Born: William Gray was born on 18th January 1823 in Blyth, Northumberland. His parents were Matthew Gray and Ann Bryham. Matthew Gray was a draper and a shipowner.
Educated: William Gray attended Bruce’s Academy in Newcastle. He learnt the drapery trade from his father.
Married: On 15th May 1849 William Gray married Dorothy Hall, daughter of Captain John Hall of Lewisham.
Family: William and Dorothy had two sons and five daughters.
Home: As a young man, William was in Newcastle. He spent several years in London before setting up business in Hartlepool in 1844. William and Dorothy lived at The Cottage, Greatham in their later years.
Known for: In 1863 William Gray became a partner in the shipbuilding firm of Denton, Gray and Company, which became William Gray and Company in 1874. Within four years, Gray’s shipyard became the world’s largest shipbuilder in terms of tonnage. In 1884 he opened the Central Marine Engineering Works and in 1886 he built the first oil tanker for a British owner. In 1896 he took over the rolling mills of the West Hartlepool Steel and Iron Company. In 1898, with Christopher Furness, he purchased two ironworks in Stockton which were combined with the West Hartlepool Steel and Iron Company to form the South Durham Steel and Iron Company Limited. This was one of the largest steel companies in the country. William Gray was mayor of Hartlepool in 1861 and 1862 and became the first mayor of West Hartlepool when it achieved borough status in 1887. Gray failed in his attempt to become the town’s M.P. He was knighted in 1890.
Died: Sir William Gray died at his home in Greatham on 12th September 1898 and was buried in West Hartlepool
Further Information: “Who Was Who in 19th Century Cleveland” David M.Tomlin and Mary Williams (1987): Dictionary of National Biography