When Susan Naylor Peace was born in March 1844 in Gawthorpe her parents, Ann and James were farmers of 32 acres of land at New Park. She was the second of five children and by the time she was 14 years old she was apprenticed to a dressmaker, walking to and from work every day, two miles each way. She worked incredibly long hours from 6am til 8pm and earned 2s 6d a week. A long, tiring day for anyone but imagine if you were born with an impaired leg or foot as Susan was.

By the time he was 65 years old James Naylor Peace was retired from farming and had moved his family to a home on Upper Street. To better understand where that was, the Hammer and Stithy was just a short stride away. Susan was now a milliner and her younger sisters Sarah and Elizabeth were dressmakers; both respectable occupations for young women from middle-class or lower middle-class families. The oldest of the four girls, Mary, had married a year earlier and moved to Batley, whilst John, their only brother, had died in 1854 aged only four.

In 1874 Susan’s sister, 27year old Sarah, married George Henry Wilson, a mungo manufacturer and the owner of Heath House on Chancery Lane. George would be elected as the Mayor of Ossett in 1894 and their son George Frederick Wilson would go on to be the mayor for five terms! Later, their grandchildren Peter and Margaret would also serve Ossett. More about them here: Ossett Through TheAges (OTTA)

On August 19 1875 Susan married John Wray at West Parade Chapel, Wakefield. John’s parents, William and Maria (née Richardson), had a grocer’s shop at Northgate in Horbury. The shop passed to John and Susan (now Susannah) and for almost two decades they worked side by side. Records reveal that their shop was a part of their home.

John Wray was a member of the Horbury Urban District Council (formed in 1894) and both he and Susannah were prominent members of the Congregational Church. John’s time with the newly formed HUDC was short-lived and he retired in 1894 due to his ill health. At this time they also retired from their grocery business and moved to Portsmouth where John stood as a candidate for the Town Council.

Horbury Town Hall, Westfield Road.
Photo: Anthony Oldroyd.

In 1915 six cottages, for poor widows or spinsters over 60 years of age, were erected by John and Susannah Naylor Wray at Leeds Road, Ossett, not far from where Susannah once lived with her family. The Wray’s Homes Charity was constituted on October 25 1915 and still exists today. The six cottages were eventually converted into four to make them a better living space and all had extensions added at the back.

John Wray died in Portsmouth in 1927 and in 1934 Susannah had four ‘Wray’s Homes’ built on Northfield Lane, Horbury, in memory of her beloved husband. In 1967 the Common Lands Trust, with the approval of the Charity Commission, disposed of these almshouses and proceeds from the sale were invested for the benefit of the people Susannah and John Wray intended to help.

Duke Street Cemetery Southport, Metropolitan Borough of Sefton, Merseyside, England
(image sourced from Find a Grave)

As a child, Susannah was described as ‘delicate’ and wasn’t expected to live very long. Well she proved everyone wrong when she passed away on May 9 1946 at the age of 102.

If you have any more information about Susannah and John Wray, or the homes they built, please email: HorburyAndOssettFamilyHistory@gmail.com