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.



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. [1] Thomas's father then took over the Union Flag pub at 178 Lambeth Road, London. [2]

In 1933, Thomas Rayson married Helen Hilton, and they had two children. [3]

He died at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, on 28 January 1976. [4]


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. [5] He was admitted as an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1918 and as a Fellow in 1927.[ citation needed ]


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. [6]

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. [7]

Rayson, who is described by Geoffrey Tyack as “the last of Oxford’s Arts and Crafts-inspired architects”, [8] 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.” [6]

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. [6]

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. [6]


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. 1891 census
  2. 1901 census
  3. Free BMD
  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. 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
  7. Kelly’s Directory of Oxford up to 1976 for dates of his offices
  8. Geoffrey Tyack, Oxford: An architectural guide (Oxford University Press, 1998)
  9. Victoria County History: Oxfordshire: Witney Borough, retrieved 23 December 2016
  10. 1 2 3 4 Bruce, Alex (1991). "The Oxford War Memorial: Thomas Rayson and the Chester Connection" (PDF). Oxoniensia. LVI: 155–168.
  11. "Forncett St Mary War Memorial, Forncett - 1453698 | Historic England".
  12. Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720–1940
  13. Malcolm Graham, Oxford Heritage Walks: From Oxford Castle to St Giles’ (Oxford Preservation Trust, 2013), p. 27
  14. Malcolm Graham, Oxford Heritage Walks: From Oxford Castle to St Giles’ (Oxford Preservation Trust, 2013), p. 29
  15. Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board: John Henry Brookes, retrieved 23 December 2016
  16. VCH Explore, retrieved 23 December 2016
  17. Marcus Binney, “End of the Piers Show", The Times, 9 April 2004, p. 10[S1]
  18. Thomas Rayson named as the architect on an inscribed stone plaque on the wall
  19. Jennifer Sherwood and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England (Penguin Books, 1974), p. 228
  20. "John Wesley's home to be restored”, The Times, 4 September 1956, p. 10
  21. Oxford City Council: Conservation Area Appraisal: North Oxford Victorian Suburb
  22. Old Headington Village Hall: History, retrieved 23 December 2016
  23. “Blenheim work may take 10 years”, The Times, 19 December 1957, p. 13
  24. Rayson's name inscribed on building
  25. Christopher Hibbert and Edward Hibbert (eds.), The Encyclopaedia of Oxford (Macmillan London Ltd, 1988): entry for Stone's Almshouses, p. 443
  26. “Mansfield College appeal launched”, The Times, 26 April 1960, p. 14
  27. The Buildings of England – Gloucestershire 1: The Cotswolds, David Verey & Alan Brooks, 1999, p. 644