Lieutenant Gabriel Bray. R.N. (1750-1823)

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SACRED / TO THE MEMORY OF / LIEUT. GABRIEL BRAY, / ROYAL NAVY; / WHO DIED ON THE 6TH OF DECEMBER 1823 / AGED 73 YEARS. / ALSO OF MARY HIS WIFE / WHO DIED ON THE 20TH OF OCTOBER 1835 / AGED 73 YEARS.'
 
 
Lieutenant Gabriel Bray Shaving (Self Portrait) (c. 1775)

The memorial to this gentleman hangs high on the wall in St. Andrews Church and the remains of what was once an impressive Tomb stands at the corner of the building. They give no clue to the astonishing life that he led before retiring to Charmouth. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the abilty to follow up nuggets of inforamtion I have been able as far as I can to tell his story.
He originated from Kent,born in 1749 and was the son of Captain John Bray of Deal. He went on to attend Kings School in Canterbury from 1759 to 1764. In the same year, aged just 15 he joined the Navy as a captain's servant, which was fortunate as this was in peacetime, when the military was ‘downsizing'. For the next 6 years he served on 6 different ships learning all the various skills of life at sea. He passed his Lieutenant exams in 1770, but there was no promotion post available.In 1773, he had a lucky break when serving on the Royal Yacht Augusta, which took part in a royal fleet review at Spithead. Bray sketched it on the spot and sat up all night to finish it so that it might be presented to the King the following day 'as occasioned his Majesty on seeing it to promote him'. The drawing is still in the Royal Collection and illustatred below. Gabriel Bray was indeed promoted Lieutenant on 25 June 1773 and served on HMS Pallas, HMS Sprightly and HMS Nimble.His godson's descendants of an album of ninety-five drawings made on a voyage to the British colonies in Africa and Jamaica from 1774-75. Mostly watercolour, they include landscapes of Deal and Portsmouth, as well as figures studies of gentlemen and ladies, sailors and natives, and a self-portrait painting in his sketchbook in his cabin. His interest was more in the customs and costumes of the inhabitants of the places he visited, than in their topography, reflecting the changing attitudes of travelling amateur artists as the century progressed. Bray joined the repeat voyage in 1775-6 but after 1782 he was a Captain in the Customs House Service. His painting of this spectacle attracted the attention of George III himself, who personally promoted him to Lieutenant. Over the following years he developed both his naval career and his artistic work. He had two tours of the British possessions in West Africa between 1774-76, inspecting and protecting the British coastal trading forts. He did many paintings of life at sea, especially the sailors' leisure activities on such long voyages, and also of the lands and peoples of Africa. He specialised in head, rather than full-body, portraits of the local people. Most of Bray's career was spent in the Revenue Service, defending the coast against smugglers. He was not directly involved in the major wars against the Americans and then France, though he was often involved in action against enemy shipping, and ferrying supplies to French royalists. He continued to produce many fine paintings, and in 1790 he married and the family moved to Fowey, Cornwall. He retired in 1809, moving to Charmouth, and becoming a local churchwarden. There he proposed a new lifeboat design in 1817 for which he was presented with a silver medal by the Royal Society. He died in 1823, and there is a plaque to his memory in Charmouth Church. After leaving the Navy in the 1780s he became an officer in the Customs Service.His chief claim to fame is as an artist. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1785, but was an amateur talent. In 1991 the National Maritime Museum acquired an album of 75 drawings, inscribed ‘Original sketches by G. Bray 1775'.He was second lieutenant of the 44-gun ‘Pallas' under Captain the Hon. William Cornwallis (1744-1819) – later a well-known admiral - on two voyages (1774-77) to report on British interests in West Africa and the West Indies between December 1774 and September 1775, to report on British interests there (including the slave-trade, presumably). A second similar voyage followed but all the dated drawings, at least, relate only to the first. 