Thomas Rayson

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Thomas Rayson (left) and Canon Crosse (right) on top of the tower of St Mary's Church, Henley, Oxfordshire in December 1955 Thomas Rayson and Canon Crosse on Henley church tower in December 1955.jpg
Thomas Rayson (left) and Canon Crosse (right) on top of the tower of St Mary's Church, Henley, Oxfordshire in December 1955

Thomas Rayson (5 December 1888 – 28 January 1976) was an architect who practised in Oxford, England, and also a watercolourist.

Oxford City and non-metropolitan district in England

Oxford is a university city in south central England and the county town of Oxfordshire. With a population of approximately 155,000, it is the 52nd largest city in the United Kingdom, with one of the fastest growing populations in the UK, and it remains the most ethnically diverse area in Oxfordshire county. The city is 51 miles (82 km) west-northwest of London, 61 miles (98 km) from Bristol, 59 miles (95 km) from Southampton, 57 miles (92 km) from Birmingham and 30 miles (48 km) from both Swindon and Reading.



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 Thomas's father took over the Union Flag pub at 178 Lambeth Road. [1]

Chennai Megacity in Tamil Nadu, India

Chennai is the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal, it is the biggest cultural, economic and educational centre of south India. According to the 2011 Indian census, it is the sixth-most populous city and fourth-most populous urban agglomeration in India. The city together with the adjoining regions constitute the Chennai Metropolitan Area, which is the 36th-largest urban area by population in the world. Chennai is among the most-visited Indian cities by foreign tourists. It was ranked the 43rd-most visited city in the world for the year 2015. The Quality of Living Survey rated Chennai as the safest city in India. Chennai attracts 45 percent of health tourists visiting India, and 30 to 40 percent of domestic health tourists. As such, it is termed "India's health capital". As a growing metropolitan city in a developing country, Chennai confronts substantial pollution and other logistical and socio-economic problems.

Indian Railways Indian state-owned enterprise, owned and operated by the Government of India

Indian Railways (IR) is India's national railway system operated by the Ministry of Railways. It manages the fourth largest railway network in the world by size, with 69,182-kilometre (42,988 mi) route as of April 2019. Routes are electrified with 25 kV AC electric traction while thirty three percent of them are double or multi-tracked.

Lambeth Road road in London

Lambeth Road is a road in Lambeth and Southwark, London running between Lambeth Bridge over the River Thames at the western end and St George's Circus at the eastern end. The road is designated the A3203. The borough boundary runs along it from the intersection with King Edward's Walk to Kennington Road.

In 1933 Rayson married Helen Hilton, and they had two children. [2]

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. [3]

He continued to work as well as draw and paint until ill health caused him to retire in 1973/4. He died at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, on 28 January 1976. [4]

Churchill Hospital Hospital in England

The Churchill Hospital is a teaching hospital in Oxford, England. It is managed by the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.


Rayson served articles with Robert Curwen of Bishopsgate Street in London, and then studied under Professor Arthur Beresford Pite at the Brixton School of Building. [5] He became ARIBA in 1918 and FRIBA in 1927.

Arthur Beresford Pite British architect

Arthur Beresford Pite was a British architect known for creating Edwardian buildings in Baroque Revival, Byzantine Revival and Greek Revival styles.


Rayson first came to Oxford in 1910 as an assistant to the architect Nathaniel 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. [3]

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. [5]

Roundabouts, the house designed in c.1930 by Thomas Rayson for his family Roundabouts, The Ridings, Headington, Oxford.jpg
Roundabouts, the house designed in c.1930 by Thomas Rayson for his family

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. [6]

Rayson, who is described by Geoffrey Tyack as “the last of Oxford’s Arts and Crafts-inspired architects”, [7] 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.” [3]

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. [3]


The Oxford War Memorial in St Giles', Oxford, designed by Thomas Rayson and unveiled in 1921 Oxford War Memorial.jpg
The Oxford War Memorial in St Giles', Oxford, designed by Thomas Rayson and unveiled in 1921

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  1. 1901 census
  2. Free BMD
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "50 years' service to architecture in city and County", article published in the Oxford Times on 26 July 1968, p. 18 to celebrate Rayson's half century as an architect in Oxfordshire
  4. Death notice in The Times, 31 January 1976, p. 24
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Who’s Who in Architecture (1926) (The Architectural Press, London)
  6. Kelly’s Directory of Oxford up to 1976 for dates of his offices
  7. Geoffrey Tyack, Oxford: An architectural guide (Oxford University Press, 1998)
  8. Victoria County History: Oxfordshire: Witney Borough, retrieved 23 December 2016
  9. 1 2 3 4 Alex Bruce: “The Oxford War Memorial: Thomas Rayson and the Chester Connection”, Oxoniensia LVI (1991), 155–168, retrieved 23 December 2016
  10. Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720–1940
  11. Malcolm Graham, Oxford Heritage Walks: From Oxford Castle to St Giles’ (Oxford Preservation Trust, 2013), p. 27
  12. Malcolm Graham, Oxford Heritage Walks: From Oxford Castle to St Giles’ (Oxford Preservation Trust, 2013), p. 29
  13. Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board: John Henry Brookes, retrieved 23 December 2016
  14. VCH Explore, retrieved 23 December 2016
  15. Marcus Binney, “End of the Piers Show", The Times, 9 April 2004, p. 10[S1]
  16. Jennifer Sherwood and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England (Penguin Books, 1974), p. 228
  17. "John Wesley's home to be restored”, The Times, 4 September 1956, p. 10
  18. “Blenheim work may take 10 years”, The Times, 19 December 1957, p. 13
  19. Old Headington Village Hall: History, retrieved 23 December 2016
  20. Christopher Hibbert and Edward Hibbert (eds.), The Encyclopaedia of Oxford (Macmillan London Ltd, 1988): entry for Stone's Almshouses, p. 443
  21. “Mansfield College appeal launched”, The Times, 26 April 1960, p. 14