James Turner


 Name: James Turner

Date of Birth: 14 December 1842

Date of Christening: 5 February 1843

Birth Location: Baldock, Hertfordshire, England

Also Known As:

Age at Burial: 70 years (67 Years on Headstone)

Date of Death: 2 June 1912

Death Location: Capel, Western Australia

Date of Burial: 4 June 1912

Denomination: Anglican – Section B

Row/Grave: Row 8 Grave #107

Grave Transcription:

In Loving Memory of



DIED 2 ND JUNE 1912.




DIED 14 TH JULY 1936



Father: James Turner.  Born 1816, Weston, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.  Died 1846, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.

Mother: Martha Cowling. Born 1818, Ashwell, Hertfordshire, England.  Died 1896, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England

Grandparents (father):

Michael Turner. Born 1786, Weston, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.  Died 1843, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England

Ann Meaxon.  Born 1791, Walkern, Hertfordshire, England.  Died abt 1845, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.

Grandparents (mother):

John Cowling. Born 1792, St Pancras, Greater London, Middlesex, England.  Died 1867, England

Keziah Warboys. Born -1791.  Died 1831, Ashwell, Hertfordshire, England.


Catherine Turner. Born 1840, Baldock, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.  Died 1897, Edmonton, Greater London, Middlesex England.  Married Thomas Wallace

George Turner.  Born 1841, Baldock, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.  Died 1922, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England

Sarah Ann Turner.  Born abt 1845, Baldock, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England. Died 1921

Step Siblings: (Martha Turner nee Cowling – second marriage to Robert Gray)

William Gray. Born 1850

John Gray. Born 1852

George Gray. Born 1856

Frederick Gray. Born 1859

Spouse: Emma Dilley.  Born 1 September 1858, York, Western Australia.  Died 14 July 1936, Busselton, Western Australia.  Daughter of William Dilley and Ellen Boyte.


FIRST: Unknown Female Turner born/died 8 December 1875 buried Lockville, Western Australia.

SECOND: Eliza Mary Ann Turner. Born 17 May 1877, WA Timber Mill, Vasse, WA. Died 28 April 1962, Capel, Western Australia. (BDM – Birth – Mary Ann, BDM – Marriage – Eliza, BDM – Death – Eliza Mary Ann)

Married Julian Harrison in 1895, they had four daughters together – Emma Lily Harrison, Isabel May Harrison, Beatrice Harrison, Edna Harrison

THIRD: William James Turner. Born 10 June 1879, WA Timber Mill, Vasse, WA. Died 29 August 1971, Bunbury, Western Australia.

Married Lillian Rose (Pat) Waddingham in 1922, they had three children together – Stanley George Turner, Bernard Turner, Maxine Joy Turner.

FOURTH: Ellen Christina Turner. Born 5 August 1881, WA Timber Mill, Lockville, WA. Died 7 February 1885, Capel, Western Australia.

FIFTH: George Edward Turner. Born 31 July 1883, Goodwood Sawmill, Lockville, Western Australia. Died 31 January 1885, Capel, Western Australia.

SIXTH: Frederick Henry Turner. Born 10 November 1885, Goodwood Sawmill, Lockville, Western Australia. Died 1947, Capel, Western Australia.

Married Fanny Shortland in 1911, they had 10 children together – James Henry Turner, Fanny Henrietta Turner, Arthur Algernon, Charles Frederick Turner, Clarence William Turner, Marjorie Turner, Edwin Keith Turner, Raymond George Turner, Mavis Irene Turner, Brian Turner.

SEVENTH: Martha Isobel Turner. Born 4 February 1889, Capel, Western Australia. Died 22 March 1968, Perth, Western Australia. (Middle name Isobel on Headstone)(Middle name Isabella on BDM)

Married Mark Henry Hodder in 1908.  Mark Hodder was killed in action 24 September 1918 during WW1 in France.  Second Marriage to George Clarence Williams in 1920 and they a daughter Daphne Florence Williams.

