Robert George Murduck


A Photographer in England


In Exmouth, Devonshire

circa 1897 through about 1920


Robert George MURDUCK was in Exmouth, Devonshire, in the south-west part of England, by about 1897. For details prior to 1897, see Robert George Murduck's Early Life, 1875-1897.

The earliest distinctive record we have of Robert George in that area is the record created when he married Emma Susannah 'Emmie' MARGRIE at the Register Office in Exmouth on 27 May 1898. On that date, he described himself as a 'photographer', and he noted his address as '72 Victoria Road, Exmouth'. Robert George declared that he was '22 years old', and that he was the son of Robert Murduck, a 'Builder and Decorator'. Emma was the 20 year old spinster daughter of William Margrie, an 'engineer', and she gave her address as 2 Manchester Street, Exmouth [Certified Copy of an Entry of Marriage; Registration District of Saint Thomas, County of Devon; Marriage Solemnized at the Register Office; 1898, No. 193][Marriage Notice, Eastbourne Chronicle, 4 June 1898, Page 8].  


Victoria Road, Exmouth, Devonshire, 2009Victoria Road, Exmouth, Devonshire, 2009 *



No. 72, Victoria Road, Exmouth, Devonshire, 2009No. 72, Victoria Road, Exmouth, Devonshire, 2009 *

* Photos courtesy of Ian Wright of Exmouth.

Robert George & Emma Susannah's first child - a boy named Ernest George, was born at 72 Victoria Road, Littleham, Exmouth Urban District, on 12 February 1899 [Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth; Registration District of Saint Thomas; Sub-district of Exmouth, County of Devon; 1899, No. 253]. Robert G Murduck, the father, registered the birth on 2 March 1899, and at that time he described himself as a 'photographer's assistant'. Ernest George Murduck himself went on to have a distinguished career as a photographer for the Admiralty, dying in Bath, England, in mid-October 1963. He and his wife, Clodagh Beryl, had no children.

Robert George & Emma's second (and last) child - a girl named Dora, was born in Ashburton House, Danby Terrace, Withycombe Raleigh, in the St Thomas Registration District (Exmouth Sub-district) on 9 November 1900 [Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth; Registration District of Saint Thomas; Sub-district of Exmouth, County of Devon; 1900, No. 184]. Sadly, daughter Dora died nine days later, on the 18th of November 1900, of 'premature birth [and] cardiac failure' [Certified Copy of an Entry of Death; Registration District of Saint Thomas; Sub-district of Exmouth, County of Devon; 1900, No. 275]. Robert George had the difficult task of registering his daughter's birth, and death, which he did at the same time, on 20 November 1900. At that time, Robert George gave the above address as his place of residence, and he described himself as 'photographer' for both registrations.

The next observable record concerning Robert George Murduck is a 1901 Census of England and Wales enumerator's schedule from Exmouth. On Census Day in 1901 (the evening of Sunday, 31 March) an enumerator named S J BLACKMORE found Robert George and his wife Emmie S Murduck 'at home' at No 34, Strand, in Exmouth [1901 Census of England and Wales; England; Registration District of Saint Thomas; Registration Sub-district of Exmouth, 2; Civil Parish of Littleham; Ecclesiastical Parish of St Margaret's; Urban District of Exmouth; Urban District of Littleham; Parliamentary Borough of Honiton (Eastern Part), Town of Exmouth; Enumeration District 6, Page 17, Schedule No. 92. The National Archives: Record Group 13, Piece 2028, Folio 86]. Robert George gave his Profession as 'photographer', and he was described as an 'employer'. Robert George & Emma Susannah's son Ernest George was just a short distance away on Manchester Street, residing with his maternal grandparents - William & Emma B Margrie.

