(Links to text are underlined)


Charts and Figures



1 Initial Stages

2 The Wollstonecraft Connection

3 Records at the Guildhall Library

4 Edward John's Family

5 Edward's Will

6 Edward Bland, Merchant Adventurer

7 Links with the Rutson Family

8 Poor Britannia!

9 Edward Wollstonecraft, Weaver and Citizen of London

10 Marin v Wollstonecraft

11 Entertained in the House of Nell Gwynn

12 The Chancellor's Decree and Order

13 Epilogue







                Chapter 2


                The Wollstonecraft Connection



                I was curious to find out about Edward Holdsworth Turner’s family.

                Now that I had the date of his death, I might be able to trace a will that would give me more information. I soon found a copy in the Public Record Office, under their reference PROB 11/2129, quire 383.1 The will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 13th March 1851. As well as his daughter Lydia, whom he appointed executrix, he mentioned his other children, namely, Thomas Godfrey Turner, residing in Spain, John, Britannia, Mary Ann Antoinette, Henry and Joseph. He also included his grandson, Edward Wollstonecraft Mason, leaving him his gold hunting-watch.

                The 1851 census revealed that Lydia had been born in Sherborne, Dorset. A short holiday in that county sounded inviting and, whilst there, I could visit the record office in Dorchester.

                After much searching through the baptismal register for the Abbey Church of St Mary, Sherborne, alas to no avail, I found a number of the parish registers for Dorset had been indexed. Looking through the index for St Mary’s, I soon found a reference for the christening of Britannia, daughter of Edward and Eliza Turner, and another for Edward, apparently her brother, but nothing for Lydia in that index nor in any other for parishes in the vicinity. Locating those entries in the baptismal register was now made easy.

                I had expected to find Edward Holdsworth Turner’s profession to be that of a comedian or an actor, but I was very surprised to see he was a dancing master.

                The status of a dancing master has changed much. In the Middle Ages, the role would have been synonymous with that of a jester, but, by the time Edward was teaching, the profession had become quite prestigious. The ability to dance was regarded a social skill to be acquired by all, including the aristocracy. It was a very proper activity benefiting physique, grace and deportment. In his diary, Samuel Pepys recorded the Dancing Maister calling to instruct him and his wife; he considered dance to be, "a thing very useful for any gentleman".

                Edward may possibly have taught in Sherborne School itself and his position would have been regarded as of some significance. Amongst the dances taught were likely to have been the elegant and formal minuet together with, perhaps, the elaborate cotillion, forerunner to the quadrille. It is unlikely that the waltz would have been included in the curriculum, since it had only recently been introduced to this country and the close contact between the dancing couple was considered rather avant-garde.2, 3

                Referring to the IGI, I wondered about the following entries:


                To Whom




                Tunour, Thomas Godfrey



                17 Nov 1810


                Turner, Thomas Godfrey

                 Edward Turner / Eliza


                20 Feb 1811

                Portsmouth, St Thomas

                 Drummond, Hepzibeth



                18 Oct 1822


                Tunour, Thomas Godfrey

                Hepzibeth Drummond


                17 Jun 1844


                Tunour, Thomas

                Thomas Godfrey Tunour / Hepzibeth Drummond


                26 May 1845


                Tunour, Hepzibeth

                Thomas Godfrey Tunour / Hepzibeth Drummond



                Paris, Seine, France

                Tunour, Amelia

                Thomas Godfrey Tunour / Hepzibeth Drummond


                18 Dec 1847

                Paris, Seine, France

                Tunour, Edward

                Thomas Godfrey Tunour / Hepzibeth Drummond


                10 Mar 1849

                Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

                Tunour, Arthur

                Thomas Godfrey Tunour / Hepzibeth Drummond


                7 Oct 1864

                Canary Islands Provinces, Spain

                Figure 5: Extracts from the IGI relating to family of Thomas Godfrey and Hepzibeth Tunour

                There would be one way to confirm whether Thomas Godfrey "Tunour" was the son in Spain, mentioned in Edward’s will, and that would be to look either at his marriage certificate or in the marriage register. Finding the records, I was delighted to see that Thomas Godfrey was indeed the son of Edward Holdsworth Turner and really interested to see that Thomas Godfrey had followed his father’s profession, his occupation was given as "Professor of Dancing".4 Was he pursuing this career when his children were born in those different countries around Europe?

