Sir Walter Murton CB
Walter Murton (later Sir Walter Murton CB) lived at Meadowcroft for 25 years from 1875 until he sold the house in 1900 to start his foreign travels. His contribution to Kemnal Road and Chislehurst affairs cannot be underestimated.
Walter was born in Ashford in April 1836, the second of eight children. His parents were wealthy farmers, and well connected. Walter went first to Ashford Grammar School, and later to Tonbridge School, and at the age of 16 he was articled for five years to a solicitor friend of his father, a Mr Robert Furley, in Ashford. Mr Furley had a significant part to play in Walter’s life. First he was instrumental in enabling Walter to take over a London based law firm when he was not yet 22 years of age, which embarked Walter as an independent lawyer, and second he introduced Walter to one of his nieces, Mary Callaway.
Walter and Mary were married in August 1860, when he was 24, and she was 22. They remained happily married until her death in 1895. They had five surviving children, of whom more later. After they married, they moved to Maida Vale, where they lived for 12 years.
In 1874 Walter was offered the position as Solicitor to the Board of Trade, a most prestigious position in Government. Although it entailed a drop in income, he accepted the position, which he then held for the remainder of his professional life. Having taken this position, he sought to buy himself a house which befitted his new status. He had visited Chislehurst with friends in earlier years on a riding holiday, and decided to look for a house there. He found Meadowcroft; his description of the house can be found by clicking here.
In 1900, Walter retired from The Board of Trade, and was knighted in recognition of his contributions to Government. He sold his house that same year, and spent the next eight years travelling. First he spent time in England and Scotland, and then set out with his two daughters to India, Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, USA, and Canada.
He finally settled down again in 1907, at the age of 71, to live at Langton, near Tonbridge Wells. He lived there for the rest of his life. He died aged 91 in 1927, and is buried in the churchyard at St Nicholas, Chislehurst, together with his wife and four of his children.
Walter was much involved in local affairs. For fourteen years he was a member of the Parochial Committee, which governed local matters in Chislehurst; he was president of a local hospital, a local charity, and a permanent member of the Board of Conservators for Chislehurst and St. Paul’s Cray Commons. It is in this last role that he should be remembered by all those who use and treasure Chislehurst Commons, since he was instrumental in saving them for our present use.
The then Lord of the Manor of Chislehurst was attempting to get as much value from the Commons as he could, including opening quarries for gravel, and peat, and taking ice from the ponds, which in those days were much used for skating in the winter. He was within his rights to do so, but Walter and his friends and neighbours Travers Hawes and Nettleton Balme wished to preserve the use of the Commons for the people of Chislehurst. They therefore lobbied for an order to manage the use of the Commons, under the provisions of the Metropolitan Commons Acts, and were successful in obtaining a private Act of Parliament to regularise the position. The Board of Conservators was established under this Act, and Walter was nominated by the Lord of the Manor, then Earl Sydney, as a permanent member of the Board. Walter took a great interest in the replanting of the Commons, and in taking action to prevent any further enclosures or building on them. His negotiations with William Willett regarding the building of additional houses on Camden Park land are set out in the History of Chislehurst in the chapter written by Walter.
One final note. It was Walter Murton who bought the small strip of land on the south west corner of Kemnal Road, which is now the Amenity Strip. He has thus ensured that a little corner of the road remains as far as possible in the state when he bought it. Click here to read more about the Amenity Strip.