Wolverhampton BTW

Elizabeth Caroline Gray

Gray, Elizabeth Caroline née Johnstone, 1810—1887

by Benjamin Colbert

Elizabeth Caroline Johnstone Gray was the daughter of James Raymond Johnstone, Esq. (1768-1830), of Alva, Co. Clackmannan, Scotland, and Mary Elizabeth Johnstone, née Cholmeley (d. 1843).

In June 1829, she married the Reverend John Hamilton Gray (1801-67), of Carntyne, who had pronounced interests in antiquarian and genealogical research, had studied in Germany, and had spent time in Paris. Also in 1829, her husband accepted the curacy of Bolsover and Scarcliffe, Derbyshire, becoming vicar in 1833. Their first and enduring home was thus Bolsover Castle where they pursed their research and housed the collections of artefacts gathered on their travels.

When Elizabeth Gray’s health declined in 1832 she was advised to travel to a warmer climate. Italy was chosen, but they stopped and remained in Germany where John Gray retained a circle of friends from his 1820-21 visit. During their stay, Elizabeth Gray became fluent in German and studied Hebrew. She also gave birth to their daughter Robina in June 1833, returning to England later that year. Further illness led her and her husband back to Germany in 1836 and, finally, to Italy in winter 1837 (they reached Rome in January 1839).

Before the Italian tour, Elizabeth Gray had seen Campanari’s exhibition of Etruscan tombs at Pall Mall, which sparked a fascination which she pursued in situ in Italy, helped by contacts among leading Italian and German archaeologists. On her return to England, she published an account of her research in the guise of a travelogue, Tour to the Sepulchres of Etruria (1840), which appeared so late in the year that the first review was in January 1841. This and other reviews were generally favourable, spurring Elizabeth Gray to publish the two parts of her History of Etruria in 1843 and 1844 (a part 3 followed, belatedly, in 1868). She also had success with histories designed for children, History of Rome for Young Persons (1847) and Emperors of Rome (1850). Her other works were The Empire and the Church, from Constantine to Charlemagne (1857) and, after the death of her husband, his Autobiography of a Scotch Country Gentleman […] Edited by His Widow (1868).

After the death of her daughter, Robina, in 1882, Elizabeth Gray left Bolsover. She died five years later in February 1887.


‘Obituary Memoirs’. Gentleman’s Mag. 222 (June 1867): 817. Print.

Williams, Dyfri. ‘The Hamilton Gray Vase’. Etruscan by Definition: The Cultural, Regional and Personal Identity of the Etruscans. Papers in Honour of Sybille Haynes, MBE. Ed. Judith Swaddling and Philip Perkins. London: British Museum, 2009. 10-20. Web. 24 Nov. 2017. British Museum Research Publication 173.


Title Published
Tour to the Sepulchres of Etruria 1840

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