                Edward Holdsworth Turner’s descendants’ tree would look as follows:

                Figure 6: Descendants of Edward Holdsworth Turner

                I was still very intrigued about that middle name of Edward Wollstonecraft Mason. Where had I seen it before? Then in the middle of the night it came to me. I awoke and crept softly down the stairs into the room where my papers were scattered.

                Yes, I had recorded it; surely it was one of the names I had found in Boyd’s Marriage Index, when looking for the marriage of Joseph to Lydia. Indeed, there it was, scribbled at the bottom of a scrap of paper: 


                Miscellaneous Entries

                Joseph Turner to Lydia Wollstonecraft 1783 Hants ML

                Figure 7: Note of entry in Boyd’s Marriage Index relating to marriage of Joseph Turner to Lydia Wollstonecraft

                I left a message about my exciting discovery for my husband to see first thing in the morning, before he went to work. Returning to bed, I puzzled over ‘ML’ and why Hampshire. The following day, I checked my books and thought ‘ML’ might refer to a marriage licence.

                Could Edward have been named after his grandmother? Perhaps Lydia Wollstonecraft had come from Hampshire, since she and Joseph had been married there. The next place to look would be the Hampshire bonds and allegations for marriage licences. These were indexed by William J C Moens for the Harleian Society publication of 1893. Here I found details of the marriage of Joseph Turner to Lydia Wollstonecraft at Holy Rood Church, Southampton, on 8th December 1783. More information might be on the actual allegation and bond documents and these would be held at the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester. Another little trip would be in order.

                With the help of the staff, I found the relevant forms.5

                With no record of either Lydia’s or Joseph’s parents, I turned again to the IGI for help. I checked for the Wollstonecraft family in Hampshire, Dorset and London. There are many entries for London, but the following took my particular attention:


                To Whom




                Wollstonecraft, Edward Bland

                Charles Wollstonecraft / Britannia


                29 Mar 1735

                London, St Botolph Bishopsgate

                Wollstonecraft, Edward Bland

                Lydia Cooke


                03 Nov 1761

                London, Saint Mildred

                Wollstonecraft, Lydia

                Edward Blard Wollstonecraft / Lydia


                11 Oct 1762

                London, St Nicholas Cole Abbey

                Wollstonecraft, Britania

                Edward Blard Wollstonecraft / Lydia


                14 Aug 1765

                London, St Nicholas Cole Abbey

                Figure 8: Extracts from the IGI relating to family of Charles and Britannia Wollstonecraft

                The christening date for Lydia Wollstonecraft would match the age of Lydia Turner when she died, seventy in April 1833. Having already found a daughter and granddaughter called Britannia and now finding a sister with the same name, surely this could not be a coincidence.

                It was interesting to look at the details for Mary Wollstonecraft, the famous feminist. She had been born on 27 April 1759, the eldest daughter of Edward John Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Dixon, in Spitalfields, London, Her christening took place on 20th May of that year at St Botolph, Bishopsgate. Edward Bland Wollstonecraft had been christened in the same church. Could there possibly be a connection between Lydia and Mary?

                I proceeded to investigate Mary Wollstonecraft and her family. Imagine my amazement to find Edward Bland Wollstonecraft mentioned. However, there were differing concepts regarding his relationship to Mary. Was he her brother, uncle, cousin or were there two members of that family with the same name? I needed to know more, but, before checking the parish registers, I wanted further proof of Lydia Turner’s maiden name.

                The first place to look would be Edward Bland Wollstonecraft’s will. Would his daughter be mentioned? According to the Gentleman’s Magazine, he died on 31st July 1795:

                "At his house in Gloucester Square, Southampton, Edward Bland Wollstonecraft, esq." 6

                This was a select area of Southampton, close to the town quays, where rich merchants and other gentlemen of affluence and prosperity were increasingly taking up residence in the mid-eighteenth century. The Georgian houses of Gloucester Square were grand and impressive.

