TURNER, Charles (1666-1738), of King’s Lynn, Warham and Kirby Cane, Norf.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1695 - 24 Nov. 1738

Family and Education

bap. 11 June 1666, 1st s. of William Turner, attorney-at-law, of North Elmham, Norf. by Anne, da. of John Spooner of North Elmham; bro. of John Turner*.  educ. Scarning and Norwich; Caius, Camb. 1681; M. Temple 1684.  m. (1) Apr. 1689, Mary (d. 1701), da. of Robert Walpole I*, sis. of Galfridus†, Horatio II* and Robert Walpole II*, 1s. d.v.p. 4da.; (2) by 1705, Mary, da. of Sir William Blois of Grundisburgh Hall, Suff., wid. of Sir Nevil Catelyn† of Kirby Cane and Wingfield Castle, Suff., s.psuc. fa. 1679; kntd. 22 Mar. 1696; cr. Bt. 27 Apr. 1727.1

Offices Held

Receiver-gen. for poll tax, Norf. and Norwich 1689; ld. of Trade 1708–12, Admiralty Oct. 1714–17, Treasury 1720–30; teller of Exchequer 1729–d.2

Freeman, King’s Lynn 1695, Great Yarmouth 1728.3

Chairman, cttees. of supply and ways and means 1728–d.


Turner began as a country attorney like his father and grandfather, but his family’s improving fortunes and his own influential connexions – particularly his marriage to the daughter of Robert Walpole I – helped him forward. Turner’s appointment as receiver for the poll tax in Norfolk in 1689 could have been the work of either Walpole or the Duke of Norfolk (for whose estate at Castle Rising Turner acted as steward), but by 1695 Norfolk had sold the Castle Rising property and Turner was entirely Walpole’s man, supporting his father-in-law closely in preparations for the 1695 election at Castle Rising. Turner was himself returned in 1695 at King’s Lynn, with his uncle Sir John Turner* on the family interest, which was now impregnable. Forecast as doubtful over the council of trade question in January 1696, he signed the Association and in March was knighted. On 31 Oct. he was appointed to draft a poor relief bill. He presented, on 6 Jan. 1697, a bill for the better preservation of the navigation of the port of Lynn, and on the 26th told in favour of an additional clause to the land tax bill, barring any excise officer from serving as a commissioner of assessment. He was appointed on 29 Jan. to the drafting committee on a bill for the more effectual prevention of robberies.4

Turner was granted leave of absence for a fortnight on 9 Feb. 1698, and in about September was listed among the Court party. By 1700 he had acquired an estate at Warham, in north Norfolk, where for a time he made his home. He was a teller on 23 Jan. 1700 against receiving a petition from the town of Colchester for the continuation of the Act of 1699 prohibiting the export of corn, which, it was claimed, had greatly relieved the poor there. In early 1700, in an analysis of the House into interests he was marked as doubtful or, perhaps, opposition. In February 1701 he was listed among those who would probably support the Court over continuing the ‘Great Mortgage’. He was chosen on 20 Mar. for the drafting committee for a bill to prevent bribery and corruption at elections. Five days later he presented a bill for a workhouse at Lynn, but on the death of his wife was obliged to return to Norfolk, leaving this bill in Robert Walpole’s hands. In May he wrote to Walpole, ‘I am not much surprised at the warmth of your House, nor at anything you do. I dare not venture to declare my thoughts of you, for fear of keeping the Kentish Petitioners company.’ He announced his intention not to return to the House that session, writing to Walpole in June:

I suppose there will be no great danger of the call of the House . . . but whatever happens I think no gentleman can be so barbarous as to fall foul upon me, considering upon what occasion I left the town. I beg you would speak to our friends in case of the worst, for I am resolved to run the risk of it.

During the winter Turner suffered an attack of smallpox, and although he had evidently recovered by February he may not have attended the 1701–2 Parliament.5

