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William Turner in the 1540s: a weekend conference in Morpeth, Northumberland

William Turner in the 1540s: a weekend conference in Morpeth, Northumberland

The natural historian and physician William Turner (c. 1508 -1568) was born in Morpeth. His life’s work became the cornerstone for British botany as he provided over 300 first identifications of English native plants.  He also wrote extensively on fish, birds, wine and medical baths. His travels in Europe, occasioned by the religious and political pressures of the Reformation, were the source of many of his insights and observations.

In 2008 Morpeth celebrated the 500th anniversary of Turner’s birth with a series of events and lectures, leading to a great deal of new research which so far has not been available in the public domain. For this reason, The Friends of Carlisle Park, supported by Northumberland County Council and Greater Morpeth Development Trust, are hosting a one-day conference of walks and talks to explore and contextualise Turner’s seminal work in natural history during the 1540s. Different sessions will consider:

  • Turner’s work on the natural history of birds and fishes.
  • The Morpeth that he left behind, including some of the sites that would be recorded in his major work on plants A New Herball (1551).
  • His experience of the religious and political conditions of the time during his travels in Northern Europe, and how they enmeshed with 16th century conditions for studying natural history.

The event is to be held on Sat 17th September 2011.  The proposed programme is:

9.30-10.00 Dr Marie Addyman, Open University: Welcome and Introduction.

10.00-11.00 Professor Peter Davis, University of Newcastle: Turner’s work on fishes.           

11.00 – 11.15am Refreshments

11.15 -12.15 Panel: Turner’s work on birds.              

Lunchtime – William Turner and gardens, including visit to the William Turner Garden in Carlisle Park, Morpeth.

1.30 – 2.45 Professor Alan Davison, University of Newcastle: A walk and talk round Turner’s Morpeth, including the distribution of the former tanneries.

3.00 Refreshments and discussion of town and garden tours.                                                                

3.30- 4.30 Marie Addyman: Natural history and religious politics: Turner’s travels in the Rhineland and East Friesland.

4.30 Close

Additional Event – Sunday10.00am – 12 midday by the Friends of Carlisle Park and Emma Evans:  a walk to Lady Chapel woods, near Morpeth, one of the sites referred to in A New Herball.

The Conference is free, but is subject to pre-booking by 19th August 2011 with Emma Evans.

Light refreshments will be provided on Saturday morning and afternoon. Lunch will not be provided, but Morpeth has a good selection of cafés, restaurants and pubs nearby.

Sessions will be held in either Morpeth Chantry or Morpeth Town Hall.

Morpeth Tourist Information Centre can provide a list of recommended B & Bs and hotels; contact them on 01670 535200 or

Marie Addyman, B.A., B.Phil, D.Phil, Academic Co-ordinator,

Emma Evans, B.Sc, M.Sc, Administrative Co-ordinator, 01670 535203

Image: William Turner the Father of English Botany (2008) by Marie Addyman