                From his will, held at the Public Record Office under their reference, PROB 11/1265, quire 95, proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 17th August 1795, it appears Edward must have been quite wealthy. He left £4,500 in Bank of England Stock and £3,000 in South Sea Annuities to be equally divided between his three children:

                "My Son Edward Wollstonecraft and my two Daughters, Lydia Turner, the Wife of Joseph Turner and Britannia Wollstonecraft, Spinster".

                The remainder of his estate, he left to his daughter, Britannia, whom he appointed executrix. Her co-executor was to be, "Thomas Mears of the Town of Southampton, Surgeon".

                During the middle of the eighteenth century, the health promoting benefits of drinking mineral water and bathing in saltwater were greatly advocated to the extent that such activities became very fashionable. Southampton, having both a source of spring water and being situated on the coast, became popular for "taking the waters". Lacking a beach, bathing houses were set up in the vicinity of the town quays. Later, the practice of drinking seawater became the vogue. Frederick, Prince of Wales, came to bathe in the seawater and, after his death, other members of the royal family gave the town their patronage. Writing in 1756, Jonas Hanway, humanitarian and founder of the Marine Society,7 described the popularity of Southampton for bathing with "people of distinction" and added:

                "The proof we saw here of the fantastic taste of the age we live in, by the bathing vestments intended for the ladies being flounced and pink’d".

                In 1764, the poet, Thomas Gray, extolled the virtues of the town and commented on the great number of bathers.

                In the autumn of 1779, Mary Wollstonecraft seems to have passed a very pleasant stay in Southampton, taking advantage of the facilities in the town for the improvement of her health.

                Could she have been the guest of Edward Bland Wollstonecraft and his family? Mary would have been twenty years old whilst Lydia would have been seventeen, her sister Britannia, fourteen, and her brother Edward, no more than eleven. It is easy to visualise a group of young people thoroughly enjoying themselves together, whilst benefiting from the pleasures of the resort.

                Still hoping to find more proof that Lydia Wollstonecraft was the mother of Edward Holdsworth Turner, I turned to Britannia Wollstonecraft’s will. An entry in the burial register for Holy Rood, Southampton, shows she was buried on 1st March 1830. In her will, held at the Public Record Office under reference PROB 11/1773, quire 121, proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 2nd June in the same year that she died, she left legacies to her brother Edward and sister, Lydia Turner, widow. She also bequeathed sums of money to the Reverend Thomas Mears, his brother, William, and sister, Mary Anne Rose Mears.

                Could these have been the children of Thomas Mears, surgeon, executor to her father's will? Britannia mentioned her nephews and named one, Thomas Godfrey Turner, a merchant at Gibraltar. She appointed him executor together with her brother, Edward, and the Reverend Thomas Mears.

                Surely, this Thomas Godfrey Turner must have been the brother of Edward Holdsworth Turner.

                Two generations of Edward Bland Wollstonecraft’s descendants would be as follows:

                The pieces of the puzzle seemed to be fitting together nicely. However, now wanting to know more about Edward Bland Wollstonecraft’s ancestry, I decided to check the records at the Guildhall Library.

                1 PRO: Prerogative Court of Canterbury and related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers (PROB 11)

                2 Pepys, Samuel, Diary – 1659-1669: 4th May 1663 (London, Frederick Warne and Co, 1879)

                3 Giles, Keith, The Dancing Master (Family Tree Magazine, January 2000)

                4 London Metropolitan Archives: St George, Camberwell, Marriage Register, XO 89/040

                5 Hampshire Record Office: Registry of the Bishop of Winchester, Marriage Licence Allegations and Bonds, 21M65/E14/1783

                6 Gentleman’s Magazine, August 1795, p 706; by kind permission of Guildhall Library, Corporation of London

                7 Jonas Hanway, 1712-1796, is often remembered for introducing the umbrella to this country, an adaptation of the parasol seen on his travels abroad


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