Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

District surveyor for the Board of Works in Belfast, 1862-1895. William Gray, son of John Gray was born on 17 October 1830 in Co. Waterford,(1) where his father John Gray was then living. At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to the building trade and entered the Cork School of Design as a student. In April 1859(2) He was taken on by the Royal Engineer Department to assist on fortification work at Portland, England. It was while he was in Portland that he acquired his interest in geology and fossils. He remained with the Royal Engineer Department until May 1862,(3) when having been successful in a competitive examination, he entered the employment of the Irish Board of Works as the Board's District Surveyor in Belfast. He remained in this post for thirty-three years. Early in 1895, when the Board's Architectural Department was restructured following the death of JAMES HIGGINS OWEN  JAMES HIGGINS OWEN in 1891, Gray was forced to retire a few months before his sixty-fifth birthday. A long article in the Irish Builder described the many and varied responsibilities of the position he had filled so competently, deploring the fact that 'notwithstanding the large amount of work Mr Gray has discharged in such an important district as Belfast, without assistance and without personal conference with his fellows, he is called on to retire, before he has attained the age of sixty-five, and under such conditions as will deprive him of any special acknowledgment of his faithful service, and reduce the amout of his superannuation to a minimum, - a poor encouragement to other efficient men to join the Architectural staff of Her Majesty's Board of Public Works in Ireland'.(4)

Gray remained in Belfast after his retirement, and died there, having been in poor health for some time, on 6 February 1917.  He had married his wife, Elizabeth, circa 1855, and had five children, of whom two were alive at the time of the 1911 census. In spite of his responsiblities as District Surveyor, Gray nevertheless found time for his archaeological and geological interests. During the 1870s he was involved in public arguments about the formation of the Giant's Causeway(5) and the alleged presence of coal in the neighbourhood of Belfast.(6) He was an honorary member of the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society and a member of the Belfast Naturalists Field Club, of which he was an honorary secretary in 1867(7) and president from 1879-80. He was also a member of the RSAI (see below), the Royal Irish Academy and the British Association. He gave lectures and published papers on archaeological and geological as well as housing and sanitary matters(8) and made a collection of Irish antiquities, which included a series of flint implements; some of these were acquired by the Belfast Museum. Gray was one of the foremost advocates of the establishment of a free library and art Gallery in Belfast.(9) A description of his endeavours to this end was published in a book (or pamphlet?), Science and Art in Belfast (1904).

RIA: elected member, Jan 1874.(10)
RIAI: elected associate, 21 May 1863;(11) no longer on list of members for 1895.
RSAI; elected member, 19 Sep 1855, having been proposed by W.L. Hackett;(12) re-elected member, 10 Jul 1867, proposed by Robert Day;(13) appointed secretary of local committee, 2 Jul 1879;(14) hon. provincial secretary for Ulster, 1883-1885;(15) fellow, 1888;(16) one of vice-presidents for Ulster 1889.(17)
Addresses: Clonmel, 1855;(18) 3 St Michael Terrace, Plymouth, 1858;(19) Mount Charles, Belfast, 1867;(20) 6 Mount Charles, Belfast, <=1870->=1894;(21); Auburn Villa, 21 Glenburn Park, Belfast, <=1911(22) until death.(23)

See WORKS and BIBLIOGRAPHY. BIBLIOGRAPHY.



References

All information in this entry not otherwise accounted for is from the obituary of Gray in JRSAI 48 (1918), 95-96; this appears in a briefer form in IB 60, 19 Jan 1918, 43 and is reproduced almost verbatim in the memoir by R.M. Young in The Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society Centenary Volume 1821-1921 (1924), 79-80, which is illustrated with a portrait photograph. A portrait of Gray by W.G. Mackenzie, ARHA, was purchased for the Belfast Art Gallery in 1912.

