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Gray & Betts

June 1, 1884 – March 16, 1886

On the first of November 1883, William Gray, (the younger), and Spence H. Betts formed a partnership under the name of Gray & Betts for the purpose of operating a business as merchants in the Town of Tilsonburg, their store being located on Broadway. 


The business prospered and for reasons known only to them on the 12th of June 1884, they would sign a two-year lease to operate the pottery works. They sold their grocery store business to a Mr. S. Frank Glass.


Gray & Betts having no experience in the pottery business, retain the experience of James Wooton making him Superintendent of the Operations. Mr. Wooton would continue to produce the same types of wares as F. B. Tillson.


By the fall of 1885, business was booming with the local paper reporting on September 18 that “Messrs Gray & Betts, potters of the Town, have received notification that they were awarded a diploma on their exhibit of Stone and Rockingham ware at the Great Antwarp Exposition.  They also have an exhibit at the Toronto Industrial Exposition and have got two bronze medals.”


The paper also reported on the offers and inducements from both Dunville and Welland in the form of loans and tax breaks for the business to pull up stakes in Tilsonburg and move to either location.  


December 1885 would see the company add "Variegated Majolica" to their production line.  The creation of this ware was credited to Mr. Wooton with the following article appearing the in Tilsonburg Observer on December 18 – “Messrs Gray & Betts, proprietors of the Tilsonburg Stoneware Works, have on exhibition at Frank Glass’ Crystal Hall some fine samples of their new 


variegated majolica ware.  One of the samples is a smoker’s companion made for Mr. P.G. Bromley, depot master of the M.C.R.R. here.  It is unique and pretty in appearance.  Messrs Gray & Betts claim to be the only manufactures of this ware in the world, it having been designed by Mr. Wooton, the superintendent of their works.  They furnished the Imperial Hotel in Galt (Mr. Cutler’s) with a large quantity a short time ago but have not yet gone into its manufacture on an extensive scale.”  


Both F.B. Tillson and Gray & Betts produced special order crocks that allowed a merchant to package their goods in labeled pottery.  These crocks do not have the pottery name stamped on them, but the name of the merchant.  Much better than all the plastic packaging we have today!


One of the most interesting and unique artifacts in Annandale National Historic Site is a Trick Mug was made by Gray & Betts. The Tillson family story is that it was one of only two made as part of the display Gray & Betts sent to the Antwerp World’s Fair in 1884. Family history states they sent one to the fair stamped Gray & Betts and one stamped with Mary Anne’s name (Founder E.D. Tillson's wife) as a thank you to the Tillson’s who paid for everything from town to be shipped to the fair. Several Tillsonburg companies, including a large display from the Tillson Company, were entered into the fair.  

Despite the success of the business, Gray and Betts dissolved their partnership on March 19, 1886, with a notice placed in the local paper.  In an interesting twist, it was also noted in the paper, that Mr. Betts had purchased the stock and goods of Mr. S. Frank Glass's Crystal Hall and Montreal Grocery on Broadway. The noticed continued to state that Mr. Glass had taken Mr. Betts' place in the pottery works. This was the same grocery store that Gray & Betts had sold to Glass in 1884.   Thus, with S. Frank Glass joining William Gray, the firm of Gray & Glass was formed.

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