Sophy Gray

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Sophy Gray
Born(1814-01-05)5 January 1814
Easington in Yorkshire
Died27 April 1871(1871-04-27) (aged 57)
Cape Town
Known forArchitecture
St Mark's Anglican Cathedral in George, which Gray designed

Sophy Gray or Sophia Gray (5 January 1814 – 27 April 1871),[1] was a diocesan administrator, artist, architect, horsewoman and the wife of Cape Town bishop Robert Gray. Born at Easington in Yorkshire, the 5th daughter of county squire Richard Wharton Myddleton of Durham and Yorkshire, she died at Bishopscourt, Cape Town on 27 April 1871 and was buried in the graveyard of St Saviour's in Claremont. Day 1930 wrote "the constant companion of (Robert Gray's) travels, the untiring amanuensis and accountant, the skilful designer of churches, the brightness and stay of his home life at Bishopscourt."


Sophy and her two sisters were raised in an affluent family, owning estates in North Riding and Durham. They were well-read and proficient riders from an early age, qualities that helped foster their friendship with the young Robert Gray. Sophy married Robert Gray in 1836 after a six-month engagement, when he was rector of Whitworth, Durham. Their honeymoon gave young Sophy a taste of things to come when she and Robert set out on a lengthy horseback trip, visiting the family holdings in two counties. For nine years their lives at Old Park and Whitworth, and the urban parish of Stockton remained fairly untroubled, but all this changed dramatically when Robert was placed on a shortlist for one of three new colonial bishoprics. He was chosen for the Cape of Good Hope.

South Africa[edit]

In 1847 Sophy and Robert travelled to Cape Town where he was to establish a new colonial diocese, increase the number of clergy and establish new churches and schools. There were only ten Anglican churches in South Africa at that time. With his death 25 years later, this number had risen to 63. Having grown accustomed to the high standard of living enjoyed by bishops, including an episcopal palace, the Grays emigrated to the Cape with a retinue of servants, furniture and even an episcopal carriage.

The couple settled on the farm Boschheuvel, originally named Wijnberg and later renamed Bishopscourt, the original owner having been Jan van Riebeek, first Dutch Governor of the Cape. The farm lay on the slopes of Table Mountain, well-watered and with dense woodland. Here Sophy, using the old slave quarters, started a school for her five children and those of the community. Despite disliking social engagements, she kept open house to a constant stream of church officials and dignitaries, as well as managing Robert's diocese that included the Cape, Orange Free State, Natal and the islands of Tristan da Cunha and St. Helena.

Sophy Gray had brought along architectural plans of churches that could be adapted to the design of churches and schools for the new Anglican parishes that were to be established throughout South Africa. Both Sophy and her husband favoured the neo-Gothic style of church architecture which was fashionable in Britain at that time and advocated by the ecclesiologists, and disliked the Romanesque style. Even so, Sophy and Robert Gray felt that church design should not stick slavishly to the Early English Period, but should show some diversity.

She not only filled the role of architect, but kept records of the synods, their meetings and official ceremonies. She also kept records of correspondence and church chronicles. Being a competent horsewoman, she joined her husband on all but two of his extended trips. Her artistic skills were shown by the numerous water-colours and sketches she did, frequently used to illustrate her husband's journals. In all, the bishop would hardly have managed without her able assistance and knowledge. As if in recognition of her contribution, there is a stained glass window in St George's Cathedral, depicting her wearing a green riding habit and bonnet, though usually she wore a felt hat and plain riding dress, beneath which were close-fitting riding breeches of Chamois leather.

Capetonian Desmond Martin's doctoral thesis dealt with the churches established by the Grays. Of more than 50 churches built in South Africa during Robert Gray's bishopric, at least 40 were designed by Sophy. In 2005 Martin published a book titled "The Bishop's Churches" and illustrated with his water-colours and line drawings of her 40 churches, including St Paul's, Rondebosch, St Saviour's, Claremont, St Peter's, Plettenberg Bay, St James, Graaff-Reinet and St Jude's, Oudtshoorn.

Churches designed by Sophy Gray[edit]