(1) Jones, citing OPW records?;  1911 Census, http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai001431376/ (last visited Mar 2009).
(2) IB 37, 1 Apr 1895, 83-84; he appears to have been living in Plymouth already in 1858, see Addresses.
(3) See note 2, above; according to OPW records (transcript by Jones) he entered the Board's employment on 1 May 1862.
(4) See note 2, above.
(5) IB 12, 15 Nov 1870, 272-3.
(6) IB 14, 1 Oct 1872, 262.
(7) IB 9, 1 Jul 1867, 162.
(8) See BIBLIOGRAPHY; see also list of papers delivered by Gray in The Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society Centenary Volume 1821-1921 (1924), 131-2; other lectures by Gray include 'The World History in Stone' given in Belfast Public Library, 8 Mar 1903 (IB 45, 26 Mar 1903, 1654) and 'Technical Instruction, its methods, progress and utility' given in McGarel Town Hall, Larne, 9 Apr 1901 (IB 43, 10 Apr 1901, 687).
(9) IB 23, 1 May 1881, ?; IB 59, 17 Feb 1917, 82.
(10) IB 16, 15 Jan 1874, 17.
(11) RIAI council meeting minutes, 8,21 May 1863, 5,127.
(12) JRSAI 3 (1854-55), 369.
(13) JRSAI 9 (1867), 101.
(14) IB 21, 15 Jul 1879, 219.
(15) JRSAI 16 (1883-84), 6,219; 17 (1885-1886), 7.
(16) JRSAI 19 (1889), list of members.
(17) JRSAI 19 (1889), 13.
(18) JRSAI 3 (1854-55), 369.
(19) Jones, source not given but probably JRSAI lists of members.
(20) JRSAI 9 (1867), 101.
(21) RIAI list of members for session 1870-71; JRSAI 19 (1894), list of members.
(22) 1911 Census, http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai001431376/ (last visited Mar 2009).
(23) IB 17 Feb 1917, 82.


11 work entries listed in chronological order for GRAY, WILLIAM


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Building: CO. ANTRIM, BALLYMONEY, ASSEMBLY ROOMS (?TOWN HALL)
Date: 1866;1867
Nature: New Lombardo Gothic Assembly Rooms recently erected. Builder: W. Young. Cost: £1,800.
Refs: DB 8, 15 Sep 1866, 221

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BALLYMONEY, TOWN HALL
Date: 1867
Nature: Enclosing wall and wrought-iron railing for Ballymoney Town Commissioners. Girvan says whole building was by Gray.
Refs: DB 8, 15 Sep 1866, 221; IB 9, 15 Jun 1867, 157; W.D. Girvan, North Antrim (UAHS, 1972), 38-39

Building: CO. DOWN, DROMORE, METHODIST CHURCH
Date: 1870
Nature: FS laid 28 April 1870. Builder: Adam George, Holywood. Design criticized by T. Hevey, 1875.
Refs: IB 12, 1 May 1870, 110; 17, 15 Nov,1,15 Dec 1875, 310-11,338,353; see Sean O'Reilly, 'Timothy Hevey (1846-1878): an episode in Irish High Victorian architecture', Ph.D. thesis, submitted to the National University of Ireland, June 1994, 21-22

Building: CO. DOWN, MILLISLE, COASTGUARD STATION
Date: 1873
Nature: Tenders invited for erecting same, cf. Killough coastguard station.
Refs: IB 15, 1 May 1873 (advertisement)

Building: CO. DOWN, DROMORE, MANSE
Date: 1873
Nature: Designs for proposed manse abandoned because too expensive; two alternative plans produced, presumably by same architect.
Refs: IB 15, 1 Dec 1873, 312; see also Sean O'Reilly, 'Timothy Hevey (1846-1878): an episode in Irish High Victorian architecture', Ph.D. thesis, submitted to the National University of Ireland, June 1994, , 221

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BALLYGALLY, COASTGUARD STATION
Date: 1873
Nature: cf. Killough coastguard station.
Refs: IB 15, 1 Oct 1873, advertisement.

Building: CO. DOWN, KILLOUGH, COASTGUARD STATION
Date: 1874
Nature: J.H. Owen's design for Board of Works being carried out under superintendence of WG. Builder: Russell Bros., Newcastle. Cost over £2,000.
Refs: IB 16, 15 Jan 1874, 16

Building: CO. ANTRIM, LISBURN, SEYMOUR STREET, METHODIST CHURCH & SCHOOL
Date: 1874-75
Nature: New church to seat 430 with schoolroom below. Style a 'modification of continental Gothic'. Yellow brick dressed with Dungannon sandstone. Rose windows in gables. FS laid Nov 1874. Builder: Mssrs. Thompson, Ballymacarrett. Estimated cost £4,000.
Refs: IB 16,15 Nov 1874, 309; B 34, 1 Jan 1876, 22; C.E.B. Brett, D. Dunleath, Historic Buildings…in the borough of Lisburn (UAHS, 1969), 8 (no.11)

