Thomas Tokelove Gray Wine, Spirit and Ale Merchant

Thomas Tokelove Gray Wine, Spirit and Ale Merchant

Thomas Tokelove Gray was born in 1827 in the village of Wimblington in the Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire. He was the youngest of the three sons of Amy née Tokelove and George Gray.* Their other sons were John Tokelove Gray who was born in 1821 and Daniel Gray (1823-1824).

Thomas Tokelove Gray’s marriage to Caroline Peatling
Thomas married Caroline Peatling on the 6th November 1849 at the Wesleyan Chapel in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Caroline was born on the 16th May 1829 at Stamford in Lincolnshire. She was the eldest of the seven children of Caroline, nee Grant, and Thomas Peatling. The family lived at Nos. 8 and 9 Old Market, in the centre of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

Thomas Peatling, Wine and Spirit Merchant
Thomas was born in 1800 at Boston in Lincolnshire. He served his apprenticeship with a corn merchant of Boston. When he had finished his apprenticeship he moved to Stamford, and went into partnership with Mr. Hepplewhite, who was a wine merchant. During his time in Stamford, he met Caroline Grant, to whom he was married in 1826.

In 1830 Mr Hepplewhite sold his stock and business to wine merchants Robert Brown and Thomas Smith of Wisbech. Thomas moved to Wisbech with an offer of a partnership with Thomas Smith and Robert Brown. They ran their businesses under the name of Smith, Brown and Peatling. On the 1st May 1836 Robert Brown dissolved his partnership by mutual consent. Thomas Smith ran the Spalding business and Thomas Peatling ran the Wisbech business. On the 1st April 1845 Thomas Peatling and Thomas Smith dissolved their partnership by mutual consent. Thomas Peatling carried on the Wisbech business.

Peatling and Sons Wine Merchants


Thomas Peatling then went into a partnership with his son, Thomas Gibbon Peatling and his son-in-law Thomas Tokelove Gray. In 1851 Thomas Peatling purchased the stock of wine and the trade at 44 High Street, Bedford. Joseph Browne, the previous owner was an Alderman and in 1842 he served as Mayor of Bedford, and Church Warden of St. Paul’s Church, Bedford. In 1850 Joseph died, aged 66, and his burial took place on the 16th December 1850 at Holy Trinity Churchyard.

For the next five years, the business ran as Thomas Peatling and Sons. They had businesses in Wisbech, Bedford, and at the Old Royal Oak, wine and spirit vaults, at Crown Street, St Ives in Cambridgeshire. For a time, Thomas G. Peatling oversaw the Bedford business.

On the 18th October 1855 Thomas Peatling, his son and his son-in-law, dissolved their partnership by mutual consent. Thomas G. Peatling ran the St. Ives business until his death at the age of 25 years in 1856. In April 1857 Thomas’s wife Ann, sold the business to wine merchants, William and Thomas King. Thomas Tokelove Gray ran the business at 44 High Street, Bedford. He was also an agent to the Star Life, and Manchester Fire Insurance companies.

Death of Caroline Peatling
When Thomas Peatling’s wife, Caroline died, aged 42 years, on the 10th February 1851, he moved to Leverington Terrace, Wisbech. His son Thomas and daughter Caroline and his son-in-law, Thomas Gray moved into Nos. 8 and 9 Old Market, Wisbech.

Death of Caroline Gray
Thomas and Caroline Gray lived for a short time in Bedford. She died in Bedford, aged 22, on the 3rd December 1852. They had no children. Caroline’s burial took place in the grave with her mother at the General Cemetery in Wisbech. Thomas Peatling died in 1886, aged 86 and his burial took place in the grave with his wife and daughter. Grave 340105.

Thomas Gray and Ellen Peatling
After Caroline died Thomas Gray returned to Wisbech and lived at the house in Old Market, Wisbech. Within a few years, Thomas had set up home with Ellen Peatling, his deceased wife’s sister. The General Registry Office index has no record of Thomas and Ellen’s marriage. Ellen was born on the 2nd March 1833 in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Her christening took place on the 30th April 1833 at St. Peter and St. Paul Church, Wisbech. Ellen was Thomas and Caroline Peatling’s third child. In 1855 Thomas and Ellen’s eldest child, Amy Caroline was born in Wisbech.

Thomas Gray and Ellen moved to 19 Potter Street, Bedford (now known as the Cardington Road). Sadly, three of their children died. Soon after arriving in Bedford, their daughter, Amy Caroline died on the 13th April 1856. Their second eldest child, Sidney Thomas, was born in May 1859. He died aged 13 weeks. Their youngest son, George Lesley was born on the 10th December 1873. He died on the 19th December 1876. The children’s burials took place in the family grave at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Section B5 197.

