Saffron Walden

Gray Palmer Family



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This article is reproduced with permission from the Herts & Essex Observer who provide news and feature coverage of the same area of Uttlesford represented by the Recorders of Uttlesford History. The Observer is part of Herts & Essex Newspapers, the leading newspaper group in East and North Hertfordshire and West Essex. This quality, paid circulation newspaper, has been serving the local community since 1861. The illustrations accompanying the original article can be seen on their website:


issue 12 Nov 2007

What was legacy of town mayor Gray?

By Elizabeth Reeve

THE grace and beauty of a bygone era shine through in this fantastic photograph of a former town mayor and his family.

The group, pictured in about 1907, are the ancestors of Ian Pearson, who is hoping that Nostalgia readers can help bring his family tree to life with stories.

His great-grandfather, Gray Palmer, was the mayor of Saffron Walden.

He married Clara Elizabeth Newman in 1883 and they had 11 children: Dorothy (known as Dolly), Mabel, William (who may have owned the Gray Palmer shop in High Street, Saffron Walden), Ruby, Grace, Elsie, Gladys, John (Mr Pearson's grandfather, who was known as Jack), Ivy, Clariss and Desmond (who died aged just 11 months).

’From my uncle and the family of William Gray Palmer I have found little titbits of history, but it would be interesting to find out more about the girls, what happened to them and put a name to the faces’" said Mr Pearson, who lives in Clacton.

’I would also like to know what Gray achieved as mayor of Saffron Walden and how he was thought of within the community.’

Gray Palmer died in 1914 and was buried at the town's cemetery. He was 54.

He has so far discovered that Dolly, the eldest of the 11 children, married Sidney Ketley and they ran a farm near Debden. They initially bought Abbots Manor Farm but then, just before the war, the Air Ministry bought most of the land from them. The couple went on to buy Pamphillions Farm. Abbots Manor was bombed during the war.

’It was pretty hot living there during the war’, explained Mr Pearson.

’One day a bomber landed in old Ketley's prize seed field when it returned from a raid. One of the airmen scrambled out of the bomber and passed out in the field.

’When he woke up he was faced with a 12 bore about six inches from his face and an angry Sid bearing down on him. Later, I understand, Sid shot two fingers off his hand in a shotgun accident. He died about 1964-65, Dolly having predeceased him by many years.’

Mr Pearson said that the Gray Palmers had come from Grays in Essex, where there is now a college called Palmer College

’The family crest is within a stained glass window at the old Chelmsford County Hall, so they must have been, at one time, quite a known family in Essex’, he said.

 © Herts & Essex Observer 2007