Looking back at those who have told the story of the county shows that everyone can get involved in heritage activities, writes Barry Shurlock.

THE late Barbara Carpenter Turner has been chosen as Historian of the Month by the Hampshire Field Club. 

It marks the completion of another year in its quest to celebrate the 200 or so people who over the years have contributed to the history of the county.

For half a century she played a prominent part in almost every organization that was involved in studies of the past. When the Queen and Prince Philip paid a visit to Winchester in July 1955, it was she who drafted a paper on ‘The City and the Crown’.

Barbara was born in Portsmouth in 1915 to Reginald Bunyard and Dorothy (née Copper). He was a Warrant Officer at the RN Gunnery School, HMS Excellent. After reading History at the University of London and obtaining a teaching certificate from Cambridge University, she taught at the Atherley School, Southampton. It had been founded in 1926 by the Church School’s Company and in 1939 its staff and pupils were evacuated to Winchester.  

Hampshire Chronicle: Barbara Carpenter Turner and her daughter Clarissa, in the 1950s

Waiting at a bus-stop in Southampton during the war she accepted a lift from Wilfrid Carpenter Turner, architect to Winchester Cathedral, and son of the Venerable John Carpenter Turner, Archdeacon of Basingstoke. In 1943 they married.

As Barbara Bunyard, she had in 1940 already edited The Brokage Book of Southampton, in the Southampton Record Series. As well as a route to a family life, the marriage brought together two talents: he looked after the fabric of the Cathedral and she wrote about it. 

She was a prolific contributor to the Winchester Cathedral Record, publishing a dozen or more articles over the years on a wide variety of subjects. She was particularly interested in the period in the mid-1500s when the Cathedral Priory was dissolved, with the complicity of  William Kingsmill, the last prior and first dean. Equally, she was intrigued by the threat of the demolition of the cathedral by the Parliamentarians in the 1540s and ‘the return of the Church’ in 1660.

Hampshire Chronicle: Herbert Chitty and daughters

Another of her subjects was the antiquarian Francis Joseph Baigent, son of a drawing master at Winchester College, and from a Catholic family. His religion presented a barrier to the conventional routes to advancement available to Anglican peers. Despite this, he forged a career as a distinguished self-employed historian. 

Baigent is noted for a huge spread of interests, including a scholarly work on Crondall, in the north-east of the county, and a pioneering two-volume History of the Ancient Town and Manor Basingstoke, co-authored with cathedral canon Dr James Millard. His papers are in the British Library.

The cathedral was Barbara’s anchor, but she forged strong links with other key bodies, serving as honorary archivist of Winchester City Record Office and for nearly 20 years editing the Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club. She was a founder member of the Winchester Preservation Trust and President of the Winchester branch of the Historical Association. 

In 1981 she became assistant to the cathedral librarian and saw the transfer of much of its archive to the Hampshire Record Office. As well as easy access to such material, her writing was informed ‘from the inside’, by involvement in local government. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Archaeologist Augustus Pitt Rivers

She became a city councillor in 1960, an alderman in 1966 and served as mayor of Winchester 1966-67. In 1973 she became chair of the new shadow Winchester District Council and a year later its first mayor. Three years later she retired from local government to focus on her writing. She served as a JP 1963-1987 and was honoured as a freeman of the city.

Barbara was as much a writer as an historian: her works are eminently readable and aimed at a non-specialist audience. In 1957, when she got back into history after raising her children, Robert and Clarissa, she gave a series of lectures to the Winchester Branch of the WEA. These were later published in a series in the Hampshire Chronicle

It was the start of a long association with the paper, and especially its editor Monica Woodhouse. Her first major work in 1963 was A History of Hampshire and much later in 1980 she wrote a history of Winchester. It was a useful source at the time, and is still an enjoyable read, though the scholarly work of Martin Biddle and others, published in the Winchester Studies Series, is now the established authority for the earlier period. 

She was not averse to popular writing, and, as well as producing slim booklets for Pitkin Pictorials, had a close association with Paul Cave Publications, including two volumes of her bestselling Hampshire Hogs. She also wrote authoritative monographs on St John’s Charity and the Royal Hampshire County Hospital. Her personal papers and many other items are held by the HRO.
Obituaries refer to Barbara having a ‘tough, pugnacious streak’, a ‘sparkling personality’ and a ‘lively sense of humour and independent spirit’. According to Paul Britton, writing in the Winchester Cathedral Record, ‘she was a formidable lady but great fun…[with] some enemies, but also many, many friends’. 

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She and Wilfrid are buried in the upper Itchen Valley in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Easton, where they and their family lived for several years, before moving back to the city and living in the Close.

Barbara Carpenter Turner is a prime candidate for Celebrating Hampshire Historians. Many others – from all walks of life – profiled for the project have been long forgotten, but their work endures. They include Albert Oscroft an amateur place-name expert, Charles Cave also a meteorologist, Herbert Chitty archivist of Winchester College, city councillor Thomas Stopher, grandee and landowner Augustus Pitt Rivers – and many more 

The project is forever uncovering people with intriguing life histories that merit more attention. Recently, for example, the story of Thomas Hervey was uncovered from a study of the footnotes of the Victoria County History – the prime record of the county published in the years before WWI (and currently being rewritten, village by village). 

He was one of those clergymen who literally bought the right to appoint men to the living – in this case for Colmore and Priors Dean, in East Hampshire – and promptly appointed himself (and much later his son). For many years he edited the Winchester Diocesan Calendar, published by Jacob & Johnson, but in 1889 lost the job to another clergyman.

Undeterred, he turned his attention to preparing a new edition of a history of the parish he had first published in 1880. Not only that, he printed it himself, in Colemore!  The resulting book is a thoroughly professional product, impeccably typeset and illustrated with his own photographs and line drawings. 

He would no doubt be glad to find that in 2011 the British Library reprinted one of his works in their Historical Print Editions, still available on Amazon, albeit at a hefty price. He would be less pleased to know that Colemore church is now redundant and in the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust.

All those nominated in the Celebrating Hampshire historians project can be found at: (www.hantsfieldclub.org.uk/ihr100/names-intro.html).