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Matthew Murray

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Matthew Murray (1765-1826).
Memorial inside St. Matthew's. Holbeck
Monument in Holbeck Churchyard.
Monument (detail) in Holbeck Churchyard.
Monument (detail) in Holbeck Churchyard.
Monument (detail) in Holbeck Churchyard.

See Murray Genealogy

See Matthew Murray: Patents

Matthew Murray (1765-1826) of Fenton, Murray and Wood was a steam engine and machine tool manufacturer, who designed and built the first commercially viable steam locomotive, the Salamanca.

1765 Matthew Murray was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. There is a claim that he was born at Stockton-on-Tees in 1763.

1779 He was apprenticed to be a blacksmith

1785 Matthew married at Gateshead on 25 September 1785 to Mary Thompson

1786 Moved to Stockton where he undertook training as a whitesmith

He worked as a journeyman mechanic at a flax mill in Darlington, where the mechanical spinning of flax was invented.

1789 With his wife, Mary, (1764-1836), he moved to Leeds to work for John Marshall, a prominent flax manufacturer. He built the machinery for Marshall's mills at Adel in 1789 and the Holbeck in 1791.

1790 Murray worked closely with John Marshall (as Marshall's lead mechanic) in a protracted effort to develop machinery to successfully draw and spin line flax into yarn. Considerable advances were made, and Marshall funded a patent taken out in Murray's name, Patent No.1752 of 1st June 1790. A breakthrough had been obtained by introducing leather bands in conjunction with the drawing rollers. Marshall summarised the episode thus: '...worked some machinery on the patent plan of Kendrew and Co. This did not answer, and we tried experiments, and took out a patent for a plan of Matthew Murray's out principal mechanic.' Following this, Marshall determined to expand and moved his mill from Adel to Holbeck, and Marshall and Murray began to put great effort into mechanizing the drawing and spinning of tow, culminating in Murray's second patent.[1]

1794 April. Last mention of Murray in the Marshall work books so presumably left his employ around this time

1795 Partnership established as a steam engine manufactory at Holbeck by Matthew Murray and David Wood. They received good support from Marshall and Benyon, implying that Murray's departure had been amicable, and indeed Murray continued to be involved in Marshall's textile machinery experiments[2]

1799 Received William Murdoch and Abraham Story of Boulton and Watt and they were shown around the works

1800 Murray called on Boulton and Watt but was refused a reciprocal tour of the steam engine-making part of the works.

Murray invented, or improved, the D-slide valve, made the air-pump more efficient, and simplified the design of the engine. To machine the rubbing surfaces the D-slide valve he invented his planing machine, and was the first to adopt the placing the piston in a horizontal position in the steam engine. As well as steam engines the firm made mill work and machine tools, and in 1804 began foreign export with an order for Sweden.

1804 Murray built his private house known as Steam House

1809 Receives a Gold Medal from the Society of Arts for his machine for heckling flax. May have met Richard Trevithick in London at this time as they afterwards did business together

By 1811 Murray was working with Trevithick on a high-pressure engine subsequently fitted to a boat and successfully used on passenger service, an early application of steam to passenger traffic. He continued to design and construct beam engines.

1812 John Blenkinsop, colliery viewer at Middleton colliery, Leeds, relaid the track leading to the colliery with a toothed rail on one side - this was the Middleton Colliery Railway. He approached Matthew Murray of Fenton, Murray and Wood to design a locomotive with a pinion which would mesh with it. Murray's design was based on Trevithick's Catch Me Who Can, adapted to use Blenkinsop's rack and pinion system; the locomotive was named [Fenton, Murray and Wood: Salamanca| Salamanca]]; it was the first commercially successful steam locomotive.

The locomotive was the first to use two cylinders, driving the pinions through cranks which were at right angles, so that it would start wherever it came to rest.[3]. Murray's 4 horsepower engines remained in service until the 1830s.

1814 Murray patented a hydraulic press for packing cloth.

1815/6 Murray also supplied an engine for a steam tug in Mississippi.

In his later years, Murray continued to work on machine tools, textile machinery and dyehouse plant. He developed interests in marsh drainage, and gasworks and waterworks, and worked as consulting engineer to factories, mines, and other industrial installations.

1826 Matthew Murray died 20 February 1826 aged 60 and was buried in St. Matthew's Churchyard, Holbeck. His tomb was surmounted by a cast iron obelisk. His firm survived until 1843. Several prominent engineers were trained there, including Benjamin Hick, and David Joy.

1836 His wife Mary died aged 72 years and was buried in St. Matthew's Churchyard, Holbeck

A Recent Biography

'Matthew Murray 1765-1826 and the firm of Fenton Murray and Co 1795-1844' was published in a limited edition in 2015. Its 498 pages provide a comprehensive account of Murray's life and of the work of Murray and his company, with numerous supporting references[4]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'Matthew Murray 1765-1826 and the firm of Fenton Murray and Co 1795-1844' by Paul Murray Thompson, published by Paul Murray Thompson, 2015; p.23ff
  2. 'Matthew Murray 1765-1826 and the firm of Fenton Murray and Co 1795-1844' by Paul Murray Thompson, published by Paul Murray Thompson, 2015, p.55
  3. Details of the engine are given along with ideas for a national railway. Reprinted. Liverpool Mercury, September 20, 1822 and Liverpool Mercury, September 27, 1822
  4. 'Matthew Murray 1765-1826 and the firm of Fenton Murray and Co 1795-1844' by Paul Murray Thompson, published by Paul Murray Thompson, 2015
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • History of Fenton, Murray and Wood. A Thesis by Trevor Turner for the Victoria University of Manchester. UMIST. May 1966
  • Biography of Matthew Murray, ODNB