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McMurtrie

The McMurtrie family have made a very significant impact on Chewton Mendip despite their relatively short involvement with the village.
James McMmutrie was only 23 when he was recruited by the Waldegraves to be chief engineer of three coal mines in 1862. This would be a precocious age to hold such a prestigious position in today and it was more of an achievement in such a hierarchical society that prevailed in the Victorian era. It was an even more remarkable achievement when the distance that his reputation had travelled. The Waldegrave mining interests were in Rastock but James McMutrie was from Ayrshire in Scotland.
 James McMutrie soon extended his authority over all of the Waldegrave estates and the bulk of their holdings were in the south east where the family had been based for centuries. The Waldegraves had held the manor of Chewton Mendip since Tudor times but they did not have a residence in the village untill Countess Frances Waldegrave purchased ‘Mr Jenkins’ house’ or Chewton Priory in the 1850s. One of James McMutrie’s tasks was to extract the money from the various estates to fund her ambitious rebuilding programme in Chewton Mendip and Strawbery Hill in Middlesex which as then their family seat.
Countess Frances Waldegrave was one of the ‘colourful’ characters in the history of both the Waldegraves and Chewton Mendip and her ability to ‘marry money’ was matched, and sometimes exceeded, by her ability to spend it. It is difficult to avoid making comparisons with the aristocratic social butterfly and the dour, but conscientious, Scotsman who saved her from some of her worst excesses.
Despite what ever differences in class and personality they may have had,  they formed a strong and long-lasting relationship. It was James McMutrie who was very influential in persuading the Waldegraves to sell their prestigious, but uneconomic, estates in the South East and concentrate on Chewton Mendip.
 James McMutrie was not as dour as the stereotype of the Scottish engineer suggests. He married three times and had 17 children and also managed to find time to be a special constable.
 One of his sons was Major John McMutrie MC Royal Engineers was killed in WW1 preparing for  battle of third Ypres (Passchendaele) in 1917.
 His eldest son was Hugh. He is the only one who is known to have lived in Chewton Mendip and was a tenant of what is now known as the Old Vicarage in 1904. It was probably him when renamed what was previously Pleasant House ‘Navestock’ in honour of the Waldegrave’s original estate in Essex. Hugh can be seen in the ‘Cricket Eleven of 1904’. Hugh was the Waldegrave’s estate manager and continued in the role until at least 1933 when he signed the schedule of East End Farm in that year. He died in 1939 and is buried in the new churchyard of Chewton Mendip.
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