Thomas and Ellen’s surviving child, Thomas Percy Gray was born on the 12th August 1861. By 1877 the family were living at ‘The Lodge’, 173 Clapham Road, Bedford. They subsequently moved to “Leverington” at Kimbolton Road. They named the house, “Leverington”, perhaps because of the fond memories they had shared with Thomas Peatling at his home in Leverington Terrace, Wisbech.

Thomas Gray meets Edward the Prince of Wales at Midland Station, Bedford
In the 1860s Thomas Gray was a Chief Magistrate and Councillor for the Western Ward, and served as Mayor of Bedford in 1867 and 1868. On the 18th May 1868, Thomas with the Corporation in their robes presented an address to the Prince of Wales who was travelling from London to Leeds – the train stopping at Midland Station, Bedford.

Flags hung from the roof of the station, and a large tree was decorated with hawthorn blossom and evergreen. A guard of honour of the Bedfordshire Militia was on the platform. Many people had also gathered. The band of the Militia played the National Anthem and the guard presented arms. The Prince of Wales did not get off the train but stood at the door of the royal saloon. Then Sir William Knollys, treasurer, and controller to the Prince of Wales’s household, introduced Thomas to the Prince of Wales.

Thomas with the bearer of the mace, and several members of the Corporation, presented the Prince of Wales with the following address:

“To His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, “The Corporation of the ancient Borough of Bedford rejoice in the opportunity of expressing their attachment to your Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.

“The Corporation beg respectfully to offer their most sincere congratulations on the restoration to the health of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.

“They are assured that the expected visit of your Royal Highness, as the representative of Her Majesty, to an important part of the British Empire will be distinguished by a renewal of the same expression of loyalty and deep attachment from the people that have hitherto marked Her Majesty’s illustrious reign.”

A few minutes later, the train moved out of the station, while the band played the National Anthem.

Building of the New Corn Exchange at St. Paul’s Square, Bedford
In 1868 Thomas Gray initiated the movement to build a larger new Corn Exchange, and was the Chairman of its Committee. The old Corn Exchange was built in 1849 on the east side of St. Paul’s Square (then called The Floral Hall). The building became too small to accommodate the farmers and a piece of land opposite the Old Corn Exchange was purchased.

On the 21st October 1872 Earl Cowper, K.G., (Knight of the Garter) in the presence of the Duke of Bedford, laid the foundation stone of the new Corn Exchange. Messrs. Ladds and Powell of 4 Chapel Street, Bedford Row, London, designed the building. Its structure is of white brick with Bath stone cornices and Pennant stone dressings in the Italian style, and its cost was about £9,000.

The ‘new’ Corn Exchange, built 1871-74, photographed in the late 1890s.
Note absence of the present central entrance.


On the 15th April 1874 the Duke of Bedford opened the new Corn Exchange. It had a large assembly room, supper room and several offices. The events held there were balls, concerts, and public meetings. Merchants, millers, maltsters, and the corn market also transacted business there.




During excavations for the building, several bones, skulls, and other human remains were found. The old Corn Exchange became a market hall.

Supporter of St. Mary’s Wesleyan Chapel
Thomas Gray was also a class leader at the St. Mary’s Wesleyan Chapel in Cauldwell Street, which opened on the 20th June 1866. The Chapel was large enough to accommodate 650 persons. At the back of the Chapel were school buildings, to accommodate 200 children consisting of a large schoolroom on the ground floor, and four classrooms. Robert Palgrave, of Pall Mall, London, was the architect and James Houghton of Wellington Street, Bedford, was the builder. The cost of the chapel and schools was about £3,500. Thomas was one of the trustees of the Wesleyan Chapel. For many years Thomas was Treasurer of the Bedford branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

Thomas Gray and John Usher move to new premises
The premises at 42 and 44 High Street were the Old Court House, built in 1664 by William Tokelove Gray. In 1866 the architect, John Usher moved his office from Duke Street, Bedford to the first floor of 42 High Street. It seems that Thomas and John had become friends. In 1875 John Usher designed new premises for Thomas at 9 St. Pauls Square, Bedford, near to the new Corn Exchange. In July 1876 Thomas and John Usher moved into 9 St. Paul’s Square.

By 1923, 9 St. Paul’s Square became the offices of Usher and Anthony, auctioneers, surveyors, and estate agents. The Old Court House at 42 and 44 High Street, Bedford, was demolished in 1964.

