Henry Hanson Turton (the son of the Wesleyan Methodist Minister Isaac Turton) was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, on 5 July 1818. He was accepted for the Wesleyan Methodist ministry in 1839 but prior to his departure to undertake mission work he married Susannah Lindsay Kirk in August of that year. Along with his wife he left England on 14 September on the maiden voyage of the newly commissioned mission ship the 'Triton'. They arrived in New Zealand on 8th May 1840 along with the Rev & Mrs Thomas Buddle, Rev & Mrs John Skevington, Rev Gideon Smales, Rev John Aldred and Rev George Buttle. It was initially proposed that the Turtons be posted to Kawhia but this was reconsidered and they were asked to open a new mission just to the north at Aotea. Rev Turton's missionary career began in a tent until after eight weeks the mission house was made partially habitable and his wife joined him. They were quite isolated as is best illustrated by Mrs Turton only having her husband to assist her with the birth of their first child in 1841.
Turton shared responsibility for the circuit with the Rev John Whiteley at Kawhai and both of them spent much time travelling in order to evangelise. In December 1842 Turton embarked on a 6 week round trip through the area travelling as far east as Mokau and as far north as Waipa - a distance he estimated of some 600 miles. In early 1843 he followed this with a trip to Auckland and later in the year relocated to New Plymouth where he remained for much of the next decade.
Turton was in the forefront of the rejection of Bishop Selwyn's views regarding the status of Methodist ministers. Selwyn argued that the Methodists were more teachers than ministers, that Anglicans should administer the sacrament and that Maoris baptised by Methodists should be re-baptised by Anglicans. This dispute not only caused a clear division between the two Protestant faiths but also caused confusion amongst, as well as some offense to, Maoris converted by Methodists. Turton, in 1846, also vigorously disputed Dieffenbach's criticisms of missionaries in New Zealand and raised strong objections to comments made by Edward Jeringham Wakefield in his 'Adventure in New Zealand'.
From the mid 1840s Turton assisted in land claim negotiations for Governor Fitzroy and with his wife founded a school for Maoris in 1845 (later known as the Grey Institute). Mrs Turton died, soon after the birth of their fourth son, on 21 October 1849. In 1851 Turton remarried on 10 April Mary Emily Walsall. Turton interests increasingly turned to business ventures and this began to bring him into conflict with the missionary society. After a furlough in 1856 Turton returned to discover that John Hobbs was to be dispatched to review Turton's business activities. By this time Turton had relocated initially to Kawhai and subsequently Manukau but Hobb's report did establish a case to answer. In 1858 Turton went to England briefly and upon his return in 1859 resigned from the WMMS.
Turton found employment as a translator with the Native Minister Donald McLean and was later appointed a Goldfields Warden at Coromandel in 1862. He served as Member of Parliament for New Plymouth between 1863 and 1864, leaving to act as Commissioner to investigate Maori land claims and titles. In 1874 he relocated to Wellington where he was involved with creating and recording land purchases in the North Island. He died in Wellington on 18 September 1887.
Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland (online);
Laurenson, G. I, Te Hahi Weteriana. Three half centuries of the Methodist Maori mission 1822-1972 (1972).