Murray, Matthew

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b. 1765 near Newcastle upon Tyne, England
d. 20 February 1826 Holbeck, Leeds, England
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English mechanical engineer and steam engine, locomotive and machine-tool pioneer.
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Matthew Murray was apprenticed at the age of 14 to a blacksmith who probably also did millwrighting work. He then worked as a journeyman mechanic at Stockton-on-Tees, where he had experience with machinery for a flax mill at Darlington. Trade in the Stockton area became slack in 1788 and Murray sought work in Leeds, where he was employed by John Marshall, who owned a flax mill at Adel, located about 5 miles (8 km) from Leeds. He soon became Marshall's chief mechanic, and when in 1790 a new mill was built in the Holbeck district of Leeds by Marshall and his partner Benyon, Murray was responsible for the installation of the machinery. At about this time he took out two patents relating to improvements in textile machinery.
In 1795 he left Marshall's employment and, in partnership with David Wood (1761– 1820), established a general engineering and millwrighting business at Mill Green, Holbeck. In the following year the firm moved to a larger site at Water Lane, Holbeck, and additional capital was provided by two new partners, James Fenton (1754–1834) and William Lister (1796–1811). Lister was a sleeping partner and the firm was known as Fenton, Murray \& Wood and was organized so that Fenton kept the accounts, Wood was the administrator and took charge of the workshops, while Murray provided the technical expertise. The factory was extended in 1802 by the construction of a fitting shop of circular form, after which the establishment became known as the "Round Foundry".
In addition to textile machinery, the firm soon began the manufacture of machine tools and steam-engines. In this field it became a serious rival to Boulton \& Watt, who privately acknowledged Murray's superior craftsmanship, particularly in foundry work, and resorted to some industrial espionage to discover details of his techniques. Murray obtained patents for improvements in steam engines in 1799, 1801 and 1802. These included automatic regulation of draught, a mechanical stoker and his short-D slide valve. The patent of 1801 was successfully opposed by Boulton \& Watt. An important contribution of Murray to the development of the steam engine was the use of a bedplate so that the engine became a compact, self-contained unit instead of separate components built into an en-gine-house.
Murray was one of the first, if not the very first, to build machine tools for sale. However, this was not the case with the planing machine, which he is said to have invented to produce flat surfaces for his slide valves. Rather than being patented, this machine was kept secret, although it was apparently in use before 1814.
In 1812 Murray was engaged by John Blenkinsop (1783–1831) to build locomotives for his rack railway from Middleton Colliery to Leeds (about 3 1/2 miles or 5.6 km). Murray was responsible for their design and they were fitted with two double-acting cylinders and cranks at right angles, an important step in the development of the steam locomotive. About six of these locomotives were built for the Middleton and other colliery railways and some were in use for over twenty years. Murray also supplied engines for many early steamboats. In addition, he built some hydraulic machinery and in 1814 patented a hydraulic press for baling cloth.
Murray's son-in-law, Richard Jackson, later became a partner in the firm, which was then styled Fenton, Murray \& Jackson. The firm went out of business in 1843.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Society of Arts Gold Medal 1809 (for machine for hackling flax).
Further Reading
L.T.C.Rolt, 1962, Great Engineers, London (contains a good short biography).
E.Kilburn Scott (ed.), 1928, Matthew Murray, Pioneer Engineer, Leeds (a collection of essays and source material).
C.F.Dendy Marshall, 1953, A History of Railway Locomotives Down to the End of the
Year 1831, London.
L.T.C.Rolt, 1965, Tools for the Job, London; repub. 1986 (provides information on Murray's machine-tool work).
Some of Murray's correspondence with Simon Goodrich of the Admiralty has been published in Transactions of the Newcomen Society 3 (1922–3); 6(1925–6); 18(1937– 8); and 32 (1959–60).
RTS

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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