A short item published in the Exmouth Journal on 20 April 1901 (Page 5), along with an advert found in the same newspaper elsewhere on Page 5, reveals that Robert George Murduck had been managing the photographic business of Alfred George CARLILE, prior to this man's death in Exmouth on 16 February 1899, aged only 38 years. Mr. Carlile had operated his business from No. 6, Rolle Street. The undertaking had apparently initially been begun by a Mr GAEL in 1883, and Carlile advertised regularly that he was in possession of all of the negatives taken since Mr. Gael established his business in that year. A notice concerning Carlile's death, published in the Exmouth Journal on Page 5, 18 February 1899, noted that Carlile had succeeded in the photography business around 1891 or 1892, taking over from one Mr. EASTON at that time. But the first published advertisements by Carlile appear in December, 1893. Unfortunately, no 'help wanted' advertisements were published by Carlile in the Exmouth Journal which might help us determine the approximate timing of Robert George Murduck's first appearance in Exmouth. It appears most likely that negative images created while Gael, then Easton, and later Carlile, were active could be found in darkroom vaults associated with the business.

Mrs Carlile (Lucy A) announced in the newspaper (Exmouth Journal, 4 March 1899, Page 5) that she intended to continue operating the business from her Rolle Street address. She was presumably going to do this with Robert George Murduck managing the operation of the studio.

A notice and an advert published in the newspaper on 20 April 1901, however, suggest that Lucy A Carlile had had a change of heart by this date. It was announced that there had been a 'transfer of business', and that Robert George Murduck would henceforth be operating from No. 34, The Strand, Exmouth. The statement that "all negatives taken by Messrs. A G Carlile, Easton and Gael" were being retained confirms the suspicion raised above.

R G Murduck's 1st Advert - Late A G Carlile, 34 Strand [Exmouth Journal, 1901 04 20 pg 05]R G Murduck's 1st Advert - Late A G Carlile, 34 Strand [Exmouth Journal, 1901 04 20 pg 05]

In a series of later adverts in the Exmouth Journal (September-October 1903), R G Murduck announced that he had completed the "important purchase of all the negatives taken by Messrs. Gael, Easton, Carlile, Speight and Margrie". R G noted that some of these negatives dated "back 22 years ago"!

The earliest of Robert George Murduck's photographs that the author has seen, which can be positively dated, is one he took in Hastings, Sussex County, England, on the 31st of March 1902. That's the day that Robert George's younger brother William Alfred married Elizabeth Rosina Syrus, at the Parish Church of St. Matthew, St Leonard, in the united counties of Hastings & East Sussex.

William Alfred Murduck & Elizabeth Rosina Syrus, 1902William Alfred Murduck & Elizabeth Rosina Syrus, 1902
The original wedding photograph was rather large, perhaps 8" x 10", mounted on a thick grey card. The author photographed the original photograph quickly, in poor lighting conditions, on another relative's kitchen counter, with a small format 35mm camera using colour film while on a trip around England in 1998. Regretably, he neglected to obtain a shot of the entire mounting card which probably shows a debossed attribution in the lower right corner. What was photographed was the label that was affixed to the back of the mounting card - see below....

R G Murduck's Studio Label, circa 1902

Robert George was a prominent member of the Freemason's Rolle Lodge No. 2759, during the years he lived and worked in Exmouth. He was initiated in to the Lodge on 25 August 1902 [Membership Registers, United Grand Lodge of England, 1887-1909, Country AA Lodges 2674-2810, Folio 227 & 228; Library & Museum of Freemasonry, Microfilm Reel 21. The Register for Rolle Lodge No. 2759 shows that it was itself established 'by Petition' from Lodge 106, in the first half of 1899]. He is known to have retained his membership in Rolle Lodge until at least the beginning of 1921 [Membership Registers, United Grand Lodge of England, 1910-1921, Country AA Lodges 2674-2810, Folios 221 - 223; Library & Museum of Freemasonry, Microfilm Reel 53]. Notices published in both Exmouth and Exeter newspapers show that Robert George was a participant in the major Masonic events, at least - local Lodge meetings, and regional meetings. These notices also show consistent appointments to various committees and offices after his intiation in 1902. The journal "The Freemason & Masonic Illustrated" [Volume XLVIII, Number 2065, published Saturday 3 October 1908, Page 220], shows that R G was 'appointed and invested' as Junior Warden in Rolle Lodge in the week previous. Then, at a Lodge Meeting on 27 September 1910, he was installed as the Worshipful Master of Rolle Lodge No. 2759.