'Pallas's' commander on both voyages was the Hon. William Cornwallis, later a well-known admiral ('Billy Blue', 1744–1819). Bray is thought to have come from Deal in Kent and the dated drawings show he was there and in the neighbourhood from May to August 1774. He passed through London in October and was in Portsmouth (where the 'Pallas' was fitting out) in November, possibly going round by sea on naval transport. The ‘Pallas' sailed sufficiently early in December to reach Tenerife before the end of the month and left in January 1775 for Senegal, where they remained until at least early February before going on to the Gambia. The dated drawings refer only to the first of these, from December 1774 to September 1775, though a few may be from the second. Others comprise country views, some of Deal, Kent (where Bray may have come from), and others of social-history interest. Some were drawn around Deal and Portsmouth, but most relate to voyages of HMS Pallas to the West African coast. There are several landscapes and studies of Africans, but the main interest lies in the portrayals of ordinary sailors going about their daily business aboard ship. Scenes of eating, sleeping, shaving, rigging up a hammock, studying and fishing are shown in a simple but characterful style. The illustrations are unique for the period, and have been used in many of the recent books on the later eighteenth century Navy.Bray never advanced beyond the rank of lieutenant, apparently having little 'interest' (patronage): according to Roger Knight (verbal communication, Aug. 2004) his name appears in appointments book of Lord Sandwich (First Lord of the Admiralty until 1782) but his sole 'referee' was his own father, who may himself have been John Bray, a naval lieutenant who died in 1795. Gabriel was commissioned lieutenant on 25 June 1773 in the 'Augusta', yacht. He was appointed second lieutenant of the ‘Pallas' in late 1774, after a period ashore on half pay. In 1779 he was given command of the 'Sprightly', cutter, and from 1782 the 'Nimble', cutter, both in the preventive (anti-smuggling) service. Gabriel Bray, a cutter commander from the late 18th Century and a recipient of a silver cup awarded by the Customs commissioners, is a highlight of one of our displays. The cup, our Fowey linked cutlass, a flintlock pistol and our curved 'Turkish' smugglers knife were centre stage props. Steve met Tony Robinson during his latest Walking Through History series in Cornwall in the village of Fowey. The King of Prussia pub was the venue for an intriguing talk with Tony on the exploits of Bray in the capturing of the 'Lottery', a Fowey-based smuggling lugger. We included delivery of a loan of a number of smuggling-related objects from our collection to our friends at the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth. Look out for their new Cornish smuggling exhibition opening early next These were his last postings and he spent the rest of his life ashore on half pay. He married Mary Cartwright in St. Andrews Holburn in 1780. but after 1782 he was a Captain in the Customs House Service.
The smugglers banker bray
If the revenue officers on land were being frustrated in their attempts to put an end to the smuggling trade, The Revenue Cutters at sea met with rather more success.One Revenue vessel in particular came to be feared by the Polperro Smugglers more than the other. the Hind one of the newest and largest cutters in service, carrying a crew if 41 men, was stationed in the Channel Between Portland and Lands End. Like other Revenue cutters in service at the term, the Hind was a former smuggling Luger seized off Plymouth in January 1789 and judged too useful to suffer the usual fate and broken up.Instaed, she was converted into a cutter and taken into service.
Her commander, Lieutenant Gabriel Bray, had served aboard Revenue  cutters since 1779 with a zeal and determination that won the admiration of his superiors and gained him a reputation for dealing ruthlessly with smugglers. A few years earlier, while in command of the Revenue cutter Scourge off the Knet coast, Bray had confronted a notorious smuggler named Brown in the act if landing spirits on the beach near Deal. the ensuing fight was graphically described in the Whitehall Evening Post:
"Captain Bray boarded him, and though Brown presented a blunderbuss both of them not being half a distance from each other, the Captain was not daunted.One of his men seeing his brave master in this situation, with a cutlass cut Brown's cheek clean off Bray seconded the stroke, and with his cutlass nearly severed his head from his body and pit a period to this pirates life.
It was not long before Gabriel Bray made his presence felt in Cornwall where the Revenue officials at Fowey were quick to enlist his help in putting an end to the trade so openly carried on in Polperro Smugglers. In the summer of 1789, he announced his appointment to command The Hind by placing a notice in the Sherborne Mercury for five successive weeks.

