Charles Hampden Turner

A Colourful Character


Splendidly dressed in a blue coat with silver braid, this portrait of Charles Hampden Turner (1773?-1856) was painted to mark his marriage to Mary Rhode. Turner served in the St Anne’s Battalion of the Tower Hamlets Volunteer Infantry, his promotion to Major in July 1805 having been recorded by the London Gazette.

Turner was a man of many parts. With houses at Berkeley Square in London and Rook’s Nest in Surrey, he owned a sailmaking company in Limehouse, was a partner in a rope-making business and was deputy chairman of the East India Docks Company. He was an elected member of the Geological Society, the Linnean Society and the Royal Society, also belonging to the Horticultural Society, the Royal Institution, and the Athenaeum Club and, in 1848, was made an honorary member of the Society of Civil Engineers.

Away from his business interests, Turner was a keen gardener pioneering the use of steam heating in conservatories and winning an RHS medal for getting Chinese wisteria to flower in England for the first time. He was also an avid collector of objects as diverse as minerals and battle drawings.

In 1845, over 100 portrait miniatures and a collection of unfinished sketches by the miniaturist Ozias Humphrey were bequeathed to Turner by a good friend and son of the artist. The executors, however, failed to comply with this bequest and placed the miniatures with Sotheby’s to sell. Unhappy at this turn of events, Turner is said to have made “a dramatic entrance” at the auction house with his henchmen on the morning of the sale and proceeded to stuff the miniatures into his coat pockets whilst challenging the executors to call the police. The collection were then determinately hidden from public view thereafter only coming to light again in the early twentieth century.

In fine condition, the portrait miniature is encased in a gold frame, the reverse with a blue glass surround with plaited hair within an aperture. The miniature resides in the original velvet-lined travelling case with a hand-written note (now in two parts) of the sitter’s name.

Item Ref. 5860

Size: framed, 72 x 60mm