James McMurtrie was born in Ayrshire in 1840. He came to Somerset at the age of 22, appointed “Head Bailiff” (foreman or overman) of the three Waldegrave collieries in Radstock: Middle Pit, Ludlows and Wellsway.

He was charged with providing Frances, Countess Waldegrave, with the sum of £8000 per year from the Radstock pits. He became her personal assistant and confidential secretary and managed her entire estate business.

He lived at South Hill House which was on the Frome Hill and now demolished. He was married three times and had 17 children! He managed the Waldegrave estates until Frances’ death in 1879 and then continued to do the same for her widower, Lord Carlingford, until 1898 when he retired.

James McMurtrie retired to Bristol where he died in 1914. at the age of 75.
He was an exceptional engineer and geologist and wrote and presented many papers on coal mine engineering and the geology of the Somerset Coalfield to local societies during his lifetime. The Museum holds these papers and his beautiful drawings and diagrams which are currently being summarised by a volunteer.


By September 2017 James McMurtrie’s parlour was completely re-decorated .

Our partnership with Bath College’s Somer Valley campus students has flourished through the year. James’s new parlour on the mezzanine floor was painted and wallpapered in the Victorian style, circa 1800.


James McMurtrie