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William Murdoch(k) (1754-1839) Honours

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William Murdoch(k) 1754-1839 Honours

Following are some honors that were bestowed on William Murdoch throughout his lifetime.

Note that William's name is sometimes spelled ending with either an "h" or a "k". Being a Scot "h" was the original spelling, however since he spent most of life in England he decide to change his name to end in "k" because the Englishmen had trouble pronouncing Murdoch.

Lunar Society Moonstones

The Moonstones are a group of nine carved sandstone memorials to commemorate the scientific discoveries of (at that time) the nine members. Each stone has a phase of the moon and the recipients last name engraved into them. Williams stone has a pictorial of his steam carriage as well. The stones were unveiled in 1999.

The designs are by Steve Field, and the stonemasons that created the stones were Malcolm Sier and Michael Scheurmann.

The Moonstones can be seen at the transition of Alridge Road and Queslett Road on the grounds of the ASDA Supermarket in Queslett, Great Barr, Birmingham, England.

The Lunar Society (originally called The Lunar Circle") started as a group of intellectuals, engineers, and scientists to meet, have dinner and drinks while discussing their respective projects. It is said that they always met during a full moon which allowed them to see their way home safely by the moons light. The group was founded and led by Erasmus Darwin.

  • Source: www.lunarsociety.org.uk


Rumford Medal

Note: Rumford Medal (UK), not to be confused with the Rumford Prize (USA)

This medal is presented by the British Royal Society on a bi-annual basis and was established in 1800 following a donation by Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, an American scientist for the purpose of "Outstanding important discoveries in the field of thermal or optical properties."

William Murdock was awarded the Rumford Medal in 1808 for his paper on "An Account of the Application of the Gas from Coal to economical purposes". William was not available to give the presentation due to his work commitments on behalf of Boulton and Watt. The presentation honor was given to Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society. The paper was actually written by James Watt Junior but well edited by William for correctness. William did not receive his medal until 1809.

The medal was round and made of solid gold. It had a profile of Count Rumford on the obverse (front side and etched on the back side with the words "Ex Fumo Dare Lucem" (To give light from smoke). William's medal was eventually melted down by a later relative and made into a snuff box which was a lucrative business at the time.

  • Sources: 'The Scot Who Lit The World', Pages 63, 64, 79; 'The Third Man''', Pages 261, 269, 312


Hall of Heroes

The Hall of Heroes is located on the second floor of the Wallace Monument in the Town of, Stirlingshire, in the County of Stirling, Scotland.......(Watch this space - more to come)


Murdoch Days

Each year in June the Cornwall town of Redruth celebrates its most famous citizen, inventor William Murdoch (1754 – 1839). Although not born in Cornwall, William Murdoch is revered locally as a mechanical genius ("Mechanic, Maverick, Genius", Taylor) who improved the efficiency of Boulton and Watt's steam engines in Cornwall’s tin mines.

He was also a pioneer of gas lighting, his house at #7 Cross Street Redruth (known as Murdock House) was the first home to be lit by gas in the UK. There is a plaque on the exterior wall with the inscription "William Murdock 1782-1839; Made the first locomotive here and tested it in 1784; Invented gas lighting and used it in this house in 1792".

He is also famed by Redruth for building Britain’s first working model of a steam carriage which he demonstrated in and around Redruth in 1784.

  • Source: www.visitredruth.co.uk


Statue of William Murdoch, James Watt, and Matthew Boulton

aka " The Golden Boys" and /or " The Carpet Salesmen"

This statue was the concept of Richard Wheatly with final design in 1938 by William Bloye and commissioned in 1939 but was not finished until early 1956 by sculpture Raymond Forbes-King. It was unveiled on September 14, 1956 in the 300 block of Broad Street, Birmingham, England in front of the Registrar's office (no longer there). The statue is made of bronze and finished in gilded gold leaf, and stood on a plinth of Portland stone. The statue was restored in 2006.

In 2017 the city of Birmingham embarked on a vast revitalization project in the area which included a light rail (tram), and updates to Centenary Square as well as the adjacent Symphony Hall. The statue was removed and stored for safe keeping and due to be re-positioned in Centenary Square around 2019 or upon completion of the entire project.

As of 2020 the statue was still in storage. This is where the story takes a twist. Through documented information James Watt (not Murdoch or Boulton) was implicated in transatlantic slave trading as a side business for which he profited greatly. The city council has been debating what/how to still have the statue and address the James Watt issue at the same time.

