Exploring the life and legacy of one of Hartlepool's most famous figures

Published Monday, 14th January 2019

There’s an opportunity for people to explore the fascinating life of one of the most important figures in Hartlepool’s history at a special event later this month.

Local history enthusiast Frances Wilson will be giving a talk on ‘Sir William Gray – The Man, The Draper and the Gray Legacy to Hartlepool’ at Community Hub Central in York Road on Thursday 31 January from 2pm to 3.30pm. The event is part of the Hub’s regular ‘CHAT Group’ – an adult social group which meets to chat about various topics.

A statue of Sir William Gray watches over Hartlepool's Church Square.

A statue of Sir William Gray watches over Hartlepool's Church Square

Born near Blyth in Northumberland in 1823, William Gray’s father Matthew owned a successful drapery company and at the age of 20 William moved to Hartlepool’s Headland to start one of his own.

In 1862 he was elected Mayor of Hartlepool and, having sold his drapers business, in 1863 he formed a partnership with local shipbuilder John Punshon Denton, creating Denton, Gray and Co. and launching their first ship, the iron-built barque ‘Sepia’ that same year.

In 1887-88 he became the first Mayor of West Hartlepool – the only Mayor of both towns, and in 1890 he was knighted by Queen Victoria for his services to the two towns and industry.

He died in 1898 leaving a fortune worth over £93m in today’s terms and was much mourned. His younger son William Cresswell Gray inherited the family business.

“Much has rightly been written about the Gray company’s ships, but this talk will focus more on Sir William’s life in general, his shops and the wider contribution the Gray family made to the town – including Sir William’s substantial role in civic life and his many philanthropic activities,” explains Jackie Johnson, Library Officer at Community Hub Central.

Admission to the talk is £1 per person and places must be booked in advance by contacting Community Hub Central on 01429 272905 or emailing central.library@hartlepool.gov.uk