Thomas Rayson (5 December 1888 – 28 January 1976) was an architect who practised in Oxford, England, and also a watercolourist.
Rayson was born in Madras, India, on 5 December 1888, the second son of William John Rayson, who was then a railway engineer with the Locomotion Fabrication Plant for Indian Railways, and his wife Elizabeth A. English. The family returned to England in 1890 and initially stayed at 8 Chandos Road, West Ham, with the family of Thomas's maternal grandfather James English, who was a foreman boiler maker.Thomas's father then took over the Union Flag pub at 178 Lambeth Road, London.
In 1933 Thomas Rayson married Helen Hilton, and they had two children.
He died at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, on 28 January 1976.
Rayson served articles with Robert Curwen of Bishopsgate Street in London, and then studied under Professor Arthur Beresford Pite and James Black Fulton at the Brixton School of Building.He was admitted as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1918 and as a Fellow in 1927.
Rayson first came to Oxford in 1910 as an assistant to the architect Nathaniel William Harrison. He was unable to undertake active service in the First World as he had a collapsed lung. After spending time in Cambridge working on hospitals from 1916, in 1918 he was employed at the Ministry of Works, and was the site engineer of Witney Aerodrome in Oxfordshire.
He started his practice in Oxford in an office in Turl Street, but had moved to 15 Broad Street by 1922 and to 47 Broad Street by 1930. By 1926 he was Housing Architect to the Municipal Authorities at Witney and Tottenham, London, where he designed housing schemes.
In about 1930 he designed his own house called Roundabouts in The Ridings at the foot of Shotover.
In 1936 Rayson's office at 47 Broad Street was one of the buildings demolished to make way for the New Bodleian Library (now the Weston Library), and he moved his office to 35 Beaumont Street. In the late 1940s he moved his office again, this time to 29 Beaumont Street.
Rayson, who is described by Geoffrey Tyack as “the last of Oxford’s Arts and Crafts-inspired architects”,disliked most modern architecture in Oxford, saying: “St. Catherine's is in brick. It shouldn’t be. St. Anne’s, Somerville, and St. Hugh’s – I should have liked them all to be in harmony with the Oxford tradition. The Law Library? Frankly I don’t understand it: why that great monolithic block with columns underneath. Two words describe a lot of modern building like a lot of modern painting and music: barren and empty. One longs for something to hang on to and enjoy.”
He enjoyed drawing and painting, and served as Chairman of the Oxford Art Society. He was also musical and ran a quartet with friends and played with the Oxford Orchestral Society.
In 1966 he handed over his office at 29 Beaumont Street to his son Christopher Rayson, who was also an architect, and continued to work with him as a consultant until ill health caused him to retire in 1973/4.
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