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The Life and Times of Admiral Sir George Murray

by Alex Bogard

By Alex Bogard, Project Officer at The Novium Museum

George Murray was born in Chichester in 1759 and joined the Navy aged eleven in 1770. By the end of the American War of Independence (1775-1783), he had been promoted to Captain aboard the frigate San Carlo. In September 1795, Murray married Ann Teesdale, but within two weeks he was back at sea again.

By 1797 Murray was Captain of the ship Colossus, showing tremendous bravery against the Spanish and French forces at Cape St Vincent, and blockading Cadiz, Gibraltar. Colossus was wrecked off the Isles of Scilly in 1798. Several artefacts from the wreck have been recovered by local diver, Todd Stevens, and are currently on display at The Novium.

During the Battle of Copenhagen (1801) Murray distinguished himself, leading the van and waiting until the last minute to ensure a first and decisive attack against the Danish ship, Jylland.

Murray's son was born in 1803 and the enduring friendship of Murray and Nelson was reflected in the naming of his son; George St Vincent Thomas Nelson Murray. Murray was made Captain of the Fleet in 1804, and became Nelson's right hand man. It was also in 1804 that Murray built a house in North Street, Chichester, which is now the Ship Hotel.

In July 1805, Murray's father-in-law died, and as Murray was named executor of his will he returned home from sea. Nelson, feeling he could find no adequate substitute, left the Captain of the Fleet post vacant. It was a case of 'Murray or None'. Murray therefore missed the Battle of Trafalgar, in which his great friend Nelson was killed.

During 1806 and 1807 Murray provided cover for British troops operating in South America, and upon his return to England in 1808, was asked to take command of the Channel Fleet; one of the most important roles in the Navy. He declined and, at the age of 49, retired back to Chichester.

George and Ann Murray were both elected members of the Chichester Book Society in 1808, a forerunner of Chichester Library. Murray was also elected a Bailiff of the City in 1811, and became involved in the establishment of the Chapel of St John in 1813 in what is now St John's Street, Chichester. In 1815 Murray was not only elected Mayor of Chichester, but was also created a Knight in the Order of the Bath; becoming AdmiralSir George Murray. He died suddenly in 1819, and both he and his wife Ann are buried in Chichester Cathedral.

A direct descendent, Ian Murray, has kindly donated several artefacts to the people of Chichester. These items are also currently on display as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded 'Murray or None' exhibition at The Novium Museum.