Born in Yorkshire, England, Sophia Wharton Myddleton married Robert Gray at Whitworth village church in Yorkshire in 1836. The Grays arrived in the Cape on 20 February 1848, Robert having been appointed the first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town in 1847, and lived first at Boscheuvel, re-named Protea and now Bishop's Court. Sophia Gray has been credited with having had some part in the design of about thirty-five Anglican churches in the Cape. RADFORD (1979:184) points out that although no architectural drawings by her survive there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to support the tradition of her active involvement in a number of church designs. He hesitates crediting her with the number of buildings usually ascribed to her, often on the basis of stylistic incompatibility. That she took an interest in building is evident from her notebooks in which sketches of Gothic detail appear. She possessed several books on Gothic revival architecture and it seems that while she endeavoured to design the buildings, she lacked the technical skills to do so. In executing the churches she appears to have had the assistance of G EVANS, a civil engineer who apparently prepared the working drawings for Gray's church at Swellendam (Gutsche 1970:129).
Variations of the Gothic revival style were fashionable in British ecclesiastical circles through the efforts and publications of the Ecclesiological Society at the time and this is reflected in the Grays' work for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG); they were familiar with the work of Pugin, among others, mainly it seems through publications. Sophia Gray appears to have been familiar with popular works as Thomas Rickman's architecture and his glossary of architecture before coming out to South Africa.
There were almost no Anglican churches in the diocese when the Grays arrived in Cape Town. Bishop Gray's enthusiasm, the obvious need for churches, an apparent lack of architectural services as well as money probably encouraged Sophia Gray to design buildings to suit the immediate needs. Radford notes (1979:207) that in spite of referring to diocesan records, occasional contemporary newspaper reports and other authorities, he depended on the 'strong stylistic affinity in all these churches' in attributing them to Gray. The modest scale, details and cost of these churches, as well as frequent use of local stone, gives them a unity of style. She was apparently very conscious of the need for economy and Bishop Gray voiced his feelings on the matter: 'my only regret is that all our churches will be of the same style of architecture, and of the same character; economy compels us to be contented with bell-turrets instead of towers and Early English instead of Decorated or Norman buildings' (Radford 1979:186). She appears to have been able to call on the help of Scots masons: Oberholster states that a 'team of builders (was) especially brought out by Bishop Robert Gray for his church-building programme' (Oberholster 1972:127.) Further reason for her involvement with the design of the Anglican churches was her low opinion of some of the contemporary architects in the Cape. She considered PENKETH & CALVERT 'crooks', according to Gutsche (1970:138) in her estimate of their work at St Mary's Church in Stellenbosch. Sophia Gray can be counted among South Africa's early architects, her designs on occasion owing to the British ecclesiastical architect W BUTTERFIELD, with whom she corresponded. She was sufficiently involved with design to lament that her 'architecturally correct plans (are) constantly travestied by building committees throughout the land. Only a few remained unscathed and still survive' (Gutsche 1970:113). She died at Bishop's Court. (Lantern Jul 1984:24-6)
Sophia Gray is commemorated by the School of Architecture, University of the Free State with an annual Sophia Gray Laureate Lecture and Exhibition.
All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.
Books citing GRAY
|Fransen, Hans. 2004. The old buildings of the Cape. A survey of extant architecture from before c1910 in the area of Cape Town - Calvinia - Colesberg - Uitenhage. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers. pp 16, 56, 88, 102, 104, 113, 114, 115, 177, 265, 315, 357, 428, 443, 473, 485, 488, 507, 517, 519, 521, 522, 541, 551, 554, 558, 566|
|Fransen, Hans. 1982. Three centuries of South African art : fine art, architecture, applied arts. Johannesburg: AD Donker. pp |
|Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pp 49, 78, 102-103, 118, 120, 163, 176|
|Gutsche, Thelma. 1970. The Bishop's Lady. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pp |
|HSRC. 1981. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume IV. Pretoria: Butterworth & Co (SA) for Human Sciences Research Council. pp 196|
|Kearney, Brian. 1973. Architecture in Natal from 1824 1893. Cape Town: Balkema. pp |
|Martin, Desmond. 2005. The Bishop's churches. Cape Town: Struik. pp |
|Menache, Philippe & David, Darryl Earl. 2012. A Platteland Pilgrimage : 102 country churches of South Africa
. South Africa: Booktown Richmond Press. pp 11-12|
|Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1977. Victorian Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp 5, 43, 44, 45, 47, 74, 97, 139, 149, 150, 151, 152, 155, 161, 166, 171, 192, 217, 225, 226, 255, 256, 257, 363, 397|
|Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pp 41, 42, 82, 83, 84, 140|
|Radford, D. 1979. The architecture of the Western Cape, 1838 1901. A study of the impact of Victorian aesthetics and technology on South African architecture. Johannesburg: Unpublished Ph.D thesis. Dept of Arch. University of the Witwatersrand. pp |
|Storrar, Patricia. 2001. Plettenberg Bay and the Paradise Coast. Craighall: Trevor McGlashan, TJM Publishers. pp 27, 89, 145, 160, 162, 166, 200, 201, 255|
Chapters in books citing GRAY