hartlepool history logo

W. Gray & Co. Ltd.

Details about W. Gray & Co. Ltd.

William Gray established a woollen & linen drapery business in Hartlepool in 1843. Also having an interest in shipping he acquired shares in sailing vessels from 1844.

Some of the other shareholders included: Robert (draper) & John Gray (Blyth); Matthew Gray (North Blyth); James Robson (Newcastle-on-Tyne); Henry Taylor (Liverpool); James Monks (Durham); Alexander Robertson (solicitor, Peterhead.

Henry Taylor Purvis; John Callender (draper); Phillip Howard (master mariner); James McBeath (master mariner); James Smith (master mariner); Jane Hall; John Fothergill; Jens Christian Nielsen; William Coward; William Horner; Frederick & Joseph Edward Murrell; all of Hartlepool.

William also had shares in sailing vessels along with John Punshon Denton. Eventually the two formed a partnership in shipbuilding with their first ship, Dalhousie, laid down on 4 July 1863. In December 1871 John Denton died. A dispute arose over the company’s profits which was eventually resolved in 1874 with the firm becoming William Gray & Company. In August 1874 the company’s first ship, Sexta, was launched.

William Gray was born on 18 January 1823 at Blyth, Northumberland to parents Anne Jane (nee Bryham) & Matthew Gray. He married Dorothy Wilson Hall on 15 May 1849 at St. Mary, Lewisham, Kent. In the 1851 census the couple were living at 2 Marine Terrace, Hartlepool. By 1861 the census recorded William as being a linen & woollen draper & shipowner & by 1871 as a shipbuilder. The couple had five daughters and two sons. Their eldest son, Matthew, died suddenly of pneumonia in June 1896 aged just 41.

William died aged 76 on 12 September 1898 leaving effects of £1500422. His widow, Dorothy died aged 81 on 7 September 1906.

William Cresswell Gray was born in 1867 at Tunstall Manor to parents Dorothy (nee Hall) & William Gray. He married Kate Casebourne in 1891 and they had four daughters and one son.

William took over as chairman of the company after the death of his father. He was created a baronet in 1917 and was given the freedom of Hartlepool and West Hartlepool in 1920.

William died aged 57 on 1 November 1924 at Bedale, Yorkshire leaving effects of £417347.

William Gray (3rd generation) was born on 18 August 1895 at Hartlepool to parents Kate (nee Casebourne) & William Cresswell Gray. He was educated at Loretto School in Scotland, and passed direct from the school in 1914 to the Green Howards, where he rose to the rank of captain. He was several times mentioned in despatches, but was subsequently wounded and taken prisoner in 1915. He returned safely in 1918 following the Armistice. He married Mary Leigh at London in 1929.

Following the death of his father William took over the company in 1925. The recession and interest on money borrowed for development had left the company in financial difficulties but this was overcome and shipbuilding continued. The company made a substantial contribution to the war effort during WW2. After the war the company held its own with shipbuilding and repair work. In 1956 William Talbot Gray, the third William Gray’s son, became a joint managing director. He was killed in a car accident in 1971 aged 40. The company went into voluntary liquidation in 1962 and closed completely in 1963. William retired to Orchard Cottage, The Drive, Egglestone, Barnard Castle.

William died aged 82 on 28 January 1978 at Barnard Castle leaving effects of £116121.

Ships owned by William Gray & Co. that were not built in Hartlepool are recorded below under 'a general history'.


Related items () :