Below is the earliest photograph of Robert George Murduck himself that is known. It shows him in full Masonic regalia. This photograph was probably taken in his Exmouth studio, but who might have taken the image is unknown [perhaps his wife Emmie?]. The specific date the photograph was taken is not known, but it shows him displaying the Jewel of the Worshipful Master, so it was probably taken in very late September, or early October, of 1910, after his elevation to that post.

Robert George Murduck, Worshipful Master, Rolle Lodge, Exmouth, 1910Robert George Murduck, Worshipful Master, Rolle Lodge, Exmouth, 1910

Robert George continued to attend Rolle Lodge Meetings, and Rolle Lodge functions, until at least the middle of 1916, as seen in various newspaper articles. Having attained the pinacle of Lodge membership in the fall of 1910, however, he is noted only to have been appointed to successive 'declining' roles within the Lodge. He is noted to have attended many funerals as a representative of Rolle Lodge in the period.

Beyond the Rolle Lodge, Robert George was very engaged and involved in a variety of civic undertakings in Exmouth, 1901 through to about the middle of 1916. He was Director of an art exhibition at the Exmouth Carnival in 1901, and was involved in decision making and on committees associated with the Carnival for many years. He was engaged with organizational aspects of the Exmouth Tradesmen's Association, from at least 1902, and is known to have created a photograph during one of the Association's outings to Escot in 1904. He acted as Honourable Secretary for a Ping Pong tournament in Exmouth, in 1902, as well as serving on Sub-Committees with the Amateur Rowing club from 1902 on. He contributed prizes for the Exmouth Swimming Club, in 1902. He regularly attended 'annual dinners', such as one for the United Patriot National Sick Benefits Society, in 1903. R G served as 'Clerk of Numbers' at several of the annual 'Athletic Sports' spectaculars in Exmouth from 1903, and he served on the organizing committee several times. R G was a participating member of the Exmouth Ratepayers' Association, and he is known to have supported for many years the activities of the Exmouth Cricket Club.

There is also a vague hint that Robert George may have mustered for some time with a Territorial Force precursor unit from Exmouth - F Company, 1st Devonshire Rifle Volunteers. A notice about the annual prize distribution gathering for this unit was published in the Exmouth Journal on 29 November 1902 (Page 8). The ceremony was presided over by Lt. Col. Montague of Crediton, the 1st Devonshire Volunteer's overall commander - Col. W C Richards, being ill. Lieutenant Pollard, in command of F Company, reported that there were 78 men in the unit, 76 of whom were deemed to be effective. Pollard reported that 'over 50 percent' of the men of the company were considered to be 'marksmen'. At the ceremony, a man identified only as Pte Murduck was awarded an Annual Prize of 5 shillings for an overall score of 46 [presumably firing 7 rounds each at targets 100 yards, 200, 500 & 600 yards distance]. Private Murduck was within the top 17 shooters at the unit's Annual Shoot which was held on Saturday 27 September [Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 29 September 1902, Page 5]. No other individuals distinctly named 'Murduck', nor any others named 'Murdock' or similar spelling variation who could conceivably be this Private soldier were living in or near Exmouth when the 1901 Census of England & Wales was taken in the spring of 1901. So, we can probably quite safely presume that the Private soldier in question was Robert George Murduck. If Robert George Murduck was a Private in F Comany, 1st Devonshire Rifle Volunteers at Exmouth, he would have been required to attend a 'camp of instruction' of eight days duration upon first joining, and then an eight day camp within evey subsequent two year period [Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 27 November 1902, Page 4]. It's unfortunate that no service or pay records appear to survive for this unit and time period - in either The National Archives in Kew or the Devon Record Office in Exeter. Private Murduck's name does not appear in any subsequent articles about the Rifle Volunteers that were published in either the Exmouth or the Exeter newspapers between 1902 and 1908. The various Rifle Volunteer units were swallowed up by the new Territorial Force within what became the 4th Devonshire Regiment in 1908.

