Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,408 pages of information and 245,908 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Fenton, Murray and Wood

From Graces Guide
1812. Blenkinsop's Locomotive with Chaldron Wagons.
1812. Blenkinsop's Locomotive built by Fenton, Murray and Wood.
1812. Blenkinsop's Locomotive built by Fenton, Murray and Wood.
History notes.

Fenton, Murray and Wood of Round Foundry, Water Lane, Holbeck, Leeds was an engineering company.


The firm was based at The Round Foundry, in Water Lane in Holbeck, Leeds. It was at the Round Foundry that Matthew Murray made his name as a great engineer. He became one of the world's finest producers of textile machinery, steam engines and locomotives. The Round Foundry developed to become one of the world's first specialist engineering foundries.

Disaster struck in the 19th century when fire destroyed some of the original buildings, including the large rotunda that gave the Round Foundry its name. Some buildings were saved, the earliest of which dates from 1798. There are a total of 7 listed buildings in the Round Foundry complex. These include the Dry Sand Foundry, the Green Sand Foundry and 101 Water Lane.


1795 The firm was founded by Matthew Murray and David Wood to build machine tools and stationary steam engines, competing effectively with Boulton and Watt

1796 February 12th. Murray and Wood purchased land known as Leckeys from John Barstow of Acomb near York. This one and a half acre plot was adjacent to Marshall's and bounded by Water Lane.

1796 July. Advertising their foundry in Water Lane: 'MURRAY and WOOD, DESIRE to inform their Friends and the Public in general, That they have entered and opened a FOUNDRY, in Water-Lane, Leeds, for the Purpose of Casting Iron, viz,
Engine Work of all Kinds, Ballance Wheels, Joints, Bosses and Steps, Crank and Octagon Wheels, Grate Bars, Bearers, Frames and Doors, Steam and Injection Boxes, Wheels, Segments, Tumbling Shafts, Plumbers Blocks, Coupling Boxes, and Mill Work in general, Tapet and Waggon Wheels, Waggon Rails, and Tram Wheels, Rasp Barrels and Paper Rolls, Chip Plates, Oil Presses and Blocks, Callender Wheels and Plates, Tenter Posts, Press Tops and Bottoms, Press Ovens, Press and Singing Plates, Cotton Spinning Plates, Cotton and Worsted Weights, Carding and Scribbling Engine Rims, Chain Wheels and Strip Pullies, Malt Rollers, Pallisades, Weights, Clock and Sash Weights, &c.
Those who please to favour them with their Commands, may depend upon them being well executed on the lowest Terms.
N. B. As they cast twice each Day, any Gentleman may be accommodated with Castings on the shortest Notice, in Cafes of Emergency.' [1]

1796 August 10th. Deed of assignment between Murray, Wood and James Fenton of the 'Foundries, Warehouses, Fire Engine, House Workshops and all the other several erections and dwelling' [2]

1797 They were joined by James Fenton and the financier William Lister. Initially they built machine tools and stationary steam engines.

Murray was in charge of the engine-building department, while his partner, Wood, directed the machine-making. The company quickly established a reputation for the high quality of their workmanship, and attracted the hostility of Boulton and Watt, who purchased land surrounding the workshop so preventing the firm from expanding. Boulton and Watt successfully challenged two of Murray's patents. Nevertheless the manufactory became serious rivals to Boulton and Watt.

Initially they took a workshop in Mill Green, Holbeck

1802 Murray's famous Round Foundry, actually a fitting shop, was built in Water Lane. It was 81 feet in diameter and four storeys high, and was equipped with a 20 hp beam engine. The manufactory was equipped with three steam engines for driving the machine tools. After manufacture the parts were assembled in a testing department, and when run-in and tested the engines were dis-assembled for packing and dispatch. The manufactory was located on the banks of the Aire and Calder Canal, which gave access to Liverpool. The firm were renowned for the elegant design of their engines, and the quality of manufacture. They were pioneers of all-metal construction and the development of portable engines - engines which could be taken to pieces and easily moved to another location.

1802 Steam engine claimed to be the third oldest working engine in the world and used to power John Bradley and Co. (Exhibit at Birmingham Thinktank museum)

1803 Constructed several beam engines of large size having columns for supporting the main centre bearing of the beams. One of these was installed in a large iron works in Staffordshire

1803 Boulton and Watt bought Camp Field adjoining their works to prevent his expansion

1803 July 20th. Advertisement challenging Boulton and Watt [3]

1804 Letter to Simon Goodrich concerning his engine. Murray signs for Fenton and Co

1804 Sent an engine to Sweden with Samuel Owen

1806 Designed and built an engine with the beam below the cylinder and condenser to reduce the height but only a few were made. A large model by James Fox of Derby is displayed in the London Science Museum.

