionship and your incomparable powers of natural obser-
        vation. And I have no pleasanter hope, in relation to these pages, than that
        they may faintly remind you - like the familiar shell on the mantelpiece, which
        sounds for ever of the sea - of distant times and places you have endeared
        to the remembrance of

        Your grateful Friend,

                        GODFREY TURNER

      Godfrey enjoyed a wide circle of good friends and was well acquainted with leading figures of the day. In the capacity of special correspondent and amongst other duties, he accompanied a Royal Commission sent to Jamaica after a local uprising had been suppressed with loss of life when martial law was declared by the Governor, Edward Eyre.

      His obituary in the Daily Telegraph described him thus:

        As a writer he was always distinguished by the extreme grace and purity of his style, a quality due both to refinement of nature and to scholarly erudition.

        He was well known as a contributor of light and popular articles, tales, and "vers de société" to the magazines, and as a writer of songs.

        He united a kind and genial disposition with an old-world courtesy and manner.

      Godfrey learned to appreciate the works of William Wordsworth from his mother's knee, her maiden name being the same as the poet's. Similarly, Godfrey had a deep love of nature and abhorrence of all forms of cruelty. He demonstrated his great sensitivity in his writings where he would use his literary skills to describe his observations of the beauty of the natural world but in which he would also boldly condemn fashionable practices that inflicted pain on living creatures.

      Godfrey wrote mostly under his own name, but sometimes published his poems under pseudonyms, including, G de B or Godfrey de Bouillon.

      His books include:

        Art Studies of Home Life, Cassell, Petter and Galpin, London (c1878)

        Homely Scenes from Great Painters, London (1871)

        Jest and Earnest: or the Ludlam papers, London (1861)

        Picturesque Europe, Cassell, Petter and Galpin, London,

        Picturesque Wales, W J Adams and Sons, London (1884)

      Godfrey Turner died on 20th December 1891 at his home in Adelaide Road, Hampstead, and was buried in Hampstead Cemetery on 24th December.


        Boase, Frederick, Modern English Biography (1901)
        Men of the Time (1891)
        Black and White (2nd January 1892 p 4)
        Daily Telegraph (21st December 1891)
        Daily Telegraph (22nd December 1891)

      Descendants of Godfrey Wordsworth Turner

      Godfrey Wordsworth Turner b: 21 January 1825 Baptised: 12 June 1825 St Pancras Old Church. Occupation: Writer and Journalist. Census 1871: Writer for a Newspaper, living at 7 Eldon Terrace, Chelsea. Census 1881: Journalist, living at 28 King Henry's Road, Hampstead. Census 1891: Writer, living at 30 Adelaide Rd, Hampstead. d: 20 December 1891 at 30 Adelaide Road, Hampstead . married: 15 June 1849, in Parish Church of West Hackney, Mary Anne Godber b: Abt. 1827 Hampstead

      1. Edward H Turner b: Abt. 1851 Kensington
      2. Margaret W Turner b: Abt. 1855 Westminster
      3. Ellen A Turner b: Abt. 1856 Marylebone
      4. Alice M Turner b: Abt. 1857 Kentish Town
      5. Harry C Turner b: Abt. 1859 Kentish Town
      6. Marian Wordsworth Turner b: Abt. March 1862 Pancras. Census 1891: An Actress, living with parents
      7. Godfrey W Turner b: Abt. 1863 Camden
      8. Leopold M Turner b: Abt. 1865 St Pancras
      9. Ethel M Turner b: Abt. 1867 St Pancras
      10. Kate Lydia Turner b: Abt. 1870 St Pancras. Census 1891: An Insurance Clerk, living with parents
      11. Sidney D Turner b: Abt. 1873 Chelsea. Census 1891: A Railway Clerk, living with parents

    For index to the Turner family of Hampshire Click here

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