Church Town Year Location
St Paul's Church[a] Eerste River, Western Cape 1848 34°01′38″S 18°44′40″E / 34.027089°S 18.744493°E / -34.027089; 18.744493
St James' Church Graaff-Reinet 1848 32°15′03″S 24°32′12″E / 32.25090°S 24.53671°E / -32.25090; 24.53671
St Paul's Church Rondebosch, Cape Town 1849 33°57′44″S 18°28′09″E / 33.962111°S 18.469283°E / -33.962111; 18.469283
St George's Church Knysna 1849 34°02′07″S 23°03′01″E / 34.03536°S 23.05027°E / -34.03536; 23.05027
School Chapel Beaufort West 1849 32°20′43″S 22°34′56″E / 32.345383°S 22.582288°E / -32.345383; 22.582288
Christ Church Colesberg 1849 30°43′11″S 25°05′51″E / 30.719813°S 25.097551°E / -30.719813; 25.097551
St Mark's Church George 1849 33°57′28″S 22°27′30″E / 33.95771°S 22.45844°E / -33.95771; 22.45844
Holy Trinity Church Caledon 1850 34°13′54″S 19°25′39″E / 34.231650°S 19.427487°E / -34.231650; 19.427487
St Saviour's Church[b] Claremont, Cape Town 1850 33°59′02″S 18°27′54″E / 33.983850°S 18.464919°E / -33.983850; 18.464919
Holy Trinity Church Belvidere, Knysna 1851 34°02′28″S 22°59′57″E / 34.041186°S 22.999063°E / -34.041186; 22.999063
St Peter's Church Pietermaritzburg 1851 29°36′17″S 30°22′34″E / 29.604722°S 30.376111°E / -29.604722; 30.376111
Christ Church[c] Swellendam 1852 34°01′20″S 20°26′27″E / 34.022280°S 20.440812°E / -34.022280; 20.440812
Christ Church Beaufort West 1852 32°20′45″S 22°34′57″E / 32.3459194°S 22.5824806°E / -32.3459194; 22.5824806
St James, The Great, Anglican Church Worcester 1852 33°38′45″S 19°26′42″E / 33.645867°S 19.444988°E / -33.645867; 19.444988
St John the Baptist Church Louvain Farm, Schoonberg near Herold 1853 33°48′41″S 22°38′45″E / 33.811265°S 22.645788°E / -33.811265; 22.645788
All Saints Church Somerset East 1854 32°43′01″S 25°35′09″E / 32.717056°S 25.585806°E / -32.717056; 25.585806
St Paul's Church[d] North End, Port Elizabeth 1854 33°56′43″S 25°35′23″E / 33.945341°S 25.589697°E / -33.945341; 25.589697
St Matthew's Church Riversdale, Western Cape 1854 34°05′34″S 21°15′31″E / 34.092683°S 21.258495°E / -34.092683; 21.258495
School Chapel Mossel Bay 1855
St Andrew's Chapel[e] Newlands, Cape Town 1856 33°58′18″S 18°27′16″E / 33.971682°S 18.454575°E / -33.971682; 18.454575
Armstrong Memorial Chapel[f] St. Andrew's College, Grahamstown 1856 33°18′27″S 26°31′07″E / 33.307614°S 26.518481°E / -33.307614; 26.518481
St Peter's Church Cradock 1857 32°10′20″S 25°36′58″E / 32.172248°S 25.616006°E / -32.172248; 25.616006
Church of St Mary the Virgin Woodstock, Cape Town 1859 33°55′36″S 18°26′47″E / 33.926753°S 18.446460°E / -33.926753; 18.446460
All Saints Church Bredasdorp 1859 34°32′06″S 20°02′25″E / 34.535035°S 20.040180°E / -34.535035; 20.040180
St Andrew's Chapel Ceres 1860 33°22′10″S 19°18′39″E / 33.369509°S 19.310847°E / -33.369509; 19.310847
St Jude's Church Oudtshoorn 1860 33°35′15″S 22°12′11″E / 33.5875861°S 22.2031667°E / -33.5875861; 22.2031667
Constantia Chapel[g] near Cape Town 1860
All Saints Chapel Durbanville 1860 33°50′05″S 18°38′58″E / 33.834707°S 18.649350°E / -33.834707; 18.649350
St Mary's Church Robertson 1861 33°48′05″S 19°52′56″E / 33.801456°S 19.882262°E / -33.801456; 19.882262
St Thomas' Mission Station Rondebosch, Cape Town 1864 33°57′46″S 18°28′37″E / 33.962764°S 18.477080°E / -33.962764; 18.477080
St John's Church Clanwilliam 1864 32°10′44″S 18°53′34″E / 32.1788861°S 18.8928611°E / -32.1788861; 18.8928611
St Mark's Chapel[h] District Six, Cape Town 1865
St Patrick's Church Umzinto, KwaZulu-Natal 1868 30°18′37″S 30°39′53″E / 30.310278°S 30.664608°E / -30.310278; 30.664608
St Augustine's Chapel[i] Fraserburg 1869 31°55′00″S 21°30′47″E / 31.916598°S 21.513118°E / -31.916598; 21.513118
St Luke's Mission Church[j] Swellendam 1869 34°01′13″S 20°26′40″E / 34.020183°S 20.444433°E / -34.020183; 20.444433
St John's Church Victoria West 1869 31°24′13″S 23°06′45″E / 31.403668°S 23.112632°E / -31.403668; 23.112632
All Saints Church Uniondale 1869 33°39′22″S 23°07′42″E / 33.656098°S 23.128386°E / -33.656098; 23.128386
St Mildred's Chapel Montagu 1870 33°47′13″S 20°07′02″E / 33.787002°S 20.117102°E / -33.787002; 20.117102
St Peter's Church Plettenberg Bay 1879 34°03′16″S 23°22′29″E / 34.054481°S 23.374638°E / -34.054481; 23.374638
St Matthew's Church Willowmore 1880 33°17′44″S 23°29′20″E / 33.295498°S 23.488919°E / -33.295498; 23.488919


See also[edit]



  1. ^ St Paul's, Eerste River is closer to Faure
  2. ^ St Saviour's, Claremont was demolished in 1904.[2]
  3. ^ Christ Church, Swellendam was demolished and a new church built on the old foundations.[2]
  4. ^ St Paul's, North End was demolished in 1959.[2]
  5. ^ St Andrew's Chapel, Newlands is no longer in use as a church
  6. ^ Armstrong Memorial Chapel was demolished in 1950.[2]
  7. ^ Constantia Chapel was demolished in 1953[3]
  8. ^ St Mark's Chapel, District Six was demolished in the 1960s.[2]
  9. ^ St Augustine's Chapel has become an Afrikaans Protestant Church after the dissolution of the Anglican congregation.[4]
  10. ^ St Luke's Mission Church, Swellendam is now used by the Old Apostolic Church.[2]


  1. ^ "GRAY, Sophia Wharton Myddleton (Sophy)". Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Sophy Gray Churches". Lu-Gerda's Travels. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
  3. ^ Martin 2002, p. 192.
  4. ^ van Rooyen, Morné (2015). "St Augustine's Church details". Retrieved 28 June 2018.


External links[edit]

Portraits of Sophy Gray at the National Portrait Gallery, London Edit this at Wikidata