• Full Name:
    Dr Robert Ray
  • Role:
    Registered practitioner
  • Occupation/s:
    Physician and surgeon, homœopath
  • State:
  • Date first identified using homoeopathy in Australia:

(Material researched & presented by Barbara Armstrong)


[1828 - 1883]


Robert Ray was born in 1828 at Horsham, Sussex, a son of James Ray and Harriet Steere. He was the younger brother of Dr William Ray and uncle of Dr William Joseph Richard Ray, and father of Dr William Robert Ray, all of whom became homœopathic physicians who practised in Australia.


By 1851 Robert had emigrated to South Australia. Initially he worked as a butcher in Adelaide.


On 1st April 1853 he married Elizabeth Broad at Mitcham, South Australia. According to the marriage certificate the ceremony was held at the residence of Thomas Playford who was a non-conformist preacher. The witnesses were James and Ann Broad. At the time of the wedding his occupation was 'farmer'. He had moved to Clarendon where he farmed for a few years. Subsequently he returned to his original occupation in Adelaide.


Their first five children were born in South Australia. Ellen was born at Clarendon in March 1854; Henry in August 1855 at Adelaide; Evangaline at Clarendon in August 1856; twins Emiline and Fanny at Adelaide in December 1857. Emeline died of 'teething' just a few days after birth. According to her death certificate, Robert's occupation was recorded as 'butcher'.


In 1858 the family sailed to England aboard the 'Orient'. According to the UK Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths at Sea, Fanny died on 30 December 1858 of 'gastric fever'.


William Robert Ray (who later followed in his father's footsteps to become a homœopath), was born at Southwark, Surrey, England, in April 1859. Emmeline Fanny was born in 1860. At the time when the 1861 Census was taken, the family lived at 3 West Square, St George, Southwark. Robert was recorded as being a 'student of medicine'. His older brother, William, and his family also lived in West Square at number 35. He was also studying medicine.


Son Horace George was born in 1862. In the same year Robert became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons.


On 24 August 1862 the family arrived in Melbourne aboard the 'Yorkshire'. Immediately after his arrival, in September, he advertised that he was a consulting homœopathic physician, surgeon, and accoucheur, late house-surgeon to the London Homœopathic Hospital.  His address was at 90 Collins Street East, the premises of the homœopathic pharmacy of Gould & Co, which later became Martin & Pleasance Homœopathic Chemists. His private practice operated from 10am to 5pm.


At the same time, he provided free consultations before 10 o'clock at the Melbourne Homœopathic Dispensary, at its first location at 90 Collins Street East. He was its first consulting physician and surgeon. In the 1867 edition of the Post Office Directory he was specifically listed as a homœopathic physician.


In 1864 Dr Ray moved to live and provide consultations at 105 Collins Street East, between Russell Street and Stephen Street (now Exhibition Street), next door to other homœopaths Henry Madden and Sidney R. Robinson. He remained there until 1868, when he returned to work from 90 Collins Street East (the pharmacy now called Gould & Martin). The reason for the change was that he had purchased a large house in Chapel Street, East St Kilda for his ever-growing family. The house was called 'Alma House' (later called 'Ardleigh') and was located on the west side of Chapel Street between Inkerman and Argyle Streets. At the time of its purchase it was described as being a 'first-class two-story house' containing ten 'well finished lofty rooms, pantry, wine cellar, bathroom, coachhouse, stale, fowlhouse and other outhouses.' The dining and drawing rooms were very large, as were four of the bedrooms. The 'pleasure grounds' were planted with shrubs, flowers, choicest Adelaide vines and fruit trees. In November 1868 The Telegraph, St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra Guardian advertised that his consulting rooms were at Gould and Martin's Homœopathic Pharmacy from Eleven till Five and at Alma House after Five daily. (Dr Ray also owned shops in Inkerman Street and Prentice Street in St Kilda.)


In April 1872 Dr Ray and his family moved to 131 Collins Street East.  

                    52 Collins St (right side of pair), home & surgery of Dr Robert Ray

                                                    Photograph: Courtesy Peter Torokfalvy


He was also the owner of the house at 133 Collins Street East and he moved there in later years. In 1881 he had new houses build on the site – 2 three-storeyed terrace houses.  Each terrace offered house and surgery to a single practitioner.  After the 1890s when Melbourne’s street numbers were altered, the buildings were renumbered as 54 and 52 Collins Street Melbourne (left & right side respectively).  They are next to the Melbourne Club, which is on the right hand side. 


The rate records show that in February 1873 Dr Ray owned 2 acres of land in Beaumaris where he built a 'marine villa' overlooking Port Philip Bay. Eventually he owned 6 acres on which there was an 8 room house and 5 acres on which there was a 4 room house. His property was on the corner of Cromer and Beach roads. The larger house became known as 'Cromer Lodge' where his wife and later one of his daughters lived after his death. (It may be noted that a road leading off that corner is now called Ray Street.)

 Dr Robert Ray - Beaumaris HousesMMBW 4167 1939v02

Dr Robert Ray's properties - Cnr Cromer & Beach Roads, Beaumaris

Map:  Courtesy Victorian State Library MMBW Detail Plan 4167,  1939



In 1875 his eldest daughter, Ellen (Nellie), married Dr William Joseph Richard Ray, her cousin.


Dr Ray was one of the founders and honorary medical officers of the Melbourne Homœopathic Dispensary in Collins Street Melbourne. He was also one of the first physicians of the Melbourne Homœopathic Hospital.



On 15 May 1883 Dr Ray was involved in an accident. According to newspaper reports at the time, he was travelling along St Kilda Road in his buggy, accompanied by his groom. He was returning home from an appointment in St Kilda when one of the reins broke and the horse bolted. At Dr Ray's suggestion the groom jumped out of the buggy and escaped without injury. Dr Ray tried to restrain the horse but failed to do so, and jumped out. However, he fell on his head and sustained a fracture of the skull and laceration of the brain and membranes. He was taken to his home at 133 Collins Street East where he became unconscious and died. He had been planning to retire from practice in favour of his son, William.


Dr William Robert Ray, gave a stained glass window to the hospital in honour of his father.


Dr Robert Ray occupied No 52 (on the right) until his death in 1883, after which it was occupied for a while by his son Dr William Robert Ray, who also provided services at the Melbourne Homœopathic Hospital.  In 1989 the front portions of these buildings were renovated & incorporated into a new office building.  It is now called Melville House.


©   Barbara Armstrong



  • Created:
    Tuesday, 22 March 2011
  • Last modified:
    Friday, 10 July 2020