Martha Grey, Countess of Stamford

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Martha Grey, Countess of Stamford (c. 1838 – 21 August 1916) was born Martha Solomons in Cape Town, South Africa. She was the daughter of a freed slave named Rebecca and man from Wellington named Solomon. Her mother Rebecca was a well known character at the Cape, sometimes referred to as "Queen Rebecca"[1], since she claimed to be related to the British royal family; less is known about her father.

Pencil sketch of view from Wynberg by William Westall, 1801

In 1864, she met the Reverend Harry Grey, a clergyman from Cheshire in England and a cousin of the 7th Earl of Stamford. Harry Grey was sent to the Cape on a remittance as a result of habits his family thought dishonourable. In 1880, Harry and Martha were married; they lived in Wynberg, Cape Town. Martha bore Harry three children: John, Frances and Mary Grey. The first two were born before their marriage, while Mary was born thereafter. Upon the death of the 7th Earl, the Earldom of Stamford passed to Harry Grey, and Martha became Countess of Stamford.[2]

Harry Grey, 8th Earl of Stamford died in 1890,[3] leaving Martha well off financially, though she and her children suffered much racial prejudices and snobbery from the English settlers in Cape Town. Inspired by her mother's wish for educating her local community, she funded a school in Wynberg, Battswood School, which later became the Battswood Training College for teachers. Martha, Dowager Countess of Stamford, died in 1916, and was buried alongside her husband and her daughter Frances in Wynberg.


  1. ^ Loos, Jackie (2004). Echoes of Slavery: Voices from South Africa's Past. Cape Town: David Philip. ISBN 978-0864866615. 
  2. ^ van der Ross, Richard. The Black Countess. 
  3. ^ "THE STAMFORD PEERAGE". Tuapeka Times, Volume XXIV, Issue 1912, 13 July 1892, p. 5.

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