Wednesday, 18 July 2012

William Turner of Morpeth

The William Turner garden in Carlisle Park is a beautiful and interesting place, though I'm sure we didn't see it at its best.   This garden was designed using an engraving of a medieval garden from 1597.

Turner was obviously a man of intelligence and conviction who had the misfortune to live in 'interesting times'.   It must have been awful to live during the period when Henry the VIIIth was wreaking havoc to get a male heir.  The religious turmoil when the various sovreigns who followed demanded their subjects be Anglican, no - Catholic, no - Anglican, until Elizabeth I managed to establish some continuity with her longer reign must have been horrendous.  I gather that having no religion was not an option at that time.   Turner was apparently a Calvinist which although Protestant didn't sit entirely comfortably with the Anglican Church of the day. 

Turner is known for having been a naturalist who studied and wrote about plants with a detail and accuracy not previously undertaken in England.  For this he is known as the father of English botany.  He also wrote the first printed book entirely about birds and another book about fish. 

Raised beds:  no trampling of soil, so better drainage.  Height and small size
also aids weeding.

He was also a physician to some pretty influential people and once met Elizabeth I.  As a physician, his primary interest in plants was for their medicinal purposes. 

He was MP for Morpeth for a time, but he also was a theological writer whose work was considered sufficiently influential as to set standards for doctrine. 

It was, of course, this work rather than his botanical writings that caused trouble for him.  Given his education in Italy and part-time life in Germany, it's pretty safe to assume he was multi-lingual as well.

Interesting Times:

Turner was born around 1508
in Morpeth 

Henry the VIIIth crowned 1509

Thought to have been educated
at the Chantry School, Morpeth

Battle of Flodden 1513

Graduated from Cambridge
(BA Philosophy & medicine) 1530

Dissolution of the monastries,
Anne Boleyn beheaded, 1536

Published The Names of Herbs
and got married around 1538

Took degree of Doctor of Medicine
 in Italy c. 1542

Henry VIII banned Turner's
writings in 1543

Published the first printed book
devoted entirely to birds, 1544 
Returned to England 1547

Edward VI crowned 1547

First part of New Herbal
published 1551; was Member
of Parliament for Morpeth
until 1552; also Physician to

Lord Protector

Mary Tudor crowned 1553

Fled to Germany, 1553
Works banned in England

Elizabeth I crowned 1558

Returns to England 1560
Second part of New Herbal
published 1562

Shakespeare born 1564

Part III of Herbal published 1566
Died in London 7 July 1568


BigLittleWolf said...

It looks lovely, and thank you for situating it in history (something I'm dreadful at doing, and always find helpful).

I so miss the sense of history that we get in the textures and structures around us in Europe (or select US locations). Not enough of it for my taste where I am, though when I even happen upon something from the 19th century, I delight in it.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, my maiden name is Turner and I have an uncle who has traced our roots back to England and Scotland but only as far as the 1700s. Maybe this Turner is my ancestor! : )

Beryl said...

Very interesting post about an important figure in history. Liked the timeline - it really helped to put his life in perspective. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I was so curious about the herbal that I investigated a bit. Cambridge University press still publishes it (it was the first herbal) at a pricy $150!

Shelley said...

LBW - I would really miss the history and architecture of Europe if I were to return to the US. Then again, I'd enjoy the sun and the warmth again...

Bliss - Why not? I don't know how hard it is to trace the name Turner, but wouldn't it be fun!?

Beryl - It was the life of QEI that first caused me to study the history of the British monarchy. Hers was the first biography I ever read, back in junior high school. I've been fascinated with the history here ever since.

Terri - I think you can read it online...if you understand Olde English, that is.