1806 Delivered an engine for Baron Edelcrantz's combined flour and textile mill on Kungsholmen Island, Sweden. Matthew Murray oversaw the erection of the engine in Sweden, and conducted other business there.[4]

1807 They manufactured for the Admiralty a steam engine for the Portsmouth Block Mills.

1807 Produced a number of large engines with two going to waterworks in London (West Middlesex Water Works) and to places in the Midlands

1808 Supplied a beam engine and machinery for a dredger for Hughes, Bough and Mills, using a hull built for Trevithick's dredger.[5]

1808 John Hick, brother of Benjamin Hick left Fenton, Murray & Wood to take up the position of book-keeper and Traveller for John Sturges and Co at the Bowling Iron Co.[6]

1808 Supplied a steam engine, machinery, and iron framing for a flax spinning mill at Broadford, Aberdeen, constructed for Scott Brown and Co.[7]

1809 Murray invented a flex heckling machine and received a gold medal by the Society of Arts

1810 Brought out a simplified engine where all the working parts were assembled on a cast-iron plate

1810 Started experimenting with steam traction

1811 John Blenkinsop was interested in using steam locomotives at the Middleton Colliery and had patented (2431) a rack and pinion system to overcome problems with adhesion. Fenton, Murray and Wood were asked to design a suitable locomotive. Built in 1812, the Salamanca was successful and then followed the Prince Regent, Lord Willington (August 1813) and Marquis Wellington (November 1813)

1811 Made a Trevithick-pattern high pressure steam engine, which was fitted to the paddle steamer L'Actif, running out of Yarmouth and owned by John Wright

With Maudslay, the company was at the fore-front of engineering manufacture in this period.

Murray made important improvements to the machinery for heckling and spinning flax and his heckling machine gained him the gold medal of the Society of Arts. At the time when these inventions were made the flax trade was on the point of expiring, the spinners being unable to produce yarn to a profit. Their effect the inventions was to reduce the cost of production, and improve the quality of the manufacture, thus establishing the British linen trade on a solid foundation. The production of flax-machinery became an important branch of manufacture at Leeds, large quantities being made for use at home as well as for exportation, giving employment to an increasing number of highly skilled mechanics.

1812 June 27th. Account of the locomotive trials with John Blenkinsop [8]

1812 Fitted a steam engine to the The Experiment, an old French privateer owned by John Wright

1813 Letter to Simon Goodrich concerning a Corn Mill.

1813 Supplied cylinder boring machines to the Portsmouth Dockyard

1813 Large beam engines including one installed at Eater Hall Mill, Holbeck which worked until 1885

1815 Writes to Simon Goodrich suggesting paddle steamboats for the Navy

1816 Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia visit the Round Foundry

1816 Francis B. Odgen, the American Consul in Liverpool ordered several engines for steam boats, one of which was fitted on a steam tug on the River Mississippi

A healthy export trade was built up with the supply of orders from Russia. One of Murray's son's, Matthew, migrated to Russia where he worked as an engineer until his death in July 1835.

The firm supplied machinery for all kinds of purposes, ranging for large cylinder-boring engines for steam engine cylinders, large gear-cutting machines and lathes, to machines for gas and water works. After Bramah's patent for the hydraulic ram came into the public domain the firm made a range of ram actuated machines, including those for the pressing of packs of cloth, to chain-testing machines. The latter were important, for at this time the Navy and the merchant marine adopted heavy chains to secure anchors, and it was necessary that they would not fail in use. The firm were also involved in the construction of textile mills by the provision of iron work.

1817 'The foundry . . .is on a very extensive scale'.

1817 Directory: Iron and brass founder; Machine maker. Manufacturers of steam engines; flax spinning and mill machinery, constructors of fire proof buildings, water presses and gas-light apparatus.

1819 Lighted their own works and several Leeds streets with coal gas

1822 His son Matthew took a model locomotive to Moscow.

1824 In a letter to Goodrich, Murray tells of a hydraulic machine for testing chain cables

Among the company's apprentices were some who went on to further success including Benjamin Hick

1826 Murray died

The company became Fenton, Murray and Jackson when Matthew Murray's son-in-law Richard Jackson joined the firm.

1828/9 Advertised as Fenton and Murray of Water Lane Foundry[9]

1831 Built 'Vulcan' No 19 and 'Fury' No 21 for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway

Built several marine engines for the post packet service between France and Constantinople

Supplied a large number of locomotives to various companies

1834 James Fenton died.


See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Leeds Intelligencer 11th July 1796
  2. West Riding Registry of Deeds
  3. Leeds Mercury
  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; pp.159-160
  5. 'Matthew Murray 1765-1826 and the firm of Fenton Murray and Co 1795-1844' by Paul Murray Thompson, published by Paul Murray Thompson, 2015, pp.170-171
  6. '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.172
  7. '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.174
  8. Leeds Mercury
  9. Leeds Directory