The Funerals of Thomas and Ellen Gray
On the 11th January 1895 Thomas died aged 67, at his home, “Leverington”, Kimbolton Road. The cause of his death was heart disease which he had suffered from for many years. Thomas’s funeral took place at Foster Hill Road Cemetery on 16th January 1895.

Ellen survived Thomas by 2 years. She died aged 64 years on the 26th March 1897 at Ampthill. Their burials took place in the grave with their three children and Thomas’s father, George and his stepmother, Sarah. Grave Ref: B5.188

Thomas Percy Gray
Thomas and Ellen’s only surviving child was Thomas Percy Gray. On leaving school Thomas became a partner in his father’s wine business. By 1898 he had moved to 36 Kylemore Road, London. The General Records Office index shows that he was married in 1899. The index does not confirm who he was married to. In 1900 his son, Thomas Tokelove Gray, was born at Haymarket in London. The 1901 census records that Thomas Percy Gray (aged 40) is living with his wife Dorothy (aged 23) and their one-year old son, Thomas, at 74 Burdett Road, St. Albans, Hertfordshire. Thomas was working for himself as a wine merchant. It seems that he was doing well as he could afford to employ a housekeeper.

In December 1900 Thomas sold his wine business to Charles Wells. The business carried on in St. Paul’s Square, Bedford, in the name of Charles Wells Ltd. Wine Shippers.

The 1911 census records Thomas as an insurance agent. He lived on his own in one room at 34 Matilda Street, Islington, London. The census states that Thomas is a widower and that he has no children.

It seems that Thomas and Dorothy may have separated. The 1911 census records that Dorothy is visiting Matthew Milton at Flat 52 Essendine Mansions, Essendine Road, Paddington, London. The census states that she had been married for 12 years and she has one child. Dorothy was working as a milliner at a draper. Their son Thomas Tokelove Gray was at boarding school, at 4 Warrior Square Terrace, St. Leonards on Sea, Hastings, Sussex.

Thomas Percy Gray died on the 4th October 1928 his burial took place in Middlesex. The beneficiary of his Will was his cousin, Harrold Fred Martin Peatling, of Leverington Hall, and wine merchant at Old Market Wisbech. Thomas and Dorothy’s son, Thomas Tokelove Gray died in 1962 at Battle, Sussex. It is unknown what became of Dorothy.

*George Gray’s final years in Bedford
Thomas Gray’s father, George was born in 1786 in the village of Somersham in Huntingdonshire. He ran his own grocery business at Wimblington, Cambridgeshire. The premises consisted of a shop with three warehouses, front and back parlour, washhouse, four steeping rooms, gardens, orchards, stable and a gig house. When George retired, he rented out his house and business. The 1841 census records George living at Gravel Road, Walsoken in Norfolk. He then moved to Marshland Road, Walsoken.

Soon after his wife Amy died in 1851 George moved to Bedford. On the 11th November 1852 George (aged 67) married his second wife Sarah Green (aged 52) at St. Paul’s Church, Bedford. They lived at 3 St. Pauls Square, Bedford. In 1855 George sold his business at Wimblington.

On the 19th November 1859 George died aged 74 years. Sarah survived George by 7 years. She died on the 5th July 1865 aged 65 years. George and Sarah’s burials took place in the family grave at Foster Hill Road Cemetery. Grave Ref: B5.188.

Researched by Linda S. Ayres
Photograph by Linda S. Ayres

Stamford Mercury 9th April 1830
Cambridge Chronicle.15th May 1835 and Cambridge Chronicle and Journal. 19th January 1856
Cambridge Independent Press. 31st May 1845 and 10th November 1849 and 19th July 1851
Cambridge Independent Press. 27th October 1855 and 9th February 1856 and 11th April 1857
and 16th November 1867
London Gazette 1845 and 1856 and Chelmsford Chronicle. 21st February 1851
Norfolk News. 11th December 1852 and Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette. 17th May 1856
Kelly’s Directory 1847 and 1853 and 1854 and 1885 and 1890 and the 1867 Melville’s Directory.
Bedford Mercury. 29th April 1849 and July 12th 1851 and 3rd January 1874 and 9th May 1874 and
28th March 1874 and 29th April 1876 and July 22nd 1876
Luton Times and Advertiser. 23 May 1868
Bedfordshire Times and Independent. 16th August 1873 and 19th January 1895 and 22nd October 1872 and 7th December 1900 and 24th December 1920 and 7th September 1923
Bedfordshire Times and Standard. 7th May 1943 July
Family Search and GRO Index and Census 1841-1911
Bedford Archives and Records Service

The ‘new’ Corn Exchange image –  R. Wildman, Bygone Bedford, 1974, plate 32