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Henry Wray

Lt Henry Wray, 1826-1900, arrived in Fremantle on the Anna Robertson 18 December 1851 with other married soldiers of 20th Company, Royal Engineers. He left on the Nile in February 1858. He was born in Demerara, and died in Bournemouth, with the rank of Lt General and a CMG gong.

He supervised the construction of the Convict Establishment/Depot (Fremantle Prison) following Edmund Henderson's designs. He designed many other public works in the Colony; and was also a magistrate. After Henderson left, he was acting Comptroller General of Convicts 1856-8, after which he left Australia.


Wray's watercolour of the prison, 1859

He and his wife, Mary Drinkwater, lived in Marmion Cottage, on South Terrace, in the 1850s.
(Wray Avenue is not named after him, but for W.E. Wray.)

In 1854, Wray persuaded Governor FitzGerald to order from England an 'apparatus' for the conversion of xanthorrhoea to gas for the lighting of the Convict Establishment (the prison). While waiting, he carried out experiments which showed that gas could be extracted from the plant and burnt with a useful flame. However, the apparatus did not arrive until October 1858, and Wray had left by that time. The next Governor, Kennedy, was not so keen on the idea, despite support for it from Henderson, and the apparatus was never used.

After leaving the Colony, Wray re-entered the service, in Malta and Ireland, and was promoted to Major General in 1882. He ended his career as Governor of Jersey, and retired in 1887 with the rank of Lieutenant General. He died of pneumonia in April 1900.

Two of his children have memorials in Fremantle, in the first (Alma St) cemetery: Alice, who died at sea in 1851; and Henry, in 1855. Their tombstones are preserved in the Alma St Heritage Garden. The Wrays left England on the Anna Robertson in September, Alice died in October, and they didn't arrive until December, so I assume her body would have been committed to the sea, and that the stone is not the headstone from her grave, but rather a memorial.

alice wray   henry wray

References and links

Anon 1992, Henry Wray bio, Design & Art Australia Online.

Campbell, Robin McKellar 2010, Henry Wray bio, Building the Fremantle Convict Establishment, PhD, UWA, appendix 2.2.

Comprehensive page at Diane Oldman's WA Sappers and Miners site.

Letter from Wray to Henderson giving details of the xanthorrhea gas extraction project, Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News (WA: 1848-1864), Friday 17 August 1855, page 3.

Wikipedia page for Henry Wray.


Letter from Wray to Hutchinson.

Part of the correspondence re the proposed project to use xanthorrhoea to produce gas for lighting. I transcribed quite a bit of this before running out of enthusiasm.

Garry Gillard | New: 23 June, 2015 | Now: 15 September, 2022