Turner was returned in 1702 with Walpole as his colleague, and voted with Walpole in December against the coal duties bill, an action which pleased his constituents. On 23 Dec. he told on the Whig side on a procedural motion. He reported on 15 Jan. 1703 a bill to continue the Great Yarmouth Harbour Act, carrying it up to the Lords on the following day. He voted on 13 Feb. 1703 in favour of agreeing with the Lords’ amendment to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. In the next session he spoke on 27 Nov. during a debate on manning the fleet, in favour of giving ‘protection to land men for a certain time if they would come into the merchant service’. He acted as a teller five times, twice on local issues (26 Nov. and 23 Dec.) and on three occasions on matters of national or party political significance: on 21 Dec. 1703 against a Tory amendment to the address on the Scotch Plot; on 14 Jan. 1704 against committing the wine duties bill; and on 18 Feb. against a Tory motion to adjourn all committees. Turner was appointed on 8 Feb. to the drafting committee for a bill to ban the wearing of calicoes and in the same month assisted in the management of a private bill. He was forecast as a likely opponent of the Tack in October (indeed he later referred to ‘these damned Tackers’), but he is not known to have voted against the measure and indeed appears on a later, although somewhat unreliable list, as a ‘Sneaker’. He told on 27 Nov. 1704 in favour of giving permission to Sir Joseph Jekyll* to attend the Lords in a legal case, telling again on 3 Feb. 1705, together with Walpole, on behalf of Lynn corporation, against agreeing with a resolution from the committee investigating restrictive practices in the East Anglian coal trade. He also told on 12 Feb. against an amendment to the supply bill, providing for stricter controls over local distillers: on this last occasion his family’s involvement in the wines and spirits trade may have influenced him. He was named on 28 Feb. as one of the Commons managers for a conference with the Lords on the disputed election for Aylesbury, telling on 3 Mar. in favour of adjourning further debate on the case.6

In September 1705 Turner wrote to Walpole from Kirby Cane, a property he had acquired with other lands on his second marriage and which he thenceforth made his principal seat, ‘I shall be sure to be up at the election of a Speaker, and will remind our Norwich friends to be there too’. He was one of several of Walpole’s friends who spoke in support of the Court candidate for Speaker, and duly voted for John Smith I in the division. He was a teller for the Whigs on 6 Dec. over a disputed election for Hertford. In the same month he managed a private bill through the House. He made a speech in favour of the regency bill in January 1706, justifying the arrangements prescribed in the bill for summoning Parliament after the Queen’s death, declaring that there were ‘great supporters of [the] Prince of Wales among us (he means the kingdom of England): papists, non-jurors without doors. The French King [is] wise enough to take advantage when the Queen dies.’ To call Parliament immediately would ‘have . . . great effect and contra [sic] suspicions’. Turner voted on 18 Feb. on the Court side over the ‘place clause’ in the bill. He was a teller on the Newcastle-under-Lyme election case on 27 Feb., and again on 11 Mar. in support of a Lords’ amendment to a private bill concerning a living in the diocese of Lincoln. Prior to the next session he went over from Kirby Cane to show his face among his constituents, who had complained of not seeing either of their representatives for so long that they ‘hardly know whether they were dead or living’. He wrote to Walpole in October 1706:

Though I never before wished for my coming up to town, yet I long now to hear good news of the Union passing in Scotland, that we may try whether we cannot give it the finishing stroke. I shall be ready for your summons, but hope you will be so kind as not to cause me to come up before there is really occasion.

In town for the beginning of the session, he was appointed to the committee of 3 Dec. 1706 to draft the Address. Three days later he was named to the drafting committee for a bill to prevent the corruption of jurors. Also in December he managed a private bill. He told on 23 Jan. and 5 Feb. 1707 on the Whig side in the election cases for Rye and Coventry, and again on 19 Feb., with a Court Whig and against two Tories, in favour of a resolution of the committee of ways and means. In March he managed a bill to allow a merchant to compound with the Treasury for a customs debt. On 1 Apr. he told against a clause proposed to the supply bill, concerning wine measures (again, his various family connexions with the wine trade may have played some part in determining his position). At this time he was already being considered for office: in September 1707 Lord Townshend asked Robert Walpole to ‘put Mr Boyle [Hon. Henry*] in mind of Sir Charles Turner’. Turner was classed as a Whig in two lists of 1708, and like Walpole he was probably a ‘Lord Treasurer’s Whig’. He was a teller with Walpole on 21 Feb. 1708 against the Tory proposal of a balloting system for divisions on election disputes; and with another Whig on 23 Mar., on what was apparently the Court side, in favour of committing the woollen yarn duty bill to a separate committee. On 27 Mar. he told on an amendment to the two-thirds subsidies bill, against including the word ‘European’ in a clause exempting from duty European linens, threads and tapes. In April 1708 he was made a lord of Trade, at a salary of £1,000 p.a., almost certainly through the influence of Walpole and Townshend.7