EIGHTH: Bertha Louisa Turner. Born 19 November 1890, Wonnerup, Western Australia. Died 20 December 1974, Collie, Western Australia

Married Henry Emil Wendt in 1908, they had six children together – William Wendt, Lydia Dorothy Wendt, Alec Raymond Wendt, Mavis Jean Wendt, Norman, Harold Wendt, Donald Clarence Wendt.

NINTH: Catherine Hilda Turner. Born 12 April 1893, Wonnerup, Western Australia. Died 5 November 1973, Tuart Hill, Western Australia.

Married William Francis Washer in 1912, they had seven children together – James Francis Washer, William Henry Washer, Christina Jean Washer, Gladys Irene Washer, Phyllis Joy Washer, Lorna Washer, Raymond Washer.

TENTH: Charles Clarence Turner. Born 28 December 1895, Wonnerup, Western Australia. Died 12 June 1977, Buried Capel Cemetery, Western Australia.

ELEVENTH: Norman Stanley Turner. Born 11 November 1897, Busselton, Western Australia. Died 19 November 1979, Capel, Western Australia.

Married Violet Kemp in 1926, they had three children together – Douglas Turner, Patricia Turner, Maureen Turner.

TWELVE: Vera May Turner. Born 1900 Busselton, Western Australia. Died 24 September 1974, Capel, Western Australia.

Married William George Barrett in 1921, they had two children together – Kenneth Malcolm Barrett, Norma Wilma Barrett

THIRTEENTH: Herbert Harold Turner. Born 12 February 1903, Busselton, Western Australia. Died 24 January 1972, Capel, Western Australia

Married Mary Josephine Colahan in 1923, they had five children together, Mary Emma Turner, Ronald William Turner, Edward John Turner, Alexander James Turner, Irene Jean Turner.

Occupation: Farmer/labourer/general servant

Military Service: N/A

Their Story:

Their Story

James Turner was born in Baldock, Hertfordshire on the 14 December 1842 and was baptised the following year on the 5 February.  James along with his  parents James  and Martha Turner nee Cowling lived in Pepper Alley along with his siblings, Catherine born 1840 and George born 1841.

In 1845 James and Martha had another child Sarah Ann born on 23 February 1845.  James and Martha nee Cowling were married on the 27 July 1939 in Baldock, James was 23 years of age and Martha was 21. In the 1841 Census, James occupation is listed as carpenter. His father Michael and mother Ann are also living in the same street as James on the 1841 Census, Michael occupation is also a carpenter.

Sadly at the age of 30, in 1846 James Turner snr died, James jnr was only 3 years of age at the time.  Martha Turner remarried on the 6 October 1850 to Robert Gray she was 32 years.  Robert and Martha Gray had four son’s together, William born 1850, John 1852, George 1856 and Frederick 1859.

The 1851 Census lists the family of Robert Gray (32), Martha Gray (33), Catherine Turner (11) (step-daughter), George (9) (step-son), James (7) (step-son), Sarah Ann (5) (step-daughter and William Gray (5mths) (son) living at 38 High Street in Baldock, Hertfordshire.  Robert’s occupation is listed as  Agricultural Labourer and Martha is a Seamstress.

The 1861 Census list the family are still living in Baldock, and the family home occupants are Robert Gray (45), Martha Gray (44) James Turner (18), William Gray (10), John Gray (8). George Gray (6) and Frederick Gray (2).  James occupation is listed as Agricultural Labourer.  James’s eldest sister Catherine has left the family home and is now working as a domestic servant for the Durant family in Deptford. Unable to locate George or Sarah Ann.

