Charles Bray

(1811—1884) freethinker and social reformer

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Charles Bray was born in Coventry on 31 January 1811 and died there on 5 October 1884. He was educated at a boarding school in Isleworth, before being articled for three years to learn about the ribbon trade in a large London warehouse. His father owned a ribbon manufacturing business in Coventry, which Bray took over from 1835 to 1856. During his apprenticeship he was converted by an evangelical dissenter, and subsequently became an eclectic freethinker in religious matters. He married Caroline (Cara) Hennell in 1836 and they adopted a daughter, Nellie. The Brays bought a house called Rosehill, about a mile from the centre of Coventry, which became the centre of an intellectual elite. Here they entertained many notable thinkers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Owen. One of their closest friends was Mary Ann Evans (later the author George Eliot). As Bray put it in his autobiography: anyone who had ‘a queer mission or a crotchet, or was supposed to be a “little cracked” was sent up to Rosehill’. (Phases of Opinion and Experience, pp. 69–70).


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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