Basic Biographical Details

Name: Hugh Thackeray Turner
Born: 1853 or 1854
Died: 11 December 1937
Bio Notes: Hugh Thackeray Turner was born at Foxearth, Essex in 1853, the son of a well-off Church of England vicar, The Rev John Richard Turner who came from Wiltshire.

The Turners had five sons and two daughters. Although two of the sons, Hawes, (born 1851, later keeper of the National Gallery) and their much younger borther Laurence (born 1864, an architect turned sculptor, woodcarver and modeller) were sent to Marlborough and thence to Cambridge and Oxford respectively, Thackeray was sent to Newbury Grammar School. From there he went to work as personal assistant to an unidentified architect in London, but in 1874 at the age of twenty-one he managed to obtain a place as a properly articled pupil in the office of Sir George Gilbert Scott, remaining with John Oldrid Scott for seven months after the older Scott’s death in March 1878. He then joined the office of George Gilbert Scott junior who had set up practice independently of his father in or about 1872. There he became acquainted with Temple Moore who had been an articled pupil since 1875, and together they took on an increasing responsibility for the practice after Scott’s mental health problems became affected by overwork and an increasing addiction to brandy in 1881. While working for Scott on the restoration of St Andrews, Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire, Turner made his first acquaintance with his future partner Eustace Balfour, then a student at Trinity College, Balfour having alerted the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings to what was proposed. The points at issue were settled with John James Stevenson. Further contact with SPAB arose in the course of Scott’s careful conservation of St Peter and Paul’s, Kempston, Norfolk, the Society being sufficiently impressed to appoint him as its paid part-time secretary on 13 December 1882. This enabled him to leave the increasingly troubled Scott office and set up practice on his own in 1883.

In 1885 the Society’s Honorary Secretary Eustace Balfour was commissioned to rebuild Ampton Hall in Suffolk which had been burnt beyond repair in that year. As Balfour had only a two year studentship in the office of Basil Champneys and no experience of running such a large and complex contract he invited Turner to join him in partnership in 1889. The new house was neo-Jacobean, very much in the spirit of the old and incorporating elements of its formal layout. In Lethaby’s biography of Philip Webb it is recorded that in those early years, and perhaps even later, Turner and presumably Balfour, showed Webb their drawings and took his advice, the relationship with Webb and Lethaby becoming still closer after Turner was elected to the Art Workers’ Guild in 1886. Much of Turner’s work continued to have a Webb-like quality well into the twentieth century.

At the SPAB Turner became acquainted with one of its earliest members, the wealthy London stockbroker and philanthropist Thomas Wilder Powell who had built a major Norman Shaw house at Piccard’s Rough near Goldaming in 1877-79. In 1888 he married Powell’s daughter Mary: she too was an arts-and craftswoman, an embroiderer who later co-founded the Women’s Guild of Arts with May Morris. Over the next few years Powell became an important client, commissioning a number of buildings around Guildford, most notably Wycliff House in 1892, but by that date the success of the practice had been assured by Balfour’s appointment as surveyor of the 1st Duke of Westminster’s London Grosvenor estates. For the next two years Balfour and Turner had a thriving practice, particularly in Mayfair where their work was arts-and-crafts Queen Anne, neo-Tudor or refined classical as best fitted the location, much of the sculpture and plasterwork being the work of Laurence Turner. Throughout their work there, the influence of Shaw and Champneys was evident in the larger buildings and that of Webb and Lethaby more in the smaller and simpler buildings. Their most important commission was the short-lived St Andrew’s Church (1898-96) designed by Turner in a very individual style which combined fourteenth century gothic with Romanesque, and internally early Italian Renaissance elements. Its gabled rectory was markedly influenced by Webb.

