Turner, Dawson


Residence of. On Hall Quay. Turner was a noted antiquarian, botanist and patron of the arts. He was particularly associated with the Norwich School of Painters and employed John Sell Cotman to teach his daughters to paint. 

Dawson Turner was firstly educated at the North Walsham Grammar School and then privately with the Revd. Robert Forby of Barton, who developed Turner’s interest in botany. In 1792, he entered Pembroke College, Cambridge, where his uncle was the Master, but he left two years later on the death of his father. His father, James, had set up the Yarmouth and Suffolk Bank in 1781, by entering into partnership with three Gurney brothers, who were members of one of the leading Quaker families. They had made their money out of the woollen and worsted trade.


Dawson took over his father’s position in the Great Yarmouth Bank, which was based in South Quay and he lived above the bank. He married Mary Palgrave in 1796 and between then they had eleven children, three of whom did not survive childhood.


In spite of his banking business Turner continued his interest in botany, collecting specimens and writing about them. He became a Fellow of the Linnaeus Society in 1797 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1802.

Turner amassed a great collection of paintings by the old masters and was patron of many of the Norwich School of Artists, such as John Crome and John Sell Cotman, who taught his wife and daughters to draw and paint. He had a vast collection of books and manuscripts and wrote of his travels in Europe, particularly Normandy. In addition, he was a magistrate for Norfolk and Suffolk.


His children were intelligent and followed his example of working hard. His daughters were accomplished artists and married eminent men. His sons were successful in their respective spheres.


After his wife died in 1850, Dawson married Rosamund Duff in Gretna Green. This upset many of his family and friends and he went to live in Barnes, South London. His finances became strained and he had to sell many of his paintings and books. He remained a director of the bank until his death. His house continued to house a bank (Barclays) until 2014 when the branch moved to the Market Place.


Bank House as it looked pre 1840.

Turner's Bank Row showing the original and replacement blue plaque on Bank House, 2017.