Building: CO. DERRY, COLERAINE, CEMETERY
Date: 1880
Nature: New cemetery to be laid out.
Refs: IB 22, 1 Jan 1880, 4

Building: CO. ANTRIM, BELFAST, MOUNTPOTTINGER, POLICE BARRACKS
Date: 1889
Nature: To be erected to designs of Board of Works architects under superintendence of WG, Board's resident architect. Tenders invited Jul 1888. Contractor: William Fitzpatrick.
Refs: Drawings, signed by Wm. Fitzpatrick, 1889, in NA, OPW Drawings Collection (NI properties); Architect 40, 27 Jul 1888, suppl. p.1; IB 30, 1 Aug,1 Sep 1888, 204,226

Building: CO. ANTRIM, LARNE, ROYAL NAVAL RESERVE BATTERY AND DRILL HALL
Date: 1894
Nature: About to be erected for Board of Works.
Refs: IB 36, 1 Mar 1894, 60

Author Title Date Details
Gray, William 'The world's history in stone' 1867 IB 9, 1 Jul 1867, 162. (Account of lecture to Belfast Naturalists' Field Club.)
Gray, William 'Flint flakes and the antiquity of man' 1868 IB 10, 15 Mar 1868, 65-66. (Account of lecture given to Armagh Natural History and Philosophical Society, 9 Mar 1868.)
Gray, William 'A visit to Belleek Pottery' 1869 IB 11, 15 Jan 1869, 16. (Account of paper read to Belfast Naturalists' Field Club.)
Gray, William 'The Irish Elk' 1869 IB 11, 1 Feb 1869, 35-36. (Account of paper read to Armagh Local History Society.)
Gray, William 'The building stones of Belfast, and the counties adjoining' 1869 IB 11, 1 May 1869, 99-102; RIAI Sessional Papers 1863-4 to 1869-70, (1868-9) 11-20.
Gray, William 'An inquiry into the possibility and probability of the occurrence of coal in the neighbourhood of Belfast' 1871 IB 13, 15 Dec 1871, 332-3. (Account of lecture given to Belfast Naturalists' Field Club, 22 Nov 1871.)
Gray, William 'The building stones of the North of Ireland geologically considered' 1873 B 31, 7 Jun 1873, 452. (Summary of paper read to Belfast Architectural Society.)
Gray, William [Designs for improved residences for teachers] 1876 IB 18, 1 Apr 1876, 90. (Reply to criticisms of his designs for teachers' residences from 'an educational contemporary' in IB 18, 15 Mar 1876, 80.)
Gray, William 'The character and distribution of the rudely worked flints of the North of Ireland chiefly in Antrim and Down' 1882 JRSAI 15 (1879-82), 109.
Gray, William 'House drainage' 1883 Proceedings of the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society (1883). (Summary in IB 25, 1 Nov 1883, 337.)
Gray, William 'On Cromlechs in the Counties of Down and Antrim' 1884 JRSAI 16 (1883-84), 354-367. (Reprinted, [Belfast?], [1884?])
Gray, William 'A silo at Woodstock, Co. Kilkenny' 1884 IB 26, 15 Dec 1884, ?.
Gray, William 'Technical Education and Our Methods of Promoting it' 1887 IB 29, 15 Mar 1887, 78-80. (Paper read to Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Societyd, 1 Mar 1887.)
Gray, William 'Rough flint Celts of the Co. Antrim' 1888 JRSAI 18 (1887-88), 505.
Gray, William 'Discovery of an ancient sepulchre at Giant's Ring near Belfast' 1891 JRSAI 21 (1890-91), 102.
Gray, William 'The antiquarian aspects of the County Antrim raised beaches' 1891 JRSAI 21 (1890-91), 388; IB 33, 1 Aug 1891, 179.
Gray, William 'Essentials of house sanitation - how to secure them' 1892 IB 34, 1 Apr 1892, 75-76. (Paper read to Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society, 9 Mar 1892.)
Gray, William 'Irish Worked Flints - Ancient and Modern' 1893 IB 35, 15 Mar 1893, 63. (Paper read to Belfast Naturalists' Field Club.)
Gray, William 'Notes on some Co. Down souterrains' 1894 JRSAI 24 (1894), 45.
Gray, William 'Our Holy Wells: a chapter of folk lore' 1894 IB 36, 15 May 1894, 111.