The success of the practice enabled Turner to build an exceptional arts-and-crafts house and garden at Westbrook, Goldaming, in 1900, but Balfour’s role on the Grosvenor estate began to diminish after the 2nd Duke of Westminster succeeded in 1899, Lutyens and others having successfully petitioned him for a less restrictive regime. By about 1905-06 Balfour had begun to have a serious drink problem which seems to have related to the erosion of the Balfour fortune by his brothers Arthur and Gerald’s commitment to developing peat as an industrial fuel, his wife Lady Frances Balfour’s high profile advocacy of women’s suffrage, and her extremely difficult relationship with Balfour’s youngest sister Alice who ran the Balfour household at Whittinghame. And while Balfour had been meticulous in his dealings with the Grosvenor estate, his military commitments as Colonel of the London Scottish 1893-1904, his position as ADC to the King from 1903, his extended travels abroad on architectural and military pursuits, and time spent either shooting or golfing resulted in Turner carrying the main burden of the practice. This was a burden not easily borne as Turner was still part-time secretary of the SPAB.

Perhaps influenced by Balfour’s declining health, Turner somewhat reluctantly agreed to being admitted FRIBA in 1905. At the time entry by examination only was in prospect and he was persuaded that the Institute had come around to the SPAB’s way of thinking at least in general terms. His proposers, John Belcher, Aston Webb and Sir John Taylor could hardly have been more auspicious and he was formally admitted on 8 January 1906. But thereafter life went downhill. His wife Mary died of pneumonia in February 1907, leaving him to bring up three teenage daughters. Balfour’s health failed completely in 1909 and in the following year he had to resign the surveyorship of the Grosvenor estate which was now taken over by Edward Wimperis, depriving the practice of the regular cash flow it had previously enjoyed. At the SPAB the health of John Kent, its assistant secretary also failed, and in January 1911 Turner resigned the secretaryship to concentrate on practice and family, nominating as his successor Albert Reginald Powys, born 1881, and a former assistant of Walter Cave and William Weir, who had commenced independent practice in 1908.

Balfour died on 14 February 1911 and Kent on 11 May. A few moths later Turner took Powys into partnership, the practice title of Balfour & Turner being retained until his retirement in 1923 at the age of seventy.

Turner remained closely involved in the work of SPAB as its chairman and dealt with much of its casework until his death on 11 December 1937.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2London, EnglandBusiness   
Item 2 of 2Westbrook, Godalming, Surrey, EnglandPrivate19001937 

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1Balfour & Turner18851911Partner 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3John Belcher8 January 1906For Fellowship
Item 2 of 3(Sir) John Taylor8 January 1906For Fellowship (unsure if this is the correct J Taylor)
Item 3 of 3Aston Webb8 January 1906For Fellowship


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this :
Item 1 of 9British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 9Drury, Michael2000Wandering Architects: In Pursuit of an Arts and Crafts Ideal Stamford: Shaun Tyas 
Item 3 of 9Gray, A Stuart1985Edwardian Architecture: A Biographical Dictionary   
Item 4 of 9Grove Dictionary of Art Grove Dictionary of Art   
Item 5 of 9Stannard, Robin2010The Eccleciastical Work of Hugh Thackeray Turner Brandwood, Geoffrey (ed): Ecclesiology Today, June 2010, pp121-146 
Item 6 of 9Stannard, Robin2012Artist in the Craft of Building: the Architectural Work of Hugh Thackeray Turner (1853-1937) Spire Books 
Item 7 of 9Survey of London Survey of London  Volumes XXXIX and XL
Item 8 of 9Webster, Christopher (ed)2012The Practice of Architecture: eight architect 1830-1930 Reading: Spire Bookspp206-236
Item 9 of 9Who's Who in Architecture1914   List of works

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this :
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4Architect and Building News17 December 1937  p333 (Obituary of Thackeray Turner)
Item 2 of 4Country Life16 July 1998  Article of Westbook, Surrey
Item 3 of 4RIBA Journal10 January 1938 London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp258 (Obituary of Thackeray Turner)
Item 4 of 4The Times15 December 1937  Obituary of Thackeray Turner