PAGE TURNER, Sir Gregory, 3rd Bt. (1748-1805), of Battlesden, Beds.
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Family and Education
b. 16 Feb. 1748, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Edward Turner, 2nd Bt.†, of Ambrosden, Oxon. by Cassandra, da. of William Leigh of Adlestrop, Glos. educ. Eton 1762; L. Inn 1765; Hertford, Oxf. 1766; Grand Tour. m. 2 Jan. 1785, Frances, da. of Joseph Howell of Elm, Cambs., 3s. 1da. suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. 31 Oct. 1766; gt.-uncle Sir Gregory Page to Battlesden and took name of Page before Turner 15 Nov. 1775.
Sheriff, Oxon. 1783-4.
Page Turner continued to sit for Thirsk as a guest of Sir Thomas Frankland*. He had supported Pitt throughout his first Parliament except on the peerage clause of the Regency bill— he was ambitious of a peerage. In an application for an Irish one, 21 Oct. 1795, he referred to Pitt as the ‘minister whose measures in Parliament I have so often and so repeatedly supported’. He renewed his application on 19 Oct. 1797, asking for an interview with Pitt. It was not granted. According to Wraxall, he ‘was distinguished by great eccentricities of deportment; such, indeed, as to call into question on some occasions the sanity of his mind’.1
Page Turner was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. He informed the House that ‘he had a considerable stake in the country’ (18 Oct. 1796) and was an occasional spokesman in debate for the country gentlemen loyally disposed to government. In his first known speech in that Parliament, 6 Mar. 1794, he opposed Whitbread’s motion for a separate peace with France; ‘it was the war of all Europe’ and he hoped that the landed and commercial interests alike would support it. On 8 Dec. 1795 he objected to a tax on horses if it was applied to those employed in agriculture and suggested instead a tax on dogs (which he approved when it was resorted to, 7 Apr. 1796) and, more generally, an equitable tax to which all were liable according to their wealth. He objected to the burning of John Reeves’s pamphlet by the common hangman as it would ‘take men from their work and employment’. He deplored Grey’s motion expressing alarm about the national finances, 10 Mar. 1796, having every confidence in Pitt’s foresight and his wish for peace when it could reasonably be obtained. On 18 Oct. 1796 he deprecated invasion fears, certain that others shared his sense of loyalty to the country.
As in 1785, he was an opponent of parliamentary reform, 26 May 1797: ‘When he got up in the morning, or when he lay down at night, he always felt for the constitution ... They had not to consider who the electors were, but who the elected are.’ He reposed confidence in Pitt’s administration. He voted for Pitt’s assessed taxes, 4 Jan. 1798. On 18 May he was in the minority favouring Buxton’s proposal that there should be no new land tax without a more general plan of taxation, and said as much. Commending the income tax, 17 Dec. 1798, he said he believed that he had been the first to propose it (8 Dec. 1795) and ‘took credit to himself’ for his invariable support of Pitt’s policy. He proposed (31 Dec.) but failed, next day, to carry tax relief for ladies living on small incomes. Advocating the renewal of the suspension of habeas corpus, 19 Feb. 1800, he said ‘He was conscious that he was an independent man but he would still support ministers as long as they acted well, and he would be always proud to support the constitution and the King’. He accordingly championed the vigorous prosecution of war, despite the tax burden, 28 Feb. He welcomed the Anglo-Irish union, 21 Apr. 1800, citing a Horatian ode in Pitt’s honour. (He then renewed his application to Pitt for an Irish peerage, but to no avail.)2 He objected to the adultery bill, 10 June 1800; if a woman taken in adultery were not allowed to marry her seducer, she would be ruined. On 7 May 1802 he welcomed Lord Belgrave’s amendment in favour of a vote of thanks to Pitt for his services to the country: ‘Our property was notwithstanding still saved [a laugh], our constitution unimpaired, our honour not only unsullied but exalted’. Having said this he voted by mistake in the minority thanking the King for Pitt’s removal from office. ‘He was conversing with someone while the Members were dividing, and did not attend to what was going forward till the doors were shut, and he was of course counted in the minority’.3
Page Turner played no part in the Parliament of 1802. On 15 Mar. 1803 he took a month’s leave for his health. He was listed a supporter of Pitt’s second ministry in September 1804. He died 4 Jan. 1805, worth £24,000 a year, apart from extensive investments in government and East India Company stock and a hoard of golden guineas. ‘In addition to the 16,700 guineas found in his secretaire, there has since been discovered about the same sum in his iron coffers.’4