The latest is that the city of Birmingham plans to include a plaque explaining Watt's link to slavery when the statue is re-positioned in Centenary Square. As of August 2021 the statue was still in storage.

As of April 2022, the 'Golden Boys' statue has now been placed in Centenary Square (Birmingham) in front of the Symphony Hall. A plaque accompanies the statue stating the connection of James Watt and family to slave trading.

  • Source: Birmingham Mail, June 28, 2021 by Tom Dare


Auchinleck Notable's Monument

Auchinleck Kirkyard, #28 Churchhill, Auchinleck, East Ayrshire, Scotland

The square four sided obelisk commemorates William Murdoch (Inventor), William McGavin (author of "The Protestant), Alexander Peden (leading figure in the Covenanter movement), and the nine martyrs killed at the battle of Airds Moss (1680).

William's Inscription reads: "In Memory of William Murdoch born at Bellow Mill in this parish 21 August, 1754. Died at Handworth in 1839. Like many of his countrymen in England he rose to eminence by the native force of his character and benifited his own and other ages by his discoveries in gas and by his mechanical inventions as the associate of Watt and Boulton".

The obelisk is red sandstone, stands about eight high, and was made by John Murdoch, a local stonemason. See photo at right.

  • Sources: Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association; www.covenanter.org.uk; Dane Love, Author


Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

This entity celebrates and honours those engineers born in, associated with, or had major contributions within Scotland.

William Murdoch was inducted in 2019.

  • Source: www.engineering hall of fame.org


Bello(w) Mill Cottage

Muirkirk Road (A70), Lugar, East Ayrshire, Scotland

Early information states that the original spelling was Bellow Mill. The mill and cottage sits downstream of the junction of Glenmuir Water and Bellow Water. The Bello(w) mill name is thought to have come from the noise of the water roaring through the pass to the mill dam.

A plaque is displayed on the exterior wall (facing the roadway) which states " The Birthplace of William Murdoch, Inventor of Lighting By Gas, 1754-1839, The Incomparable Mechanic".

The single story cottage is in excellent condition as opposed to the mill located behind and down by the Lugar Water (a tributary to the River Ayr). After roughly 250 years, the cave and mill are in a decayed state with no plans for restoration.

Note: This is a private residence and not open to the public. Please respect their privacy. No not disturb nor park in their driveway.

  • Source: Personal visit several times by Stuart Murdoch Wilson


Culzean Castle Gas House and Managers House

Maybole, South Ayrshire, Scotland

The castle is a great place to visit. But it has another hidden gem hidden on the property in the Gas Managers house which has been converted into a museum and is adjacent to the old gas house itself. The display has the history and photos of William as well as a replica of the steam carriage, oscillating steam engine, and the sun and plant gear that William invented.

  • Sources: Personal visit by Stuart Murdoch Wilson; National Trust of Scotland.


Busts of William Murdoch

Biggar Gasworks Museum / Gasworks Road, Biggar, South Lanarkshire, Scotland

Avery-Berkel (Soho Works site) / 154 Foundry Lane, Smethwick, West Midlands, Birmingham, England

Birmingham Museum of Science and Discovery / Curzon Street, Birmingham, England

Cornish Studies Library / Alma Place, Redruth, Cornwall, England

Parish Church of St. Mary, Hemstead Road, Handsworth, England

The Gas House / Culzean castle, Maybole, South Ayrshire, Scotland

  • Source: The Scot Who Lit The World' by Janet Thomson


Portraits, Paintings, and Drawings of William Murdoch

Birmingham City Art Gallery / Chamberlain Square, Birmingham, England Painting by John Graham; Portrait by E.W. Papworth

Royal Edinburgh Society / 22-24 George Street, Edinburgh, Scotland

National Portrait Gallery / St. Martin's Place, London, England Pencil drawings by Sir Francis Chandrey

  • Source: 'The Scot Who Lit The World' by Janet Thomson


Commemorative Plaques of William Murdoch

The Gas House / Culzean Castle, Maybole, Scotland

Murdoch House / #7 Cross Street, Redruth, Cornwall, England

National Gas Archives / Unit 1, Europa Court, Europa Blvd, Warrington, England

Bello(W) Mill Cottage / Murkirk Road, Lugar, Scotland

Avery-Berkel Foundry / 154 Foundry Lane, Smethwick, West Midlands, Birmingham, England

  • Source: The Scot Who Lit The World by Janet Thomson




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