Albert Edward Gray FRSA 1871-1959
Elizabeth Gray (née Griggs) seated centre with her eight children, probably on her 60th birthday in 1895. The daughters are (from left to right): Florence, Elizabeth and Matilda. The sons are William Martin, Robert Thomas, Walter and Hazel Arthur. Albert Edward is seated, left
In 1917, fifteen years after the death of his first wife, Edward Gray, as he was then known to his friends, married Rosa Burton Hassall and they had a daughter, Joan (1918-2001). It was not long afterwards that Rosa developed cancer. Following a long series of operations, she died in 1928.
The business inevitably suffered a setback during the 1914-18 war., but with the coming of the Twenties, a new spirit was abroad and the demand for new designs was high. Since his plan was to concentrate on decoration, and particularly freehand decoration, he selected and bought-in shapes made by other manufacturers, decorating them within his own Works. To find operatives with the required level of artistry and skill was not easy. He believed that there existed much inherited talent in The Potteries. He selected young people straight from school and gave them six months' training, partly in the Works and partly at Art School, before they undertook production work.
He felt at first that the Art Schools did little to train students for the practical application to industry of what they had learnt there. In 1920 Gordon Forsyth (1879-1952) was appointed Head of Burslem Art School and later Superintendent of Art Instruction in Stoke-on-Trent. An understanding soon developed between the two men. Not that they always saw eye-to-eye, but it was an important friendship based on mutual respect for each other's ideas. Gordon Forsyth produced a number of designs for A.E.Gray & Co.Ltd, probably all of a lustre style, in particular the elegant lion rampant used for their wall-plaques and bowls (Below). In 1920 also, Robin Gray (Bottom), Edward's son, joined the company and in 1923 was appointed a Director.
The table below shows some of the entries in the Burslem School of Art Register, held in the Stoke-on-Trent City Archives. The names highlighted in yellow are known to have worked at Gray's Pottery at various times and other names show individuals who gained acclaim in a number of fields such as art, architecture and pottery.
Click each image for a larger version
These are examples of Gray's lustre designs created between about 1923 and 1926. They may or may not be Forsyth designs because there is no written documentation extant to prove it either way. However, they are very much in the style of Forsyth's work, epitomised by his earlier designs at Pilkington Tile & Pottery near Manchester.
Image credits: (L to R): GP, GP, Martin Harrison, Originator unknown, GP
Robert Edward Gray, always known as Robin, in his office in Whieldon Road, probably in the early 1950s.