The Diary of William Bray

Who was William Bray?

Born in 1736, William Bray became a lawyer with a successful practice in London. His family had lived in the village of Shere, Surrey since 1486 and owned several manors. Bray's interest in the history of his native county led him to complete the Rev. Owen Manning's History and Antiquities of the County of Surrey in three volumes between 1804 and 1814. He was Treasurer of the Society of Antiquaries for twenty years.

Throughout his long life Bray kept meticulous diaries recording his daily life, travels, books he was reading... even the weather. They give great insight to what life in his time was like, giving a lens to his friendships and career.

Who is Tricia St. John Barry?

Tricia St. John Barry moved into her 16th century cottage in Surrey, England in 1986. Soon after, she started researching local history to learn more about the home in which she lived. A neighbor who knew of her interest in history asked if she'd like to see the contents of the garden shed of which she was about to dispose. Rummaging through the materials, Tricia salvaged what she thought was an old exercise book written by a Victorian child. She began reading it, and eventually realized it was the diary of William Bray. Currently, Tricia is transcribing it, and plans on publishing her work.

What was our discovery?

While filming our documentary in England, we met Tricia, who responded to a BBC piece on our film crew being in country, looking at the roots of baseball. She claimed to possess a previously unknown William Bray diary volume containing one of the earliest-known references -- and the oldest extant original reference -- to Base Ball. Until our crew met her, the only known Bray diary volumes were held by Surrey History Centre, and dated from 1756-1832.

This newly discovered journal, which covers Bray's life from 1754-1755, contains this entry from Easter Monday, March 31st, 1755: "Went to Stoke church this morn.- After dinner, went to Miss Jeale's to play at base ball with her the 3 Miss Whiteheads, Miss Billinghurst, Miss Molly Flutter, Mr. Chandler, Mr. Ford and H. Parsons. Drank tea and stayed til 8." This discovery places William Bray in a new role of importance and provides insight into a baseball's beginnings.