September 26 1863 would be a day to change the course of James Turner’s life, it is best explained with newspaper article transcripts:

The Herfordshire Express – Saturday October 3, 1863

Baldock – Extensive Fire

One of the largest and most devastating fires that has ever occurred in this locality took place early on the morning of Sunday last.  At the back of Norton Street and divided from Mr. Steed’s extensive brewery premises by Pond Lane, were situated a compact series of buildings, which comprised the large and well stored warehouse of Mr. Routledge, some stabling and out buildings of Mr. Steed’s and four cottages fronting the lane; three of the latter were occupied severally by Robert Barnard, Mr. Routledge’s candle maker; Cramp an assistant and Scott a carpenter.  The fourth was unoccupied.  The fire appears to have broken out about twenty minutes to two on Sunday morning, when the alarm was given by some of the inmates of the houses adjacent, who observed an unusually bright light prevailing and such was the rapidity of the progress of the fire, through the combustible nature of the contents of the warehouses and the old thatched exterior of some of the buildings themselves, that before anything could be done, in fact almost before anybody could be present, the whole of the premises were one mass of fire. 

The two Baldock fire engines, under the superintendence of Mr. James Dear, were got on the spot with all possible speed and then for some time a scarcity of water was experienced; the engines were afterwards well worked and by that means and by demolishing some of the roofs of the adjacent buildings, the fire was contained to the premises above described.  These and all they contained, with the exception of the furniture of the cottages, were entirely consumed.  The most dreadful and pitiable facts yet remain to be told, in the catalogue of the poor living creatures and the valuable property consumed.  Mr. Routledge’s loss is as follows: – Four horses (his entire number), two cows, one calf, twelve fat pigs, two breading sows, six carts, one dog, all the harness, the total contents of the warehouses, comprising the usual stock of an extensive grocery and general establishment, including about seventy two cwt. of tallow and several hundred dozens of candles ready made for part of the winter stock and about fifty pounds weight of gunpowder.  Mr. Steed’s loss consists of one nag horse, one chaise, all the carriage harness, bridles and saddles, a new suit of clothes belonging to the groom, besides the usual contents of two barns and stables.  Three nag horses of Mr Steed’s were fortunately rescued.  The explosion of the gunpowder and the blazing of the tallow is stated by an eyewitness to have been grand beyond description.  Mr. Steed is partially insured in the Phoenix and Mr. Routledge, only to a comparatively small amount, in the Globe Fire Office.  The latter gentleman has been ill for some little time and this calamity we fear has added a greater shock to his nervous system.  A tremendous explosion of one of the casks of gunpowder awoke Mr. Oliver Steed, who immediately went, partly dressed to the burning premises and worked in a most praiseworthy manner for four hours. 

From information received by P.C. Leach, he communicated with Inspector Pangbourne and the result was that on Monday, they apprehended Robert Peel, Moses Cooper and James Turner, on a charge of setting fire to the premises.  The two former were place in the lock-up and the latter, whom it was found was suffering from small-pox, was conveyed to the fever ward in the Hitchin Union.  Peel and Cooper were brought up for examination before Thomas Pryor Esq., at the Magistrates’ Clerk’s office, Baldock, on Tuesday evening, when Mr. Routledge, Jun., and Robert Barnard having been examined, the constable, William Leach, deposed that on the night of the fire he saw the three prisoners come out of the Plume of Feathers; they were then the worse for beer; he saw them all again at the fire; Peel then seemed confused; Mr. Pangbourne and himself apprehended them on Monday; told them the charge and cautioned them that what they said would be taken down in writing; Peel then confessed that on going down Norton Street after they left the Plume of Feathers, Cooper said “I should like to see a good fire, let’s go and do it”; they then went round to the premises and tore a piece of rag out of Turner’s waistcoat, of which Cooper lit two pieces and gave one to Turner and one to Peel; Cooper lifted the other two over the fence into Mr. Routledge’s garden; Peel’s rag then went out and Turner pushed his into the eaves of the thatch; they then went back through Mr. Steed’s premises and into the Slade where they met Cooper who asked him whether it had got hold; Turner replied that it was all right; they then went over the railroad and back again and Peel went and helped to get out the engine. 

