James Gray

Date published: 03/06/2017
© Newbury Weekly News







The death of Mr. James Gray on Thursday last, at Hatcham Lodge, New Cross, London, removes one who was connected in Newbury by ties of relationship with one of the oldest families in the borough, and who testified to his affection for the town by generous benefactions to the Parish Church, and also the churches at East Garston, East Ilsley, and Compton, places which were closely identified with his family.


Mr Gray was the son of Mr. John Gray, who was born in West Mills in 1782, and was a cousin to the members of the family of solicitors, one of whom, Mr Edward William Gray, was the Mayor of the borough in 1830. Other members of the Gray family who have been Mayors of the borough are Richard in 1693, and Joseph in 1779 and 1783.


Mr. John Gray left Newbury while still a young man, and died in London in 1848. At his special request he was brought to Newbury and buried with his ancestors in the vault which is situated below the south porch of the Parish Church.

He married Miss Martha Palmer, a member of the family so well-known along the Lambourn Valley. When Newbury Church was restored in 1867 the family vault was sealed in common with all the others, and when Mrs. Gray died at the advanced age of 94 in 1884, she was buried in the vault in the Cemetery.


Mr. James Gray was for over half-a-century connected with the London and County Bank, being for many years chief accountant, and latterly occupied the responsible position of joint general manager. His commercial career was characterised by the strictest integrity and conscientious devotion to duty. In spite of failing health he persisted in attending at the head offices of the bank, Lombard-street, until three weeks previous to his death. He only took to his bed a few days and died on Thursday at the age of 73.


Mr. Grey was largely responsible for the formation of the pension scheme for the bank officials and was a director of the Clerks Provident Society.


In his private life Mr. Gray was of a most estimable nature. He loved to do good, and few, except those who profited by his benefactions, knew of his benevolence. Of him it might truly be said he “did good by stealth, and blushed to find its fame.” This is strikingly illustrated in the window which was inserted by Mr. Gray and his sister Miss Gray, in the Parish Church. The inscription reads

“To the Glory of God, and in memory of John and Martha Gray, this window is inserted by their sole surviving daughter, Elizabeth Gray. Xmas. 1884”

No mention is made of Mr Gray himself. The window, which is of four lights, and cost £200, is at the end of the north aisle. Mrs Gray was for the last thirteen years of her life afflicted with incurable blindness, and this is the reason why the first light records the miracle of the healing of the blind, at the express desire of Miss Gray, who also is unfortunately affected in her eyesight. Mr. Gray also inserted the windows over the north and south porches at his own expense. His great delight was in the study of church architecture and ecclesiastical art, and he was greatly interested in the work of the St. Nicholas Stained Glass Window Society, of which he was a vice-president and a liberal supporter. Mr. Gray was a great admirer of stained glass and he liberally devoted his means to the beautification of the churches with which his family are associated. At East Garston, the home of the Palmers, East Ilsley and Compton, of which he was lay rector, there are abundant evidences of his generosity in the form of memorial windows. Mr Gray was a bachelor, and his sister is the sole surviving member of the family.




The funeral took place on Tuesday, the body being brought to Newbury for interment in the family vault at the Cemetery. The body was conveyed by train to Newbury arriving at 1.24, and was thence taken to the Parish Church, where the first part of the service was conducted. The funeral cortège was received at the west door by the churchwardens (Messrs Henry Davis and Stephen Knight) bearing their official wands draped with crepe. There was a full choir, which preceded the coffin up the nave as the Rector (Rev. E. I. Gardiner) read the opening sentences of the Burial Service. The choral portions were rendered in a beautifully subdued manner, the hymns sung being “Now the labourer’s task is o’er” and “Let saints on earth in concert sing.” The lesson was read by the Rev. W. Muirhead Hope. The Psalm was chanted and previous to the removal of the coffin the Nunc Dimittis was sung. Mr. J.S. Liddle, Mus. Bach., then played Beethoven’s Funeral March. The service was solemnly impressive and the eyes of the congregation naturally turned to the window which forms so artistic a memorial to the Gray family.


The funeral procession was a lengthy one, the coffin being borne on an open funeral car, which was followed by six or seven carriages containing mourners. On arriving at the Cemetery the coffin was taken straight to the family vault, which is situated on the west side. There have been three previous interments the last being Mrs. Martha Gray, mother of Mr. James Gray, and she died in 1884. The committal sentences were feelingly rendered by the Rector.



The mourners were Miss Gray, sister, Mrs. Tapp, Sir Robert Micks (Lee), Mr. Thomas Gurney, Hartwell, Aylesbury), Mr. James Palmer (Letcombe), Mr. William Palmer (Goring), Mr. James Palmer (Speen), Dr. Jenner Clarke (Newbury), Mr. James Waldron (Marridge Hill), Mr.John Waldron (Moulsford), Mr. Walter Godwin


The deceased gentleman having held so responsible a position , a position in the London and County Bank, there was a large attendance of representatives from the head office and county branches.


Long list of representatives of various banks plus a list of eminent men and women from around Newbury, followed


The coffin was of panelled oak, with massive brass furniture, and bore the inscription:


Born 5thJanuary, 1821

Died 1st April, 1897


It was the will of the deceased that there should be no flowers, but a few wreaths were sent by loving friends. The coffin was covered by a magnificent floral cross, from his bereaved sister.




References were made at the various churches to the death of Mr. Gray. The Rev. W.O. Jenkyn, vicar of East Garston, on Sunday made grateful mention of Mr. Gray’s munificent gifts to the church. At Compton on Tuesday, the church bell was tolled, and the flag raised half-mast high, during the time that the funeral was taking place at Newbury. Mr. Gray was lay rector of the parish, and was justly held in esteem and veneration by the inhabitants of Compton. Allusion was made to him in the services on Sunday, a funeral march was played, and in the evening of Tuesday a muffled peal of bells was rung, to record the loss the church has sustained, His genial, kindly good feeling will be greatly missed and his memory will ever be carefully cherished.

The late Mr. Gray had, during the past year given to St. Mary’s Church, East Ilsley, four stained glass windows of three lights each, the subjects illustrating the historical continuity of the English Church, from the year 634 to the year 1540. The lives and times of these saints form the subject of the lectures at the week-day services during the present season. Before beginning his lecture last Friday evening, the Rector, referring to the loss which East Ilsely had sustained, said that Mr. Gray was a man who, by his industry, his integrity, and his ability, had risen to a very important position: by the way in which he fulfilled the duties of that position he had gained the respect of all who knew him; and by the manner in which he used his well-earned wealth in promoting the glory of God, he set a very good example to the inhabitants of the little village he loved so well. On the day of Mr. Gray’s funeral, a muffled peal was rung in token of respect to his memory.

Newbury Weekly News 8 April 1897

Mrs P. p 23 W 143

Born 23 June 1820. Died 1 September 1871

In “Missing years”



Sources:Newbury Weekly News 8 April 1897 and Mrs Pattison

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