Harry Turner – Sudbury’s Unsung Hero

Reporter: Nicki Dixon

Sudbury Society AGM, Friday 23 March 2018,

All Saints Church Hall, Sudbury


Following the official business of the AGM, members enjoyed a short refreshment break before ne chairman, John French introduced society member, Sam Thornton with his talk entitled Sudbury’s Unsung Hero.

The unsung hero he was referring to was Harry Turner, a man who had suffered four years hard labour on the Burma Railway at the hands of his Japanese captors before setting up as an estate agent in Sudbury.

Sam, also an estate agent recalled how tidy Harry’s desk always was compared to his own which was “a shambles.”

Clearly referring to his time as a PoW, Harry had said to him that his belief was to live for the day, if you don’t know tomorrow is going to happen you organise yourself.

It was in the late 1969s that the building in Quay Lane we now know as the town’s theatre was to be sold and demolished.

Harry Turner was adamant the building was not going the be lost so he bought it and Sam recalled the story of Harry using dynamite to try and dislodge a submarine engine which had been used the generate power in the building!

In 1977 the building was sold to Sudbury Dramatic Society and still thrives today as our Quay Theatre.

Without his spark, Sudbury would certainly not have this building to enjoy today.

Harry then turned his attention to Friars Street and the demolition of an old chapel. Determined not to have the gap filled by another Sulby House, he bought the land and much less invasive buildings than Sulby House were built.

His last project for Sudbury summed up the man.

The area of land known as Friars Meadow came up for sale and Harry was concerned about development so he bought it.

He cut the grass himself (was familiar with grass cutting as he did it at Sudbury Cricket Club where he played for several years) and cleared brambles.

He then sold part of it to the Guilford Kapwood factory as a sports field.

Eventually he sold the meadow to the council for the princely sum of £1 with the promise that it must always be open space.

Sam revealed that three weeks before he died, Harry still had the £1 council cheque in his wallet.

Sam painted a portrait of Harry Turner, a man who didn’t do these things for recognition and said he personally looks on him as a person who realised he could do good, and there are ways to achieve the same results with that vision in mind.

As he wrapped us his talk, Sam suggested Sudbury needs to recognise the efforts of this man as well as thinking about how we today can contribute to the town of Sudbury.

He was thanked by John French before a few members, including Society president, Lord Phillips who helped Harry secure the purchase of the Quay Lane building, now the theatre.

The next meeting will be on Thursday April 26 at 7pm at All Saints Church Hall, Church Street, Sudbury.