Biographical / Historical
Sophia Adelaide Turle was born in London in 1841, the ninth and youngest child of James Turle (who was organist at Westminster Abbey from 1831 until his death in 1882) and Mary Honey. Their other children were Louise (1827-1887), William Honey (1829-1906), James (b. circa 1830? - d. 1871), Mary (1832-1906), James Robert [Bob] (1834-1908), Henry Frederic (1835-1883), Charles Edward (b. circa 1837? - m. Emma), and Caroline (1839-1909).
Sophia lived at home with her parents, as did several of her siblings: their mother died in 1869, their father in 1882. Sophia, like her father, had a lifelong interest in music: she played the piano and the organ and was a regular participant in chamber music. After her father’s death she collected together the hymn tunes he had composed and had them published by Novello’s in one volume in 1885.
James Turle senior numbered many supporters of women’s education amongst his friends, including Dean Stanley, Lady Augusta Stanley and Matthew Arnold. Sophia too was an enthusiastic supporter of women’s education, including women’s medical education, and other women’s causes. She gave regular financial support to the London Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine for Women and to various women’s hospitals. Sophia was also a steady supporter of the women’s suffrage movement: she subscribed regularly to the London Society for Women’s Suffrage from 1878 to 1909, together with her sister Caroline and a brother, then joined the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1910.
Sophia had a number of regular occupations: the 1881 census return for Little Cloisters at Westminster Abbey, where she lived at that date with her father and four of her siblings, lists her as a Literary Editor, a profession she shared with her brother Henry Frederic and her sister Caroline. Her brother James Robert [Bob] is listed in the same census return as a member of the Stock Exchange. Sophia also played the organ at the church of St Matthew’s, Westminster, where her brother William Honey Turle was vicar.
Sophia’s interests in music and women’s education were combined in the Sophia Adelaide Turle Musical Scholarships at Girton College, which she founded with a gift of £2,300 in 1914. She made further generous benefactions to Girton after that date, including gifts totalling £1,200 between 1921 and 1923, and further musical and general scholarships were established under her will in 1924.
Girton College inherited Sophia's entire estate on her death, including silver, furniture, and her piano. She appears to have had a 'great regard for Miss [Eleanor] Allen' (Bursar of Girton 1906-29) and it may be that, quite apart from Sophia's general concern for women's education, their friendship 'had much to do with the bequest to the College' (see letter from Florence E Turle [a cousin of Sophia's?], 1924, at GCAR 2/6/17/11).
Sophia’s sisters Mary and Caroline were, like Sophia, strong promoters of the women’s suffrage movement and women’s education. When Mary died in 1906 she left a legacy of £100 to Girton (see GCAR 2/6/36/50). When Caroline died in 1909 her will stipulated that Sophia, as sole beneficiary, should, on her death, bequeath any remaining part of the estate to Newnham College, Cambridge, for the endowment of scholarships: the Caroline Turle Scholarships were duly set up at Newnham College after Sophia’s death.
By the early 1920s Sophia Turle was living in Parkstone, Dorset. She died in 1923.