Vicar Gray

Vicar Gray

Tall and full-bearded like an Old Testament figure, driven by unstoppable righteous energy, as keen on hygiene and sanitation as he was on high-church devotions, Gray could ‘hold his own in a boxing match against any of his parishioners with one arm tied behind his back’, according to one historian. A prolific writer, educator and social reformer in addition to his work as a parish priest, he was the dominant force of Helmsley from his arrival in 1870 to his death 43 years later.

In that respect he outmatched even William Ernest Duncombe, 1st Earl of Feversham (1829-1915), who as the owner of most of the town and many thousands of acres around it, was literally lord of all he surveyed. Feversham had many projects of his own, but he was also content — despite occasional sharp spats between the two, such as over the building of a small Roman Catholic church in Helmsley, which Gray abominated — to support those that were instigated by Gray, many of which would involve Temple Moore.

Grandson of a bishop of Bristol and son of the first bishop of Cape Town, Gray inherited a passion for building and rebuilding churches from his mother Sophy, who had taken a hand in numerous projects in South Africa with advice from the great Gothic Revival architect William Butterfield.

Gray’s urge to provide places of worship in every hamlet of his extensive parish brought stern advice from his father the bishop: ‘The parish is quite a little diocese,’ he wrote to his son. ‘You may in your strength and zeal be able to have for some years a network of services all around; but fifty years hence will the living be able to support a staff of curates for these?’

Nevertheless, Gray pressed on, and the result is evident today in the numerous churches in and around his parish.

Martin Vander Weyer 2012

Who Was Temple Moore?

Temple Moore (1856–1920) was one of Victorian England's greatest church architects. In a career spanning five decades, he built more than forty churches. They are now considered to be masterpieces of the late Gothic Revival, a style of architecture he raised to a new level of beauty and refinement. Much of Moore's early work was carried ou...

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The Gilbert Scott Connection

Temple Moore's life and work were closely linked with the famous Gilbert Scott dynasty of architects. Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811–1878) was one of the leading figures of the early Gothic Revival and the most prolific architect of his age. His works spanned the British Empire. In England alone he designed 800 buildings and restored hundr...

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The Gothic Revival

The Gothic Revival was a 19th-century movement in art and architecture. Famous names associated with its early phase include those of A.W. Pugin, John Ruskin and Sir George Gilbert Scott. Temple Moore, together with G.F. Bodley, George Gilbert Scott junior and others, is associated with the Late Gothic Revival, which flourished from the 1870s onw...

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Vicar Gray

Vicar Gray, one of Temple Moore's greatest patrons and supporters, was a charismatic, maddening, inspiring, argumentative, endlessly energetic character who arrived like an earthquake in the small Yorkshire town of Helmsley in the late 19th century and set about shaking up the place and it's people. From the moment Charles Norris Gray was appoin...

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