Gurney was born at Earlham Hall, near Norwich, on 9 March 1791. He was youngest son of John Gurney (1749–1809) of Earlham, Norfolk, and brother of Elizabeth Fry, the philanthropist, Louisa Gurney Hoare, the writer on education, and Joseph John Gurney and Samuel Gurney, all of whom are separately noticed. His mother, Catherine, daughter of Daniel Bell, died in 1792. He descended directly from a younger branch of the ancient family of Gurney or Gournay, which held manors in Norfolk (in the time of Henry II).
After completing his education Gurney entered the Norwich firm of Gurney's Bank, of which he was afterwards the head, and for more than sixty years a partner. He wrote several essays on banking, which were printed for private circulation. As the head of one of the first banks in the English provinces, he had much influence both socially and politically. His amiability, courtesy and generosity greatly endeared him to his contemporaries. Gurney was mainly instrumental in establishing the West Norfolk and Lynn Hospital.
One of Gurney's favourite pursuits was archæology, and he was a prominent fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He took great interest in genealogy. In 1848 he printed in two volumes for private circulation an elaborate work entitled The Record of the House of Gournay, to which he added a supplement in 1858. The book was highly valued for its varied antiquarian information and research.
Gurney, who was a conservative in politics, was a justice of the peace and deputy-lieutenant for the county of Norfolk, and filled the office of High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1853. He married in 1822 the Lady Harriet Jemima Hay (1803–1837), daughter of William Hay, 17th Earl of Erroll, by whom he had nine children. Their son, Charles Henry Gurney, who married a daughter of Henry Thoby Prinsep, graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge and became a partner in Saunderson's Bank in London. Daniel Gurney died on 14 June 1880 at his seat near North Runcton, Norfolk.
- "Gurney, Charles Henry (GNY851CH)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.