On 10 Feb. 1709 Turner was a teller with a fellow Norfolk Whig, Ashe Windham, opposite two other Whigs, in favour of rejecting a petition from the Virginia and Maryland merchants for a bill to encourage the export of tobacco, and in his capacity as a lord of Trade he presented a report from that board on 10 Dec. 1709. He voted in 1709 for naturalizing the Palatines, and in 1710 for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. Like his brother-in-law he remained in office despite the ministerial revolution, but nevertheless joined Walpole in opposition. He was a teller with Walpole on 15 May 1711 against the Tory motion that over-expenditure by the previous administration had been ‘the chief occasion of the debts of the nation, and an invasion of the rights of Parliament’, and voted ten days later for the Whig amendment to the South Sea bill. He kept his place on the new Board of Trade declared in June 1711, and in that month Walpole’s Tory uncle Horatio Walpole I*, who was himself seeking office as a reward for services rendered, complained to Lord Oxford (Robert Harley*) that he for one did not understand ‘how Sir Charles Turner, one of the most zealous opposers of your Lordship, should be continued in his employment, even contrary to his inclination and expectation, as he himself says’. Turner voted for Robert Walpole’s ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion on 7 Dec. 1711, and acted as a teller on 16 Feb. 1712 in defence of the Barrier Treaty, and on 6 Mar. in support of Walpole’s attempt to regain his seat following expulsion. He was finally removed from office at the beginning of July 1712. He told on 6 May 1713 against the bill suspending for two months the duties on imported French wines, and again on 9 June against receiving the report of the committee of ways and means. On the 18th he voted against the French commerce bill.8

Returned with Walpole once more in 1713, Turner spoke in defence of Richard Steele on 18 Mar. 1714, enlarging upon the point raised by Walpole that this kind of parliamentary action was grossly inappropriate to the case: ‘libellers without doors [are] to be punished as such, not within doors but for what is done as a Member’. This prosecution stemmed from ‘a great man’s malice; it is exaltation and triumph worthy of his power to have a Member delivered up’. ‘And will not posterity be ashamed’, exclaimed Turner, ‘of what such a minister could make a British Parliament do?’ He voted against Steele’s expulsion. On 2 Apr. he was nominated to the drafting committee for a bill to enforce the Bristol Workhouse Act. He told on 19 Apr. against the ministry’s bill to lessen the drawback on tobacco exported to Ireland, designed to protect the future yield of the Irish revenue from the likely effects of the expiry of the Irish excises. He was given a month’s leave of absence on 21 May. In the Worsley list and in another comparative analysis of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments he was classed as a Whig.9

Turner died suddenly on 24 Nov. 1738, at Robert Walpole’s house at Houghton, ‘as his gentleman was dressing him’. He was buried at Warham. His will, dated 5 Jan. 1738, charged the Warham estate with portions amounting to £7,000 for the three daughters of his deceased son; otherwise his heir was his nephew John Turner, later Sir John, 3rd Bt.†10

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Blomefield’s Norf. Supp. ed. Ingleby, 161; Carthew, Hundred of Launditch, iii. 129; Camb. Univ. Lib. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, Turner to [Robert Walpole], 19 Sept. 1705.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 13; xxix. 141.
  • 3. Cal. Freemen Gt. Yarmouth, 162.
  • 4. Blomefield’s Norf. Supp. 33, 35–39.
  • 5. Ibid. 160; J. H. Plumb, Walpole, i. 98–99; Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, Turner to Walpole, 15 May, 8 June 1701, James Hoste† to same, 25 Jan., 2 Feb. 1701[–2]; Post Boy, 3–6 Jan. 1701[–2]; Chicago Univ. Lib. Walpole mss, Hoste to Walpole, 22 Feb. 1702.
  • 6. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, John Turner* to Walpole, 16 Dec. 1702, Turner to same, 2 July 1705; NMM, Sergison mss Ser/103, ff. 450–2; Bull. IHR, xl. 157.
  • 7. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, Turner to Walpole, 19 Sept. 1705, 24 Oct. 1706, Ld. Townshend to Walpole, 8 Oct. 1705, 24 Sept. [1707]; Plumb, 174; Boyer, Anne Annals, iv. 182; Cam. Misc. xxiii. 69–70; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 34; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiii. 68, 279; HMC Portland, v. 192.
  • 8. Boyer, Pol. State, i–ii. 382; iv. 31; HMC Portland, 25.
  • 9. Douglas diary (Hist. of Parl. trans.), 18 Mar. 1714.
  • 10. Carthew, 129; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 242; PCC 297 Brodrepp.