Cooper being also cautioned said he was not there nor did he set fire to the premises.  Superintendent Pangbourne corroborated Leach’s evidence as to the prisoner’s confession, adding that the waistcoat is locked up at Hitchin and that a piece of rag is missing from it.  Dorothy James, deposed that on going to the fire about four o’clock, she saw the three prisoners standing together in Mr. Steed’s ground and heard Cooper say to the others, “don’t split, as we’re all alike if we’re taken up.”  Some other witnesses were examined and the two prisoners were then committed to take their trial at the ensuing assizes at Hertford.

Shipping and Mercantile Gazette – London – December 5, 1863



EXTRAORDINARY CASE OF ARSON – (Before Mr. Justice Williams, yesterday), – Robert Peel, 18, Moses Cooper, 29, and James Turner, 21, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging them with feloniously and maliciously setting fire to four houses and other property belonging to Henry Routledge.

Mr. W. A. Clark was instructed for the prosecution.

The offense to which these prisoners pleaded guilty was one of a very extraordinary character.  The prosecutor resides in the town of Baldock, and carries on the business of grocer and draper.  He was also the proprietor of a considerable block of houses in the town, some of which were used as store-houses, and contained a great quantity of goods, and the remainder as cottages.  The premises were safe on the night of the 26 th September, but about 2 o’clock on the following morning the neighbourhood was alarmed by a loud explosion in the store-house, and a terrible conflagration ensued, the effect of which was not only to destroy a very large quantity of property, but to endanger the lives of the inmates of the cottages.  The prisoners were seen at the fire, and it would seem that their conduct excited so much suspicion that the Baldock constable took the prisoner Peel into custody, and he then made the following statement:- “When we left the Plume and Feathers public-house, Moses Cooper said he should like to see a good fire, and then said ‘ Let’s go and have one,’ and we then went to the bottom of Morton-Street, turned to the right into Foot-ball’s Close, and so back by the Quaker’s Meeting-house into Morton-Street again, nearly opposite Pond-lane (the spot where the fire occurred), and Cooper lighted two pieces of rand, and gave one to Turner and one to me, and Cooper then lifted me and Turner up to get over the wall into Mr. Routledge’s garden.  My rag went out, but Turner went and shoved his into the eaves of the thatch of one of Mr. Routledge’s buildings adjoining his garden.  When it was on fire, I and Turner got over into Mr. Stead’s grove, and so out again.  Cooper there met us and asked how it was, and we told him it was all right, and we then went into the fields and over the railway, and so back into Morton-street, and I then went and helped to get the engine out, and left the others behind.”  The other two prisoners were subsequently apprehended, and Cooper, while in Hertford Gaol, wrote a letter to one of his relatives, in which he stated that they were guilty, and they were very sorry for what they had done, but that they were all alike and they must make the best of it.  It appeared that within a very short period property to a very large amount had been destroyed in the neighbourhood of Baldock, under similar circumstances, and without any assignable motive.  Both Cooper and Peel had, it appeared, been previously convicted of felony.

Sentence was deferred.

The Hertfordshire Express – Saturday, December 12, 1863

Charge of arson at Baldock

Robert Peel, 18, Moses Cooper, 29, and James Turner, 21, pleaded guilty to a charge of willfully setting fire to four dwelling houses and other property at Baldock, the act having been committed out of pure mischief and without any apparent motive or object.  The particulars of this case were fully reported in the Express.  Mr. Justice Williams, addressing the prisoners, said that they had pleaded guilty to an offence of great enormity, in having destroyed the property of a respectable man who had never given them the least offence and they had done this apparently without the slightest motive.  The crime of arson appeared to be very prevalent in this county and it was necessary that it should be repressed by severe punishment.  He then ordered the prisoners to be kept in penal servitude for twelve years.

