Abbey Meadows

Abbey Meadows

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Local Hero

William Turner was born in Morpeth in 1508. He was educated in the Chantry in Morpeth and went on to study physic and philosophy at Pembroke college, Cambridge. After graduation he became a clergyman, doctor and a botanist, leading an eventful life during the reign of the tudor monarchs. Turner was the first person to classify and record descriptions and illustrations of British plants, which he then linked to old Greek texts about the medicinal uses of herbs, so the right plants would be used for treatments. He gave English names that we still use today to around 300 plant species such as daffodil, bluebell, daisy, foxglove, heather, fennel and pansy. Turner preferred to write in English rather than the more common Latin, so fellow doctors and apothecaries could understand what was written. During his life, Turner was doctor to Lord Somerset at Syon house in the midst of the Royals, an MP in Wiltshire, Dean of Wells cathedral in Somerset, ordained as a priest, as well as writing books on birds, fish, the famous herbal in three parts, other books on plants, religeous essays etc. Turner lived through the reign of four Tudor monarchs until he died in 1568.

When I was at school we were taught about the life of Turner and I am pleased to learn that my own children are also familiar with this locally born botanist. I was in Turner house at Morpeth high school but what he is most famous for to me is his discovery of many plants new to science at the time. My favourite plant is Herb paris which he found in Cottingwood. 'Libardbayne or one a wodde besyde Morpeth called Cottingwood' Turner(1548) from Swan (1993). This was the first record for Britain and amazingly the above pictures were taken from the very spot where it was first discovered. It has a very scattered distribution in the county but I came across it at Longwitton dene on the river Hart. Other pictures above are of the excellent Turner garden in Morpeth; well worth a wander through and the Chantry which used to be a pop factory when I was at school but these days houses a craft centre, the tourist information centre and Englands only bagpipe museum where I saw the scottish folk duo Sileas! I have included a picture of Herb paris with five leaves despite its Latin name quadrifolia.
I have also included Pendulous Sedge with the Cotting burn in the background.


st said...

It's not very often a local council does something well

abbey meadows said...

The Turner garden is excellent and a fitting tribute to the great man. Someone form the council with a bit of insight saw sense.