Grays have been at the heart of some of the best known sporting products for over 150 years - a time frame which has seen its products used by sports stars who have long since assumed legendary status.
Founded in 1855 by World Rackets Champion HJ Gray, through growth and acquisition it today boasts a powerful portfolio of brand names familiar around the world. Still under the control of the Grays family, the company has been involved in businesses as diverse as soccer, snooker, fishing, bowls, toys, sports publishing, retailing and even building. Many have since disappeared but their heritage and legacy lives on and their unique strengths have been distilled into their descendants that are all household names today: Gray-Nicholls in cricket; Steeden in rugby league; Gilbert in rugby union; Grays in hockey and racket sports.
The Choice of Kings
Racket sports have been at the heart of the Grays business throughout and its foundations were laid in the sport of rackets. World rackets champion Harry Gray began by making and selling rackets balls and stringing racquets but the company grew rapidly and became well known at the University for the manufacture of top quality frames for all racquets sports. In those days, squash racquets were made from 1 piece English ash with a suede leather grip and natural gut, costing 12 shillings and sixpence.
By the turn of the century, the Grays brand grew nationally as famous players such as Max Woosnam, England's Davis Cup Captain used Grays. The future Kings of England, George V and VI were both Grays customers while at Cambridge University. In 1912, Grays moved to larger premises in Cambridge to accommodate the increasing production and developed the first ever laminated racquet - the Masterpiece - which allowed a better shape and was more durable.
Did you know?Charles Eugene Williams, the squash racquets World Champion due to play in the US, lost his Grays racquets when the Titanic sank.
The 1930s witnessed a period of strong growth for Grays racquets and the company opened a second racquets factory in Ireland to meet the growing demand. In 1935, the famous Light Blue racquet was launched which was to become one of the most highly regarded and commercially successful racquets of all time. It is still in production today.
Did you know? Chas Read, the first ever British squash champion used Grays, as did Jim Dear and Mahmoud Karim who won the British Squash Open from 1939-49 with Grays racquets.
Under William and John Gray, the Grays brand became internationally renowned. The great Pakistan player Hashim Khan used Grays squash racquets to win 7 British Open titles from 1950 to 1957 and Grays became market leaders in squash.
Grays made the most of the massive squash boom in the 1970s and expanded rapidly. Top squash players such as Gogi Alauddin, Quamar Zaman, Gamal Awad and Ahmed Safwat used Grays racquets. The arrival of graphite technology in the 1980s led to a period of re-structuring and consolidation for Grays. The Cambridge racquets factory was forced to close in face of the move to graphite racquets, the name was unsuccessfully licensed to a third party for a period and production was moved to the Far East.
In the 1990s the company regained full control of the brand and squash stars Chris Dittmar (World #2) and Mark Chaloner (World #7) endorsed the brand's new range of graphite racquets. 2000 saw the launch of the new Millennium racquet used by Mark Chaloner to play Australian Paul Price in the first ever live televised British Open match - an all Grays semi-final.