6 January 1788 Lymington. Gabriel Bray of Lymington gent, commander of the Enterprise, a Revenue cutter.By 18o5 he was living at no.10 Newington Close in Newington in Surrey. In 1810 his will shows him moving to charmouth and frenting his house to Captain Ferris, R.N.

His House in Charmouth appears to have been rented in 1819 to Captain Ferris.

 
The model of the earlier church, shows the pictures of the twelve apostles, six on each side of an Ecce Homo, painted in 1817 by the churchwarden, Lieut. Gabriel Bray, R.N., on the front of the new northern gallery.

A Marine Leaning on a Pile of Bales, c.1774.

 
 
 
 
 

A man in a red frogged coat and tassled cocked hat

A View of the Dock Gates at Portsmouth taken from the Navy Coffee house window, Decr 74

1823 Land Tax List showing Captain Bray paying 2/1d for his house
1830 Land Tax List showing Mrs Bray paying for her house
Burial on December 23rd 1823 at Charmouth Church
Mary Brays Will (abbreviated)
I Bequeath to Mary Wick Sweeting, wife of Robert Hallett Sweeting  of Charmouth, Surgeon all my plate, clothes, jewels of every description. I Give a fourth part of Blyby Wood in Kent on decease of Mary Bray, Spinster, to Margaret Bray of Mongeham, near Deal, Spinster (one of the nieces of my late husband). I give all my freehold house, garden and outbuildings in Charmouth to the use of Thomas Whitty Hallett of Axminster, Spirit Merchant, and William Elworthy of Wokington, Somerset, Woollen Manufacturer. They shall dispose of it by public auction one month after my decease. I give and bequeath all my original shares in the Strand Bridge, otherwise called the Waterloo Bridge and the tolls unto Mary Wick Sweeting and  then to Robert Hallett Sweeting and on her death to the six children now living of the said Robert Hallett Sweeting and Mary Wick Sweeting his wife, namely Mary Ann Sophia Sweeting,Selina Sweeting, Elizabeth Ann Sweeting,George Hallett Sweeting, Robert Bray Sweeting and Thomas Sweeting.
1835 signed Mary Bray, witnesses, Eliza Hening, Charmouth, Spinster, W.J. Bragge of the above place , Gentleman, John Bullen, Solicitor, New Inn, London and Charmouth, Dorset.
Proved at London, 18th January 1836 before the Judge by the oaths of Thomas Whitty Hallett and William Elworthy, the Executors. 
 
 
 
Sherbourne Mervcury 1789

 

1810 Stoke newington

 

Date:

L

 
 

The ruins of St Augustine's monastery in Canterbury. The note attached to this drawing states that Captain Bray "in one night made so exquisite a drawing of the Fleet at Portsmouth when the King was there as occasioned his Majesty on seeing it to promote him - He took it in the day and sat up the whole night to finish it then desired that amiable man Sir Richard Spry to present him with said view in his Hand to His Majesty.Bray's view is still in the Royal Collection. According to the long inscription attached to the original mount of this drawing, it was presented to the young writer George Monck Berkeley (1763-1793) by Miss Anson as a keepsake when he was about to leave Canterbury: this must have been in 1775 when Berkeley left the King's School for Eton.
The inscription on this drawing records another by Bray of the King reviewing the fleet under the command of Sir Richard Spry at Portsmouth in 1773. Bray sketched it on the spot and sat up all night to finish it so that it might be presented to the King the following day 'as occasioned his Majesty on seeing it to promote him'. The drawing is still in the Royal Collection and illustatred below. Gabriel Bray was indeed promoted Lieutenant on 25 June 1773 and posted on board H.M.Y. Augusta. his godson's descendants of an album of ninety-five drawings made on a voyage to the British colonies in Africa and Jamaica from 1774-75. Mostly watercolour, they include landscapes of Deal and Portsmouth, as well as figures studies of gentlemen and ladies, sailors and natives, and a self-portrait painting in his sketchbook in his cabin. His interest was more in the customs and costumes of the inhabitants of the places he visited, than in their topography, reflecting the changing attitudes of travelling amateur artists as the century progressed. Bray joined the repeat voyage in 1775-6 but after 1782 he was a Captain in the Customs House Service.

