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Charles Bray - An Unsung Hero

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DBC
Nottinghamshire
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1 of 5  Sun 12th Feb 2012 12:21pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2010  Total posts:170

I first came across references to Charles Bray in a biography of George Eliot. From reading about his life and deeds it seems that he should be included in that long list of Victorian philanthropists. To quote his Wikipedia entry:- "Bray helped to found The Coventry Labourers & Artisans Co-operative Society Circa 1840-60, which provided gardens for working men and a co-op store. Inspired by the cottage factories in Coventry, he drew up a plan for a small community based on the same system - squares of 3-400 houses, each with their own steam engine to provide power and would be surrounded by enough land for each house to have its own allotment. (He) used the wealth generated from his businesses to establish nonsectarian public schools and to try to bring about beneficial changes in many other aspects of society. Bray was a freethinker in religious matters and a progressive in politics." On top of that he was instrumental in pressing for a decent drinking water and sewage system for the city, and the opening of London Road cemetery. So why don't we here more about this man and his achievements? I don't think there is even a biography about this "Victorian do-gooder" (to borrow a phrase from Ian Hislop's recent TV series).
Charles Bray - An Unsung Hero
heritage
Bedworth
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2 of 5  Sun 12th Feb 2012 12:59pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2011  Total posts:374

It can be very difficult at times to separate Charles Bray from Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot). Bray, a wealthy ribbon manufacturer and local newspaper owner (Coventry Herald, was extremely radical in outlook and dabbled in the thinking of Robert Owen and other 19th century working-class movements. He was a free-thinker, in touch with the current intellectual trends, and a prolific writer on philosophical, religious, and social matters. His interests drew him into the centre of Coventry public life, and his house, Rosehill, on the Radford Road (more or less where the TA is today) which he bought in 1840, attracted visiting intellectuals, many of whom became mutual friends of the Brays and George Eliot. Bray and his family, especially his brother-in-law, Charles Hennell had quite an effect on George Eliot's religious and social thinking some of which were to contribute to her later style of writing.
Charles Bray - An Unsung Hero
dutchman
Spon End
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3 of 5  Sun 12th Feb 2012 1:40pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3022

I'd not come across this gentleman before DBC so thanks for bringing it to our attention. Thumbs up Just to add that the Co-Op was instrumental in bringing so-called "new model housing" at affordable rents to many areas of Coventry. Incrediby, the ones in Spon End were torn down by the council in the 1960s and replaced with impersonal blocks of flats.
Charles Bray - An Unsung Hero
DBC
Nottinghamshire
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Thread starter
4 of 5  Tue 21st Feb 2012 7:43pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2010  Total posts:170

I have now found a photograph of Charles Bray in a fascinating book called "The Industrial Revolution In Coventry" by John Prest. It's such an interesting book that I intend to start a separate thread about it when I have more time, especially as this particular book is not listed in this forum's bibliography. So here's the photograph.:-
Charles Bray - An Unsung Hero
heritage
Bedworth
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5 of 5  Thu 23rd Feb 2012 12:44pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2011  Total posts:374

An excellent book, well worth having on your book shelf.
Charles Bray - An Unsung Hero

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