Bedforshire Mercury – December 14, 1863


Three men named Robert Peel, Moses Cooper and James Turner, were convicted on their own confession of setting fire to farm buildings and other premises belonging to Mr. Routledge, in Pound-lane, on September 26 th. – Upon the premises was a candle factory and also a quantity of gunpowder, the explosion being heard at a great distance.  Five horses, some cows, calves, pigs &c., were burnt, besides four cottages adjoining, and premises belonging to Mr. Steed, brewer, who had a valuable horse burnt to death.  On the Saturday night in question these three fellows had been drinking together at a public-house in the neighborhood, and about twelves o’clock, when in the street Peel suggested a fire, and Cooper replied, “I should like to see a good fire, and let’s make one.”  They then went up Pound-land together as far as Mr. Steed’s gate, and Cooper lifted Peel and Turner over the fence into Mr. Routledge’s garden.  They then tore some lining out of Turner’s waistcoat, and Turner and Peel both set fire to the premises.  Once remarkable circumstance in reference to these dastardly villains was, when the fire had got a little under, they came to render assistance, and mistaking a dog that had been burnt to death for a pig had a meal off it! – Sentence: Twelve years’ penal servitude each.


Moses Cooper the eldest of the convicted arsonists was first sent to Millbank Prison, it is recorded that his mother Edith visited him while he was incarcerated.  He was then transferred to Dartmoor Prison on the 16 th May 1864. Moses can next be found living at an Invalid Convict Prison in 1871 and then at Hitchin Union Workhouse in 1881.  He died at the age of 47 years in July 1883, Hitchin Hertfordshire. It is not known why he was not sent to a penal colony, though he does have listed prior convictions before receiving his last 12 years sentence.


James Turner, Convict Number 8440 was first imprisoned at Millbank Prison in London until his removal to Chatham Prison before he embarked on the convict ship “Racehorse” on 26 th May 1865 for the 76 day journey to Fremantle, Western Australia. He arrived in Western Australia on the 10 th August 1865 with fellow convict Robert Peel, convict number 8385.  The convict ship Racehorse arrived with 172 passengers and 278 convicts.  James physical description was recorded:

Turner James, Convict Number 8440, Occupation – farm laborer, Married/Single – Single, Height – 5′ 4″, Hair – light brown, Eyes – hazel, Face Shape – oval, Complexion – fair, Build – stout, Distinguishing Marks- Ring second finger right hand, ring first, T second, O third finger left hand.

Convicts of Australia – Racehorse 1865

Perth Gazette and West Australian Times – Arrival of Racehorse – Friday 11 August 1865


The convicts who arrived on the ship Racehorse, which was the first of the last six ships to arrive in Fremantle, were soon put to work on projects such as roads and opening up the navigation of the Canning River, for the purpose of floating timber on rafts.  The residents of Toodyay also made their voice heard, as they also needed convict labour to assist with roads and projects to further the prospects of the area. Perhaps this is were Robert Peel was sent during his early years in the colony. Western Australia received its first transport of convicts in 1850 with the arrival of the Scindian, and convict labour was much in demand in all areas of the colony as labourers, and those with skills were highly sought after.

Both Robert and James are listed in “Convicts of Western Australia 1850 -1887 Dictonary of Western Australia Volume IX by Rica Erickson and Gillian O’Mara”:

PEEL Robert (8385) 1843 -Unm, lab, semi lit, Prot, conv Hertford 3.12.1863 arson prev conv 12 yrs; arr Racehorse 10.8.1865 TL 18.10.1870 CF 17.3.1876 Geraldton; Toodyay, Fremantle, Perth, Wellington, Champion Bay, gen svt lab miner. To SA 4.4.1879.

TURNER James (8440) 1843 – Unm farm lab, lit Prot, conv Hertford 1863 arson 12 yrs; arr Racehorse 10.8.1865 TL 28.1.1870 CF 7.1.1876 Vasse; Sussex, gen svt lab. Mar Emma Dilley.


Over the next 11 years James Turner’s convict record sheet lists his occupation, location and his employer.  Between January 1870 and June 1875 he is primarily engaged as a labourer within the Busselton/Sussex region.

