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Robert Murrell was born in 1818 near Tunbridge Wells in Kent. His parents appear to have been called Robert John and Sarah, both names perpetuated within the family by later generations. Little is known for certain of his birth, family circumstances, or early years.

There are few Murrell events recorded in Kent; indeed there doesn’t appear to be a parish record for Old Bob’s birth. It is entirely possible that the family was only fairly recently arrived in the district. The area at this time was experiencing growth.

It was described thus in 1839:

"This is a maritime county, and one of the most beautiful districts in this island; it includes within its boundaries numerous objects replete with interest, and towns of high importance, magnitude and beauty. It is situated on the south-east extremity of Great Britain, opposite to France, from which it is distant (at its nearest point, Dover,) about twenty-four miles. Its figure is irregular, but approaches more to the trapezium than to any other. On the north it is bounded by the river Thames; on the east side, and part of the south, it opens to the German ocean and British channel; on the remainder of the south side it is skirted by Sussex, and on the west by Surrey. From east to west (i.e. from the North Foreland to Deptford,) it is about sixty-three miles in length; and in breadth, from the point of Dungeness to the North Foreland, nearly forty miles; while, from the central sides, it is not more than twenty-five wide. The ambit of the county is about one hundred and seventy-four miles; and its area comprises 1,537 square miles, or 983,680 statute acres. In size it ranks as the ninth county in England, and in population as the sixth."

[Pigot & Co.'s Royal National and Commercial Directory and Topography of the county of Kent, September, 1839. Facsimile edition (ISBN 0-9504069-5-3) © Michael Winton 1993. Source at: ]

An 1887 Gazetteer described the county in this fashion:

"Kent, an important maritime county in SE. of England, bounded N. by the Thames and the North Sea, E. and SE. by the Strait of Dover, S. by the English Channel, SW. by Sussex, and W. by Surrey; greatest length, W. to E., 65 miles; greatest breadth, N. to S., 35 miles; 995,392 acres, population 977,706. The surface of the county is hilly, being traversed E. and W. by the North Downs, a chalk range from 3 to 6 miles in breadth. On the N., along the shores of the Thames and Medway, there is a belt of marsh land, which extends over a mile inland. The greater portion of the seaboard is washed by tidal water. Besides the Thames and Medway, the chief rivers are the Stour and the Darent. The soil is varied and highly cultivated, more especially in the valley of the Medway. All classes of cereals and root produce are abundant, as is also fruit of choice quality, and more hops are grown in Kent than in all the rest of England. The woods are extensive. The chief manufacture of the county is paper, most of the mills being on the banks of the Medway, Cray, and Darent. The Government works and dockyards at Woolwich, Chatham, Sheerness, &c., employ an immense number of the inhabitants. Fishing is extensively prosecuted along the coast and in the estuaries of the rivers Thames and Medway, of which the oyster beds are especially famous. Historically Kent has greater associations than any other county in England. The county contains 5 lathes, 73 hundreds, 435 parishes, and parts of 6 others, the Cinque Port Liberties of Dover, Hythe, and New Romney, the parliamentary and municipal boroughs of Canterbury, Dover, Gravesend, Hythe, Maidstone, and Rochester (1 member each), the parliamentary boroughs of Chatham, Deptford (part of), Greenwich, Lewisham, and Woolwich (1 member each), and the municipal borough of Deal, Faversham, Folkestone, Margate, Sandwich, and Tenterden. It is almost entirely in the diocese of Canterbury and Rochester. For parliamentary purposes the county is divided into 8 divisions -viz., Western or Sevenoaks, North-Western or Dartford, South-Western or Tunbridge, Mid or Medway, North-Eastern or Faversham, Eastern or St Augustine's, Southern or Ashford, and Isle of Thanet, 1 member for each division; the representation of the county was increased from 6 to 8 members in 1885."

[ © Bartholemew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887. Source: © 14 May 1997 Malcolm Austen, Oxford University Computing Services, at: ]