KIRKLEATHAM, a parish in the wapentake and liberty of Langbargh; 4½ miles NNW. of Guisborough, situate near the mouth of the Tees. The Church is a vicarage, dedicated to St. Cuthbert (see Churches for photograph), in the deanry of Cleveland. Population, 686.
Kirkleatham is the birth-place of Sir William Turner*1, who was Lord Mayor of London in the year 1669; and here that gentleman erected a stately hospital, which he endowed with a valuable estate, for the maintenance of 40 poor people, namely 10 men, the same number of women, 10 boys and 10 girls; and a sum of money was also bequeathed by John Turner, Esq. Serjeant at Law, for clothing each of the children on leaving the hospital. Lady Turner*2, now Vansittart, is the sole governess of this charity, which office descends on the possessor of the Kirkleatham estate for ever; and the management is committed to a chaplain, a master, and a mistress, who have handsome salaries. In the centre of the front is a small chapel, finished in a style of superior elegance. The roof is arched in compartments, and supported by four light and handsome columns of the Ionic order; from the centre hangs a large chandelier of burnished gold*3, and over the altar is a window of painted glass*4, esteemed one of the finest in the world, representing the offerings of the Magi at the nativity of Christ. On one side is a full length figure of John Turner, Esq. Sergeant at Law*5, in a scarlet robe; and on the other, one of Sir William Turner, the founder, in his robes as Lord Mayor of London. In a large and commodious room within the hospital, is the library, in which there is a choice collection of scarce and valuable books, and in it are numerous natural and artificial curiosities. -One singularly curious is a representation of St. George and the Dragon*6, cut out of a piece of box and finely carved. In a handsome case, is a striking likeness of Sir William Turner, in wax, with the identical wig and band which he used to wear.
*1 This is incorrect. Sir William Turner was born at Guisborough in 1615. His family did not move to Kirkleatham until 1634/4. [Peter Sotheran, 2005]
*2 The last descendent, a lady, married a Mr Leroy Lewis in 1950 and moved to live with her husband in the south of England. The estates were sold off at auction and in 1951 Sir William Turner's Hospital was reconstituted as a Registered Charity. So it remains to this day, governed by a Board of voluntary Trustees, 4 appointed by local authorities and 6 co-opted for their business skills.[Peter Sotheran, 2011]
*3 The wooden chandelier, covered in gold leaf was in danger of collapse in 2006. After examining all possible options, the trustees decided to sell it and replace it with a chandelier of polished brass, dating from 1735..[Peter Sotheran, 2011]
*4 Parts of the window fell out in December 2009. The window was removed and extensively restored in 2011 and re-installed in December 2011 (next week actually!). The glass was painted by William Price in 1742. Other examples of his work are rare but have survived in Westminster Abbey and a number of London City churches.[Peter Sotheran, 2011]
*5 John married Jane Pepys of Brampton Cambs., a cousin of Samuel the diarist. John & Jane are the 'Mr & Mrs Turner' referred to several times in the Diaries - usually following rather large and sumptuous meals.[Peter Sotheran, 2011]
*6 Was taken to the V&A Museum in London when the in-house museum at the Hospital was closed up, following the departure of the family in 1950-51.[Peter Sotheran, 2011]
At a short distance from the hospital is the parish church, a light and elegant building of stone, the roof of which is supported by six columns of the Tuscan order. In the chancel is the monument of Sir William Turner, near which he was buried, by his own desire, among the poor of his hospital; the witnesses of his piety, liberality, and humanity. The living is a vicarage, in the patronage of Lady Turner. Adjoining to the east end of the church is a superb mausoleum of a circular form, covered with a dome, built by Cholmley Turner, Esq. in 1740, under which is the family vault. Among other monumental statues are those of that gentleman and William Turner, Esq. executed by the famous Schemacher.
At the entrance to the Hospital, a stately oak points out the spot where stood the cottage that gave birth to Tom Brown *7, the hero of Dettengen, which took place about 1715. He was born of obscure but honest parents, and served his time as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Yarm. Early in life he served as a private in brigadier Bland's regiment of dragoons. This regiment being ordered for foreign service, Brown took his departure, with the rent for Germany, and at the battle of Dittengen, so honourable to the allies, he signalised himself by such uncommon intrepidity and personal bravery so as to merit the applause and approbation, not out of his comrades and officers, but of the whole army. In the early part of the engagement he had two horses killed under him, and two fingers from his right hand were severed by a sabre; notwithstanding which, upon the loss of their standard, Brown rushed into the thickest of the fight, determined to regain it, which he effected by shooting the Gens d'armes, who were in possession of it, and made his way back through the ranks of the enemy. In the performance of this daring exploit, he received eight cuts in his face, head, and neck, and two balls in his back, and in this mangled condition he rejoined his regiment with the standard he had retaken, and was hailed on his safe arrival with repeated huzzas from the whole of his troop, and the rest of the army who were spectators of this gallant exploit. This rung through the whole kingdom; his health was drank in public houses; - his head elevated on sign-posts; - and there was scarcely a village but had the walls of its cottages decorated with a portrait of Tom Brown. After his recovery he served some time in the horse-guards, and his intrepid heroism would have been rewarded by a commission, but the want of education, and a habit of drinking which he had contracted, prevented his advancement. Being at length unfit for service, he retired to the town of Yarm, on a pension of 30L. per annum, which he did not long enjoy, but died and was buried there, January 19, 1746; and to perpetuate the remembrance of his undaunted courage, a sign was erected in that town, which remains to this day, representing our hero covered with wounds, and bearing the standard be had taken from the enemy.
*7 Yes, it is still there in Yarm High Street, although it is now a simple wooden board, unillustrated, recording Tom's time in what is now a private house.[Peter Sotheran, 2011]
The Improvements made at Kirkleatham in agriculture and planting, by the late Sir Charles Turner, rank this place amongst one of the most flourishing estates in Yorkshire. In addition to the hospital Sir William Turner bequeathed £5000. for founding a Free Grammar School here, which was erected in 1709, by Cholmley Turner, Esq. his nephew, and is a large and handsome quadrangular building, near the hospital. Of the present state of this institution Mr. Carlisle, in his "description of the endowed schools of England and Wales," published in 1818, gives the following singular account :-" The master's salary is £100. and that of the usher £50. but both these offices are now sine-cures, the school*8 having been entirely "discontinued" about thirty years since, by the late Sir Charles Turner. The building contained apartments for the master and usher, as well as the school-room; but it is now occupied in tenements by various mechanics, &c. servants to Lady Turner. Mr. John Irvine, the family steward, holds the sine-cure office of Master, and the Rev. Mr. Shaw, the minister of Kirkleatham, that of Usher. The lord or lady of the manor of Kirkleatham, who is sole governor or governess of the hospital, is sole trustee for the school also.
*8 Sir William Turner's School was resurrected in 1868 with a new Victorian building near to the town centre. It became the local boys grammar school and reached minor public school status in the early 20th century. It has since been demolished and relocated to new sites several times.
The Foundation created by the Turners and their successors still exists and was the major funding partner, contributing around £2.3m to the extension of a 'Higher Education Centre' at the local college only last year. My authority? I happen to chair the trustees of that foundation!
Many thanks for the copy of your Kirkleatham page. It makes fascinating reading and all the details add a little flesh to the history of Sir William Turner, his almshouses and his school.
Good luck as you struggle on tying knots in loose ends of old topic threads! I've added our current web site link in case you need to come up for some air!
[Description(s) edited mainly from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson. ©2010]
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