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Murch Stories - Craftsmen and Women

John Murch – Silversmith 1700’s Devon


John Murch was the son of William Murch of Exon, Devon.  His father William was a Linen Draper.  John served a seven year apprenticeship from 1684 with William Cory, a goldsmith of London and Warminster. By 1694 he was in Plymouth.  In 1699 a  'Mr Murch of Plymouth' was fined by the London Goldsmiths' company for substandard working. A John Murch of Dartmouth was also fined that year, however, it seems that may have been an entirely different John Murch. This obviously did not deter John Murch as he continued to produce pieces in silver.

John Murch established himself as a silversmith in 18th century Plymouth.  Plymouth was the ideal city to set up in business as it was a wealthy, bustling and vibrant city with many silversmiths and artisans.  Exeter also had many skilled silversmiths and as a result an assay office was established in Exeter in 1700.  John Murch became a well-known silversmith and like many others he worked in other jobs to supplement his income.  He is listed as a surveyor of Highways for St. Andrews parish in 1709.  He designed and produced a variety of items, some of which are shown here and have become very collectable.  Many items are now held in museums.

It was when he held this position at St. Andrews that he probably met William Roche and became embroiled in Roche’s shenanigans.  Roche became Mayor of Plymouth in 1710, however due to his indiscretions involving some mayoral items he was removed from office before completing his term in office.  At the time the Receivers accounts state that he had ‘unduly sold to John Murch two old Corporation maces’. The maces were sold for purely personal gain, along with other items that belonged to the Mayoral role, including some of the regalia which had a value of £200 – about £15,000 in current money.  Further to that, Roche retained the keys of the locks on the ‘audit chest’ for the Borough or Plymouth, with the result that the keys had to be replaced.

Luckily the maces are still on display in the Council House as the resourceful recipient of the sold merchandise, John Murch, cleverly decided he should sell back the goods to the borough and offered them for £16/11s/6d, so it wasn’t a complete disaster for him.


I believe John Murch was married three times the most significant being his third marriage, in respect of which an allegation bond was issued on the 23rd August 1711 for 'John Murch of Plymouth, goldsmith, and Ruth Sampson of Exeter, Spinster.'  Ruth Sampson was from Bampton and there were Murch’s in the town from the 16th century so it is possible that they knew each other during his previous marriages.  In 1717 John Murch departed from Plymouth and moved to Tiverton, another prosperous town to the east of Devon, with his family.  He is recorded in the Exeter Goldsmiths Company Minute Book records on November 10th 1720 as entering his mark as IM.  This mark appears with Exeter hallmarks normally although John Murch did not always make pieces with assay marks, but he does appear to always mark his pieces with the IM.


Tiverton parish records show the burial of 'Mr Murch' on the 8th May 1728 and his will was proved in Exeter. I believe his son, John II, was born at Plymouth in 1713, and moved to Honiton after leaving Blundell's school.  He then took over the business of Francis Pile, carrying on business as a silversmith and clockmaker until his death in 1785. Later descendants continued in the business until the 20th century. Ruth Murch, Johns widow, probably went back to Exeter to live after his death as a will for a Ruth Murch was proved in 1740.

A Silver Cup made by John Murch
A Silver Cup by John Murch
An Engraving by Arthur Murch
A Silver Spoon by John Murch

A William & Mary or William III English provincial silver mug by John Murch I of Plymouth, pre 1701 maker’s mark only with a ribbed S-scroll

handle, a leaf and lobe girdle and half fluting, On a moulded skirt base, 9.5cm (3 .in) high, 139g (4.45 oz) Value £700-1000

Arthur Murch (1836–1885) - English Wood-Engraver.


Arthur Murch was the youngest son of Sir Jerom Murch, Mayor of Bath and his wife Anne Meadows Taylor. 

Arthur Murch became a student of Charles Gleyer in 1859.  He travelled to Rome to study painting and met up with Val Prinsep and Frederick Leighton who pursuaded him to travel on to Paris where he studied drawing. 


He joined the Somerset Rifle Volunteers in 1864 and during his brief stint in the army he became a Captain. When he decamped to London in the late 1860’s he shared a studio with Frederick Jameson.  However, he was dogged with health problems during this period.  Later he travelled to Italy and stayed for two years in Capri until 1873. 


He married Edith Edenborough and lived with his wife in Rome in the 1880’s, however, the marriage did not last and she went on to remarry.  They did produce a son, Denis Jerom Murch who was born in Venice in 1874.  This son was left a significant legacy by his grandfather, Sir Jerom Murch, but sadly he was killed in the second Boer war at Sanna’s Post, a battled fought in the Boer War  between the British and Boers of the Orange Free State and South African Republic.  He was buried in the Holy Cross & St Albans Church in Brickendon.


Arthur worked on Dalziels Bible Gallery.  He was a fantastic skilled craftsman and was described by Walter Crane as a meticulous worker who finished little.  His reputation was built on the illustrations he produced for the gallery.  Arthur was a member of The Arts Club until 1877.  However, he died in 1885 at Aachen.

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