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Sir William Gray the Draper

Business card for the drapery store belonging to Sir William Gray. Image courtesy of the Museum of Hartlepool.

Fashions during the Victorian and Edwardian eras (1837 – 1911) changed drastically and many different styles came and went.

In Hartlepool, Sir William Gray may be remembered as a shipbuilding tycoon, but he started out as a draper with a shop on the Headland in 1843.

Gray brought up the latest fashions and fabrics from London so that his customers in Hartlepool could shop the newest styles, and in 1852 he opened his second drapery shop in the new West Hartlepool.

Advert for Gray’s Drapers shop which sold fashions for men, women, and children. This poster advertises the new autumn and winter fashions and dates to the 1880s or 1890s. Image courtesy of the Museum of Hartlepool.


In his shops, Gray sold fabrics, hats, accessories, collars, cuffs, and shawls. Later when ‘buying off the peg’ became popular he stocked full dresses for women and children and jackets, waistcoats, and trousers for men.

Advert for Gray & Prevells store, showing various different Christmas presents. Image courtesy of the Museum of Hartlepool.


In 1863 Gray sold his drapery businesses but stayed on in a consultant role to help the new managers. In 1902 a new building was established by the new shop now called, Gray & Prevell, the large building was constructed where houses once stood on Victoria Road and was extended to take over the entire residential block. In 1926 the successful fashion retailers sold their business to Sunderland tycoon H. Binns and Gray’s fashion legacy became a cherished Binns department store.

The Binns department store closed in 1992. The impressive grade two listed building still stands today.