 

A Regatta at Spithead, June 23, 1773
 

The memorial to this gentleman hangs high on the wall in St. Andrews Church and the remains of what was once an impressive Tomb stands at the corner of the building. They give no clue to the astonishing life that he led before retiring to Charmouth. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the abilty to follow up nuggets of inforamtion I have been able as far as I can to tell his story.

He originated from Kent and was born in 1749 and was the son of Captain John Bray of Deal. He went on to attend Kings School in Canterbury from 1759 to 1764. He became a Lieutenant in 1773, and served on HMS Pallas, HMS Sprightly and HMS Nimble. After leaving the Navy in the 1780s he became an officer in the Customs Service.His chief claim to fame is as an artist. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1785, but was an amateur talent. In 1991 the National Maritime Museum acquired an album of 75 drawings, inscribed ‘Original sketches by G. Bray 1775'. Some were drawn around Deal and Portsmouth, but most relate to voyages of HMS Pallas to the West African coast. There are several landscapes and studies of Africans, but the main interest lies in the portrayals of ordinary sailors going about their daily business aboard ship. Scenes of eating, sleeping, shaving, rigging up a hammock, studying and fishing are shown in a simple but characterful style. The illustrations are unique for the period, and have been used in many of the recent books on the later eighteenth century Navy.

 

Slavery, painting, smuggling & God: the varied life of Lieut. Gabriel Bray, RN The February meeting of the History Society was an illustrated presentation by Jeremy Michell on Slavery, painting, smuggling & God: the varied life of Lieut. Gabriel Bray, RN. As a curator at the National Maritime Museum, and its Historic Photographs and Ships Plans Manager, Jeremy is ideally placed to discuss this particular fascinating naval and artistic life during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Jeremy explained that the lives of ordinary sailors and junior naval officers tend to be underresearched, a major gap in our understanding of our maritime history. Bray being a skilled painter meant that he provided, in the pre-photography era, a unique and detailed visual record of the places, ships and people he encountered. We were shown many of Bray's impressive paintings to illustrate Jeremy's talk. Bray was born in Deal, Kent in 1750. He joined the Navy in 1764 as a captain's servant, which was fortunate as this was in peacetime, when the military was ‘downsizing'. For the next 6 years he served on 6 different ships learning all the various skills of life at sea. He passed his Lieutenant exams in 1770, but there was no promotion post available. In 1773, he had a lucky break when serving on the Royal Yacht Augusta, which took part in a royal fleet review at Spithead. His painting of this spectacle attracted the attention of George III himself, who personally promoted him to Lieutenant. Over the following years he developed both his naval career and his artistic work. He had two tours of the British possessions in West Africa between 1774-76, inspecting and protecting the British coastal trading forts. He did many paintings of life at sea, especially the sailors' leisure activities on such long voyages, and also of the lands and peoples of Africa. He specialised in head, rather than full-body, portraits of the local people. Most of Bray's career was spent in the Revenue Service, defending the coast against smugglers. He was not directly involved in the major wars against the Americans and then France, though he was often involved in action against enemy shipping, and ferrying supplies to French royalists. He continued to produce many fine paintings, and in 1790 he married and the family moved to Fowey, Cornwall. He retired in 1809, moving to Charmouth, and becoming a local churchwarden. There he proposed a new lifeboat design in 1817 for which he was presented with a silver medal by the Royal Society. He died in 1823, and there is a plaque to his memory in Charmouth Church.

 

No. 50 of 74 (PAJ1976 - PAJ2049) A drawing, dated and signed on the backing sheet 'April 75 AVprGB' (to the life by Gabriedl Bray), of Bray drawing an image of a cutter at sea from memory. This and PAJ2024 are the two self-portraits in the Bray album, this one being a good illustration of the equipment of a watercolourist of the period. The scene of both is perhaps more likely the ship's wardroom rather than Bray's sleeping cabin, which would have been very small, and both would probably have been done using the mirror shown in PAJ2024. Bray is also sitting on the same chair, or one of the same pattern, to that shown in his portrait of another of the ship's lieutenants (PAJ2017). This is one of 73 drawings by Bray (plus one signed 'NF 1782') preserved in a 19th-century album. They have now been separately remounted. Bray (1750-1823), was second lieutenant of the 44-gun ‘Pallas' under Captain the Hon. William Cornwallis (1744-1819) – later a well-known admiral - on two voyages (1774-77) to report on British interests in West Africa, including the slave trade. The dated drawings refer only to the first of these, from December 1774 to September 1775, though a few may be from the second. Others comprise country views, some of Deal, Kent (where Bray may have come from), and others of social-history interest.

