Wolverhampton BTW

Dawson Turner

Turner, Dawson, 1775—1858

by Benjamin Colbert

Dawson Turner was born in Great Yarmouth, the eldest son of James Turner (1743–94), merchant and banker, and Elizabeth Turner, née Cotman (1742–1819). After his father's death he joined the family bank and in 1796 married Mary Palgrave (1774-1850), with whom he had six daughters and two sons who survived infancy. The banking business gave lease to his presiding passion, botany, and between 1800 and 1818 he published papers in Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, as well as several books, including The Botanist's Guide through England and Wales (2 vols., 1805), co-authored with Lewis Weston Dillwyn (and, despite its title, more a geographical catalogue of specimens rather than a travel guide).

With his ample income, Turner supplemented botanical pursuits with antiquarian research and art, book, and manuscript collecting. John Sell Cotman (1782-1842; ODNB) became drawing master to the household from 1812 and Turner's wife and daughters became accomplished illustrators and researchers, so much so that Turner's illustrated Account of a Tour in Normandy (2 vols., 1820) was in fact a collaboration with Mary Turner, at least two of his daughters, and Cotman, based not only on the family tour of Normandy in 1818 in Cotman's company but also Cotman's tours of that region in 1817 and 1820 under Turner's patronage.

Turner continued to publish historical and antiquarian research and to preside over similar activity in his household. His sense of proprietorship is typified, perhaps, by his editing and publishing for private circulation, and apparently without her explicit consent, his daughter Harriet Gunn's Letters during a Four Days' Tour in Holland (1834). Within a year of his wife's death in 1850, Turner married a widow, Rosamund Matilda Duff née Neave (1810-63), and this caused a rift with his children. Turner sold much of his collection and relocated near London, where he died in 1858 after a series of strokes.


Fraser, Angus. 'Turner, Dawson (1775–1858), banker, botanist, and antiquary'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 22 Sept. 2004. Oxford University Press. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/27846

Oracle and Public Advertiser, no. 19281 (30 March 1796). Gale Databases: 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.


Title Published
Letters Written during a Four Days' Tour in Holland 1834 Editor

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