As a “Trusty Prisoner” he is also said to have brought the mail to and from Albany to Bunbury, his tool of the trade were a horse, a cart and a shotgun

While still serving his sentence, James Turner aged 32 years was granted special permission to marry 16 year old Emma Dilley.  It is thought they met at Margaret River.  Emma was the daughter of William Dilley and Ellen Boyte.  James and Emma were married at the courthouse, Vasse on 6 th August 1875.  It was not until the 7 th January 1876 that James obtained his Certificate of Freedom.

Sadly for James and Emma they lost their first child believed to be a daughter on the 8 th December 1875, she is buried at Lockville, Western Australia which is near Wonnerup. James was employed at the W.A Timber Mill at the time as a labourer, this is were the Ballaarat Tramline operated also known as the Lockville-Yoganup Railway line, constructed in 1871 by the Western Australian Timber Company. The railway was used to transort timber from forests in the South West to the company’s jetty at Lockville using the Ballaarat steam engine.

James and Emma continued to live at Lockville in a very basic hut across the road from Layman’s big house, and they welcomed their second child Eliza Mary Ann Turner on May 17 th 1877. William James the couples first son was born on June 10 th 1879, then Ellen Christina on August 5 th 1881, George Edward July 31 st 1883 and Frederick Henry was born at Goodward Saw Mill at Lockville on November 10 th 1885.

Ellen Christina and George Edward both died within a month of each other in the beginning of 1885.  A family story states that Emma walked to Jarrahwood, a distance of about 40 miles carrying one of these children, to seek a doctors help, but the baby died on the long journey.

After James acquired his Certificate of Freedom, he found a block of land a few miles from the Capel and squatted on it for the next 20 years.  He worked between Capel and Wonnerup during this time.

James and Emma went on the have seven additional children.  Martha Isobel was born 4 th February 1889, Bertha Louisa 19 th November 1890, Catherine Hilda 12 th April 1893, Charles Clarence 28 th December 1895, Norman Stanley 11 th November 1897, Vera May 1900, and lastly Herbert Harold 12 th February 1903.  They also celebrated their eldest daughter Eliza’s wedding to Julian Harrison in Busselton in 1895.

On the 13 July 1896, James Turner paid 1 pound for an office fee on a the homestead farm.  Lot 237, an area of 106 acres,  this farm was named “Heatherleigh.

James’s mother Martha died in 1896 in Hitchen, Hertfordshire at the age of 78 years, it is unknown if James was able to maintain correspondence with his family in England after transportation to Western Australia.

Three separate homes were built on Heatherleigh Farm, the first house was built of mud, the second was a slab construction with a mud floor and the third was a timber frame home built onto the back of the second home.

The 1903 Electoral Roles list James Turner  and Emma as living at Capel and occupation as farmer.

Southern Times Newspaper – Fire At Capel – Started at Turner Farm – Thursday 21 December 1905

In 1908 Martha their seventh child married Mark Henry Hodder, and Bertha their eighth child married Henry Emil Wendt in the same year.

Frederick Henry Turner their sixth child married Fanny Shortland in 1911.

Southern Times Newspaper – Turner – Shortland Wedding Article – Tuesday 17 Oct 1911

Catherine Hilda Turner married William Francis Washer, James was reportedly in ill health at the wedding which was held the weekend before his death.

James died of cardiac disease on 2 June 1912, when his youngest son Herbert was eight years old.

The South Western News – Mr J Turner Death – 7 June 1912

The Bunbury Herald – Capel News – 8 June 1912

TURNER.—In sad and loving memory of our
dear father, who passed away at Capel on
June 2, 1912.
Worthy of everlasting love was he,
From those he left behind;
Husband and father, no better could be,
Or one more true and kind.
Forget him, no, we never will;
We loved him then, we love him still.
Around his silent form we stood,
With hearts all crushed and sore;
While through the gloom those sweet words
Not lost, but gone before.
—Inserted by his loving wife and family.

Information and Story Compiled by Researcher PP  (CDCP Team Member)

Links to other websites with additional information included in story.

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© Capel District Cemeteries Project 15.06.2022

Turner James and Emma Headstone