 

Gabriel Bray

 

Gabriel Bray (1750–1823 ), was a second lieutenant on HM ship 'Pallas', 44-guns, on a voyage to west Africa and the West Indies between December 1774 and September 1775, to report on British interests there (including the slave-trade, presumably). A second similar voyage followed but all the dated drawings, at least, relate only to the first. 'Pallas's' commander on both voyages was the Hon. William Cornwallis, later a well-known admiral ('Billy Blue', 1744–1819). Bray is thought to have come from Deal in Kent and the dated drawings show he was there and in the neighbourhood from May to August 1774. He passed through London in October and was in Portsmouth (where the 'Pallas' was fitting out) in November, possibly going round by sea on naval transport. The ‘Pallas' sailed sufficiently early in December to reach Tenerife before the end of the month and left in January 1775 for Senegal, where they remained until at least early February before going on to the Gambia.

 

Bray never advanced beyond the rank of lieutenant, apparently having little 'interest' (patronage): according to Roger Knight (verbal communication, Aug. 2004) his name appears in appointments book of Lord Sandwich (First Lord of the Admiralty until 1782) but his sole 'referee' was his own father, who may himself have been John Bray, a naval lieutenant who died in 1795. Gabriel was commissioned lieutenant on 25 June 1773 in the 'Augusta', yacht. He was appointed second lieutenant of the ‘Pallas' in late 1774, after a period ashore on half pay. In 1779 he was given command of the 'Sprightly', cutter, and from 1782 the 'Nimble', cutter, both possibly in the preventive (anti-smuggling) service. These were his last postings and he spent the rest of his life ashore on half pay. He died in 1823, aged 73, at Charmouth, Dorset, where he is recorded as one of the churchwardens

 

married Mary Cartwright in St. Andrews Holburn in 1780

 

1819 Captain Ferris living in House

 

Gabriel Bray, a cutter commander from the late 18th Century and a recipient of a silver cup awarded by the Customs commissioners, is a highlight of one of our displays. The cup, our Fowey linked cutlass, a flintlock pistol and our curved 'Turkish' smugglers knife were centre stage props. Steve met Tony Robinson during his latest Walking Through History series in Cornwall in the village of Fowey. The King of Prussia pub was the venue for an intriguing talk with Tony on the exploits of Bray in the capturing of the 'Lottery', a Fowey-based smuggling lugger. We included delivery of a loan of a number of smuggling-related objects from our collection to our friends at the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth. Look out for their new Cornish smuggling exhibition opening early next

 

Bray is thought to have come from Deal in Kent and the dated drawings show he was there and in the neighbourhood from May to August 1774. He was commissioned lieutenant on 25 June 1773 in the Augusta , yacht, and was appointed second lieutenant of the Pallas in late 1774, after a period ashore on half pay. Pallas had 44-guns and was on a voyage to west Africa and the West Indies between December 1774 and September 1775, to report on British interests. Pallas's commander on both voyages was the Hon. William Cornwallis, later a well-known admiral (‘Billy Blue', 1744–1819). The Pallas sailed sufficiently early in December to reach Tenerife before the end of the month and left in January 1775 for Senegal, where they remained until at least early February before going on to the Gambia. Bray never advanced beyond the rank of lieutenant. In 1779 he was given command of the Sprightly , cutter, and from 1782 the Nimble , cutter, both possibly in the preventive (anti-smuggling) service. These were his last postings and he spent the rest of his life ashore on half pay. He died in 1823, aged 73, at Charmouth, Dorset, where he is recorded as one of the churchwardens.”