Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Turner, William (1714-1794)

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TURNER, WILLIAM (1714–1794), dissenting divine, son of John Turner (1689–1737), was born at Preston, Lancashire, on 5 Dec. 1714. His father, a restless man, who was minister for short periods at Preston, Rivington, Northwich, Wirksworth, and Knutsford, distinguished himself on the Hanoverian side in the rebellion of 1715. His mother was Hannah (d. 20 Feb. 1747), daughter of William Chorley of Preston; her first husband's name was Holder. Turner was educated at Findern Academy (1732–6) under Ebenezer Latham, and at Glasgow University (1736–7). He was dissenting minister at Allostock, Cheshire (1737–46), but was not ordained till 7 Aug. 1739. Ill-health caused him to retire from the ministry for eight years, during which he kept a school; in 1754 he became minister at Congleton, Cheshire; in April 1761 he removed to Wakefield, where he continued to minister till July 1792.

His Wakefield ministry brought him into close connection with Thomas Amory (1691?–1788) [q. v.], the creator of ‘John Buncle;’ with Joseph Priestley [q. v.], then at Leeds, whose opinions he espoused; and with Theophilus Lindsey [q. v.], then vicar of Catterick, whose policy of inviting a unitarian secession from the established church he disapproved. His manuscript criticisms suggested to Priestley the project of his ‘Theological Repository,’ to which Turner contributed (1768–71) with the signature of ‘Vigilius’ (Wakefield). His notes in Priestley's ‘Harmony of the Evangelists,’ 1780, are signed ‘T.’ He died on 28 Aug. 1794. He married (1758) Mary (d. 31 Oct. 1784), eldest daughter of John Holland of Mobberley, Cheshire, by whom he had two sons. He published several single sermons.

William Turner, secundus (1761–1859), eldest son of the above, was born at Wakefield on 20 Sept. 1761. He was educated at Warrington Academy (1777–81) and Glasgow University (1781–2). On 25 Sept. 1782 he was ordained pastor of the Hanover Square congregation, Newcastle-on-Tyne. He ministered at Newcastle for fifty-nine years, retiring on 20 Sept. 1841. He was a main founder (1793) of the Literary and Philosophical Society at Newcastle, and acted as secretary till 1833; he was also a founder of the Natural Historical Society (1824). He was a chief projector of the Newcastle branch of the Bible Society, and one of its secretaries till 1831. Every benevolent and scientific interest in the town owed much to him. From 1808 till his death he was visitor of Manchester College (then at York, now at Oxford), and till 1840 he invariably delivered the visitor's annual address. Among the subscribers to a volume of his sermons published in 1838 appeared the names of two bishops, who by their action incurred some censure [see Maltby, Edward]. He died at Lloyd Street, Greenheys, Manchester, on 24 April 1859, and was buried on 28 April in the graveyard of Upper Brook Street chapel. He married, first, in 1784, Mary (d. 16 Jan. 1797), daughter of Thomas Holland of Manchester; secondly, on 8 June 1799, Jane (d. 1855), eldest daughter of William Willets, minister at Newcastle-under-Lyme. He survived all but one of his children. A long list of his publications is given in the ‘Christian Reformer,’ 1859, p. 459. This does not include his contributions to periodicals, usually signed V. F. [i.e. Vigilii Filius]; with this signature he contributed to the ‘Monthly Repository,’ 1810 and 1811, a valuable series of historical and biographical articles relating to Warrington Academy. His portrait, by Morton, and his bust, by Bailey, are in the rooms of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle.

William Turner, tertius (1788–1853), son of the preceding, was born at Newcastle on 13 Jan. 1788. He was educated at Glasgow University, where he graduated M.A. in 1806, at Manchester College (then at York), and at Edinburgh University (1808). From 1809 to 1827 he was tutor at Manchester College in mathematics and philosophy. In February 1829 he became minister of Northgate End chapel, Halifax, where he exerted great influence as a promoter of educational and scientific culture. He died on 30 Dec. 1853. He married (1817) Miss Benton, niece of Newcome Cappe [q. v.] He published several sermons and tracts; his contributions to periodicals are sometimes signed V. N. [i.e. Vigilii Nepos]. His most important work is ‘Lives of Eminent Unitarians,’ 1840–43, 2 vols. 12mo.

[Wood's Funeral Sermon for William Turner, with Memoirs by William Turner (secundus), 1794; Harris's Funeral Sermon for William Turner (secundus), 1859; Memoir of William Turner (secundus) in the Christian Reformer, 1859, pp. 351 sq.; Memoir of William Turner (tertius), in the Christian Reformer, 1854, pp. 129 sq.; Spears's Record of Unitarian Worthies, 1878; Addison's Roll of Glasgow Graduates, 1898; information from the Rev. R. T. Herford.]

A. G.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.268
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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368 i 19 Turner, William (1714-1794): for Lyne read Lyme