Peter Hollins at Manor House
Peter Hollins back where it all started - at Manor House, Jeffrey's Rake in the mid 1700s. Click on the image for a larger view

The Murrays of Hunstanworth

by Peter Hollins

Joseph Murray and Mary Smith married at St James' Church Hunstanworth in 1743 and over the following generations many Murray descendants have achieved fame, fortune and enjoyed interesting lives all over the world. Many descendants keep in close touch as the Murray family history is researched.

Fugitive from the English

We know that Joseph Murray was born about 1715 but not his birthplace. Family legend talks of him being a fugitive Scottish Jacobite since the nearby Lord Crewe Arms at Blanchland was a staging hostelry for those fleeing from the victorious English troops after the defeat at Culloden. His wife Mary was the daughter of a Hunstanworth lead miner Robert Smith who may also have been a Justice of the Peace. Burke's Landed Gentry (1937), showing the ancestors of John George Murray, lists Joseph Murray as a lead miner and later in life a clerk, of Holland Hall.

Joseph and Mary lived at Holland Hall, Hunstanworth where their children were born, the last, Isaac, in 1756. All were baptised at St James' Church. Holland Hall has never been located, but there are references back to 1728 and may have belonged to the Smith family (Joseph's in-laws).

Lead mining leases

Plan of Jeffrey's Rake
1850s plan of Jeffrey's Rake showing the Murray households. Click on the image for larger view

Joseph and Mary had six children and three of the sons, Joseph, John and Isaac were granted 21 year mining leases by John Ord for lead ore on Jeffrey's Rake and Bolts Burn. It is likely that all three sons lived on Jeffrey's Rake. All census returns from 1841 to 1911 show Murrays living on Jeffrey's Rake, but the family became dispersed over the 19th Century and tracing the exact relationship back to Joseph and Mary has proved difficult since all their children died before the first census of 1841.

Click here to see the old Murray family households

The 1881 census shows three houses on Jeffrey's Rake occupied by Murrays; Manor House, Rake House and Rowantree House, this last house being the ancestral home of Alan Murray whose story is covered on the Blanchland History website.

It is possible that after 1756, Mary and Joseph lived in Manor House with Mary's parents living in Jeffrey's House (Rake House) some 300 metres up the hill behind them. Together with Elfie Waren, I visited both houses in 2010 with our search helped by an 1850 plan of the Lord Crewe Estates land. Both homes are now ruins, but with the outline of the houses and rooms still visible. The third Murray home, Rowantree House is also close by. Manor House is still shown on modern Ordnance Survey maps a half mile north east of Ramshaw.

John Murray portrait
John Murray, born at The Deeps, Hunstanworth in 1810.

Born at The Deeps

Joseph and Mary's son Isaac married Eleanor Coldthard (who was buried at St James in 1830) and their children included Joseph born 1790 who married Elizabeth Bell. Joseph and Elizabeth's family home was the Deeps (or more accurately Middle Deep), a homestead on the West High House Estate a mile or so south of Hunstanworth hamlet. Their children were born here and baptised at St James' including their son John born 1810. John was my Great-great-grandfather. The Murray family seemed to have acquired some standing, since John had his portrait painted in 1830 at Edmundbyers and this shows a well dressed young gentleman.

John Murray in later years
John Murray played a big part in Consett's development and local farming.

John married Elizabeth Swinburne at Edmundbyers and they settled at Consett with John starting many successful business enterprises including a coaching business and cattle auction house. John played a major part in the development of early Consett and local agriculture. North Country Sketches by George Neasham published in 1893 has a good article on John and includes a quote from him. At a local concert which he attended, he became tired of all the sentimental songs and exclaimed "Houts Houts with all that caterwauling. Let's have a good comic song!"

William Murray
Seeking his fortune in South Africa... John's son William.

Many of John and Elizabeth Murray's sons went on to fame and fortune. William made his fortune mining gold in South Africa and William's son George achived prominence in Johannesburg with Murray Park being named after him. William died in the Boer War.

Joseph became a grocer with a shop at 16, Middle Street, Consett; John Swinburn Murray started his career as a farmer with 120 acres at Edmundbyers. Following an abortive business venture with his brother Richard, John travelled to South Africa and spent three years farming. On his return he started a new career as an auctioneer taking after his father who had died seven years earlier. He was well known and liked by the local Consett population and was instrumental in setting up the Beamish Agricultural Society, the Blackhill cattle market and had interests in many other farming organisations.

Successful businesses

Richard Murray
Richard Murray built a North East brewing business and funded a hospital.

The remaining son was Richard Murray who started his business career by buying an option on the Benfieldside Estate and selling small parcels of land for housing. He then using the profit to finalise the sale on the main estate. He continued to live at Benfieldside for many years. Richard built the Royal Hotel at Blackhill and started the Richard Murray brewery alongside. His brewery business grew and eventually amalgamated with Vaux Brewery becoming North Eastern Brewery with Richard as its main shareholder and Managing Director. In the 1891 census his occupation is shown as, Brewer, Innkeeper, builder and shipowner! He was founder of the Consett and District Permanent Building Society. In 1911 as a memorial to the late King Edward VII, Richard funded a hospital in Shotley called the Richard Murray Memorial Hospital, this subsequently became an NHS hospital in 1947 and then a Cheshire Home until 1992 when it was demolished for housing.

Richard's son John George continued the brewery business but is best known within the family for his purchase of Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, a magnificent country mansion with buildings modelled on Versailles and gardens by Capability Brown. John George Murray was High Sheriff of Bedfordshire.

Wrest Park
A long way from Jeffrey's Rake... Wrest Park, Bedfordshire. Photo by Nigel Cox

The Murrays of Hunstanworth reached prominence in the late 19th Century and had a significant influence on the development of Consett and surrounding areas. It was quite emotional to stand on Jeffrey's Rake amid the ruins of Manor House and realise that all these interesting descendants came from poor but hard working lead miners on this barren and windswept hillside some 300 years ago.

Peter Hollins, London
June 2010