R G was a dog lover, too - he entered a Fox Terrier in competition at the Exmouth Exhibition in 1905 and 1906, and he offered a Special Prize at the Exmouth Dog Show in the Public Hall, Exmouth, in early September 1909.

Robert George Murduck was also a Conservative in the area of politics. He openly supported candidacy of individuals such as Sir John H Kennaway, in his bid for election in 1906. He was also noted to have attended at least one Dinner Meeting of the Exmouth Conservative Club. And, he assisted at at least one Pollling Station for Exmouth Urban Council elections held on Monday 5 April 1909, and at another for Devon Council in 1910.

But he came close to losing his life early in July, 1906. He and Mr F Halpin, one of the 'Jollity Boys', sailed from Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton one day, had tea, and began to return home. But a strong gust of wind caught the sails, and the boat capsized and sank, "leaving the sailors struggling in the water". One of the party [the published article doesn't indicate whether Murduck or Halpin] was able to swim, "but it was with difficulty that his companion was able to keep afloat until assistance arrived". Both were saved, and after a short period for recovery, took the last train from Budleigh Salterton to Exmouth, bound for home ["Exmouthians' Adventure at Budleigh Salterton", Exmouth Journal, 14 July 1906, Page 8].

R G appears to have made his first venture on to the stage in Exmouth in early October, 1909. A concert featuring the 'Jollity Boys' was to take place on the Manor Grounds, but rain forced the event indoors to the Temperance Hall. And R G Murduck filled one of the quartette places vacated by a comedian who could not attend. His "appearance as a gay Scot was the signal for much merriment" ["The 'Jollities' Concert", Exmouth Journal, 2 October 1909, Page 10]. In early December, 1911, he acted as 'steward' at an Exmouth Amateur Operatic Society's production of 'The Pirates of Penzance'. He served as Secretary for the Society in 1913, and was 'stage manager' for the Society's production of 'Jane' later that year (November). Robert George's son Ernest George played the role of 'drain-bearer' in 'Iolanathe' in February of 1914.

Robert George is first noted to have attended auctions for real property in Exmouth from about the fall of 1911, but it was not until July of 1916 that he appears to have been successful. In July, 1916, he purchased a property on the Exeter Road that was known as 'Stella House'. It is not known for how long, or through what means he disposed of the property, but it was listed as the residence of one Richard Hancock in 1934 [Who's Who in Devonshire, published by Hereford, Wilson & Phillips. Indexed by Jonathan Frayne, and posted to <>].

Robert George Murduck was called to serve as Foreman of the Jury during the Inquest in September, 1914, on the death of Samuel Robert Surridge. He was again called to serve as Foreman of the Jury at a Coroner's Inquest on the death of the infant daughter of Mr W E Pannell, in mid April 1916.

And then The Military Service Act of 1916 was introduced in January. This "rendered all single men and childless widowers between the ages of 18 and 41 liable to conscription" ["Conscription in World War 1", Professor Ian Beckett, The Gazette]. The Military Service (No. 2) Act, introduced in June, 1916, extended conscription to all men within the noted age brackets.

And so begins the next phase of Robert George Murduck's life. See the article in the series "1916-1921 - The War Years".


Facts about Robert George Murduck's life, 1875-1947, can be found here. A gallery and a detailed description of all of his currently known photographs can be accessed here. All means by which Robert George Murduck is currently known to have identified his photographs can be seen here. Details about ways you can submit a copy of your photo can be found through this link.

If you have additional information about Robert George Murduck, or if you have a photograph (or photographs) which show an image of him or one of his studios, or which can be attributed to him, please ....

Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.