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Celebrating Hampshire's Historians

Carpenter Turner, Barbara Dorothy Mary

22 October 1915 - 15 January 1997

If anyone can be described as the doyenne (or doyen) of Hampshire history in the second half of the last century it must be Barbara Carpenter Turner (no hyphen). For half a century she played a prominent part in almost every organization that was involved in studies of the past. When the Queen and Prince Philip paid a visit to Winchester in July 1955, it was she who drafted a paper on ‘The City and the Crown’ (HRO, W/C2/6/45/A).

She was born in Portsmouth in 1915 to Reginald Bunyard and Dorothy (née Copper). He was a Warrant Officer at the RN Gunnery School, HMS Excellent. After reading History at the University of London and obtaining a teaching certificate from Cambridge University, she taught at the Atherley School, Southampton. It had been founded in 1926 by the Church School’s Company and in 1939 its staff and pupils were evacuated to Winchester.  Waiting at a bus-stop in Southampton she accepted a lift from Wilfrid John Carpenter Turner (1907-1981), the architect to Winchester Cathedral, whom she wed in 1943. He was a son of the Venerable John Carpenter Turner (1867-1952), Archdeacon of Basingstoke 1927-1947. She had already edited, as Barbara Bunyard,  The Brokage [sic] Book of Southampton, in the Southampton Record Series, published in 1940. As well as a route to a family life, the marriage merged two talents: he looked after the fabric of the Cathedral between 1937 and 1973 and she wrote about it.

Between 1957 and 1991 she contributed a dozen or more articles to the Winchester Cathedral Record on a wide variety of subjects, including the Cathedral during the dissolution, especially the role of the last prior and first dean, William Kingsmill; the life of Francis Joseph Baigent and a detailed account of St Swithun’s Priory from his papers in the British Museum (now the British Library); ‘the return of the Church’ in 1660; the extensive correspondence between Gilbert White and John Mulso, and other matters.

The Cathedral was her anchor, but she forged strong links with other key bodies, serving from c1946 to 1961 as honorary archivist of Winchester City Record Office and editing the Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club from 1951 to 1967. She was a founder member of the Winchester Preservation Trust and President of the Winchester branch of the Historical Association. In 1981 she accepted an invitation from the new Canon Librarian to be his assistant. During her time, she saw the collections of the cathedral and the city taken into the HRO. As well the benefits of access to these archives, her writing was informed ‘from the inside’, by involvement in local government. She became a city councillor in 1960, an alderman in 1966 and served as mayor of Winchester 1966-67. In 1973 she became chair of the new shadow Winchester District Council and a year later its first mayor. Three years later she retired from local government to focus on her writing. She served as a JP 1963-1987 and was honoured as a freeman of the city.

Barbara was as much a writer as an historian: her works are eminently readable and aimed at a non-specialist audience. In 1957, when she got back into history after raising her children, Robert and Clarissa, she gave a series of lectures to the Winchester Branch of the WEA. These were later published in a series in the Hampshire Chronicle. It was the start of a long association with the paper, and especially its editor Monica Woodhouse. Her first major work in 1963 was A History of Hampshire and much later in 1980 she wrote a history of Winchester. It was a useful source at the time, and is still an enjoyable read, though the scholarly work of Martin Biddle and others, as published in the Winchester Studies Series, is now the established authority for the earlier period. She was not averse to popular writing, and, as well as producing slim booklets for Pitkin Pictorials, had a close association with Paul Cave Publications, including two volumes of her bestselling Hampshire Hogs. She also wrote authoritative monographs on St John’s Charity and the Royal Hampshire County Hospital. Her personal papers (120M94W and 8M92W) and many other items are held by the HRO.

Obituaries refer to a ‘tough, pugnacious streak’, a ‘sparkling personality’ and a ‘lively sense of humour and independent spirit’. According to Paul Britton, writing in the Winchester Cathedral Record, ‘she was a formidable lady but great fun…[with] some enemies, but also many, many friends’. She and Wilfrid are buried in the upper Itchen valley in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Easton, where they and their family lived for several years, before moving back to the city and living in the Close.

Sources

  • HRO, 120M94W, personal papers

  • HRO, 8M92, personal papers

  • Anon, obituary, Hampshire Archives Trust Newsletter, Spring 1997, 13-15.

  • Paul Britton, obituary, Winchester Cathedral Record, 1997, 66, 2-4.

Portrait

Barbara Carpenter Turner

Photograph supplied by her daughter, Clarissa.

Contribution to county’s history

She ranks as one of the most prominent local historians in Hampshire in the last century.

Relevant published works

  • (Barbara Bunyard, ed.), The Brokage Book of Southampton, 1439-1440, Southampton Record Series, 1940.

    The Cathedral Church of Winchester, Pitkin Pictorials, 1954.

    Churches of Mediaeval Winchester, Warren & Son, Winchester, 1957 [reprinted from the Hampshire Chronicle]

    The Pictorial History of Winchester, Pitkin Pictorials, 1962.

    Open Spaces in Hampshire, 1966 and later editions, Hampshire County Council, Winchester.

    Hampshire Hogs, Paul Cave, Southampton, 1977.

    More Hampshire Hogs, Paul Cave, Southampton, 1978

    A History of Hampshire, Darwen Finlayson, 1963, 2ed. 1978, Phillimore, Chichester.

    [A History of] Winchester, Paul Cave, Southampton, 1980, 2ed. Phillimore, 1992.

    A History of the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Phillimore, Chichester, 1986.

    Winchester 100 Years Ago, Paul Cave, Southampton, 1981.

    St John’s Charity Winchester, Phillimore, Chichester, 1992

    The brokage books of Southampton, PHFC, 1945, 16(2), 173-177.

    St John’s House and the commonality of Winchester in the middle ages, PHFC, 1955, 19(1), 20-34.

    A notable family of artists: the Caves of Winchester, PHFC, 1961, 22(1), 30-34.

Critical Comments

As might be expected in a generalist, her references were sometimes rather sparse. Writing on Winchester in the modern period she was able to add her own experience, but in so doing perhaps slanted the record too much in the direction of local government.

Other Comments

All her works were directed at a general readership and she took no part in the contemporary growth of academic interest in local history.

Contributor

Barry Shurlock, 20 November, 2023.

Keywords

Winchester city, Winchester cathedral, Cave family (painters), St John’s charity Winchester, Royal Hampshire County Hospital Winchester, F.J. Baigent, Brokage books Southampton

Any queries or further suggestions for this part of the list should be addressed to celebrating@hantsfieldclub.org.uk.

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