James Turle

James Turle was Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey from 1831-1882. Burial was offered at the Abbey but declined as he wished to be buried with his wife at Norwood cemetery. However in the west cloister of the Abbey is a memorial tablet which reads:

In memory of James Turle for more than fifty years Organist of Westminster Abbey and Master of the Choristers. Born 5 March 1802. Died 28 June 1882. Also of Mary his wife Born 12 July 1801. Died 17 March 1869. And of Henry Frederic Turle fourth son of the above. Born 23 July 1835. Died 28 June 1883

Below is a carved page of music lettered:

Vouchsafe O Lord, to keep us, to keep us this day without sin


In the north choir aisle of the Abbey is a stained glass window, by Messrs Clayton & Bell, which shows various Biblical and other figures, most with musical connections. In the first light are figures of David with Asaph, Miriam with Deborah and Jubal with Moses and in the second (right hand light) are Ambrose and Aretinus, the Blessed Virgin Mary with St Cecilia and Zacharias with Simeon. At the base are small portraits of James and his wife. The inscription has now disintegrated.

Life and Family

He was born at Taunton in Somerset, a son of James (d.1844), a cello player, and his wife Elizabeth (Forrest). His brother Robert (1804-77) was in the Abbey choir and was later organist at Armagh cathedral. He had five sisters. James was a chorister at Wells cathedral and then studied under J.J.Goss. He was organist at Christ Church, Southwark and St James', Bermondsey in London. In 1810 he was made deputy to the Abbey organist Thomas Greatorex. On 2nd December 1823 he married Mary Honey at St Mary's Lambeth.

Three of their sons sang in the Abbey choir and were all educated at Westminster School (as the Abbey did not have a separate Choir School at this period): James Robert (1833-1908) who was later a member of the Stock Exchange and died unmarried; Henry Frederic (1835-83) who had to leave school on health grounds and died unmarried; Charles Edward (1837-1912) who later entered the War Office and married firstly Meta Wilson and secondly Emma Vernede of Java. James' son William Honey Turle (1829-1905) was also at the School but not a chorister. He was ordained and was curate at St John's and at St Matthew's churches in Westminster and married Rose Morris. The other children were Louisa, Jane, Mary, Caroline and Sophia.

James was a composer, mainly of church music, and edited the Westminster Abbey Chant Book and played at the 1834 Handel Festival in the Abbey. Two of his assistant organists were C.S.Jekyll and John Leman Brownsmith. The house he occupied in the Abbey cloisters was demolished not long after he vacated.

Further Reading

Turle name website

"Chants as used in Westminster Abbey" edited by James Turle, various editions

"Westminster Abbey:1000 years of music and pageant" by James Wilkinson, 2003


5th March 1802


28th June 1882


Musician; composer


North Choir Aisle; West Cloister

Memorial Type

Window; tablet

Material Type

Marble; glass

James Turle
James Turle, organist

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

James Turle
James Turle monument

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

James Turle
Turle memorial window

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster