Site Home
 



Topic Home


Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray was born into a working class family at Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1765. At fourteen he was apprenticed to a millwright, and in 1785, while still an apprentice, he married Mary Thompson of Wickham, County Durham. The couple moved to Stockton-on-Tees, where Murray worked as a mechanic, making and mending machines for Kendrow and Porthouse who were the first firm to use power driven machinery for spinning flax.

In 1788, Murray moved to Leeds, and went to work for John Marshall, at Scotland Mill, a water driven flax mill at Adel.  Murray was in charge of the machinery, and he was able to make improvements for which John Marshall gave him 20. This enabled Murray to send for his wife and family; they lived in a cottage on Black Moor, Adel.

Murray worked on the development of flax spinning machinery, and pioneered the 'wet spinning' of flax, which enabled finer yarns to be made, and revolutionised linen manufacture. He moved with Marshall to his new mill in Holbeck, and in 1795 Murray set up in business with David Wood in a foundry at Mill Green where they made flax spinning machinery. James Fenton, and for a time William Lister, joined the firm and in 1802 they built a new factory 'the Round Foundry' in Water Lane, Holbeck.  Matthew Murray made his first steam engine in 1799, and was so successful that he began to rival Boulton and Watt of Birmingham. Boulton and Watt sent William Murdoch and Abraham Storey to spy on Murray, who unsuspecting, gave them information on his engine designs and specimens of his workmanship. Boulton and Watt incorporated Murray's ideas into their own engines, and even considered buying a malthouse overlooking Murray's works, to enable them to keep an eye on what Murray was doing! However when Murray visited Boulton and Watt, he was turned away at the gates.

Murray was the first to make machine tools; he also designed hydraulic testing machines, made steam engines for factories, and engines for steamboats. He was responsible for many improvements in steam engine design, including the three-port slide valve. In 1812 he built the first commercially successful steam locomotive for Charles Brandling, proprietor of the Middleton Colliery. The locomotive ran on a rack railway designed by John Blenkinsop. In a test run on 27th June 1812 the engine hauled 27 carts weighing 94 tons at 3 miles an hour from Hunslet Moor to the coal staith on the riverside.

Murray lived at Holbeck Lodge or 'Steam Hall' which he built in 1802 and heated by steam.  It was probably the first house in the world to have steam heating.  Matthew Murray died in 1826. A cast iron obelisk marks his grave in Holbeck churchyard.

Click images to enlarge
Matthew Murray
Matthew Murray
The Round Foundry
The Round Foundry
Murray's locomotive
Murray's locomotive
Holbeck Lodge
Holbeck Lodge
Holbeck Lodge, rear view
Holbeck Lodge, rear view




Site Map

© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003