Gabrielle Ray

'Gabrielle Ray said, 'I am always dancing; I love it! When I don't dance, I sing. What else is there to do?'

Gabrielle Ray – Holloway Sanatorium

Another famous inmate was the former “Gaiety Girl” Gabrielle Ray, born Gabrielle Elizabeth Clifford Cook in Stockport in 1883. The Gaiety Girls were the chorus girls in musical comedies of the nineteenth century and Edwardian period and would appear on stage in bathing attire (which at the time was so designed as to be somewhat chaste by modern standards) or in the latest fashions. They were the style icons of their time. Gaiety Girls were in fact polite, well-behaved, respectable and intended to be symbols of ideal womanhood.

Gabrielle Ray, or “Gabs” as she was known to her friends and admirers, was one of the most famous. A talented actress, singer and dancer, who appeared in other kinds of theatre including pantomime, she was considered among the most beautiful women in Britain by a Paris magazine and became one of the most photographed in the world. Sadly, upset by the philandering of her husband Eric Loder, she took to drink and suffering from alcoholism and depression – mental illness ran in the family – was forced to retire from the stage in 1924. Subsequently she was placed by her relatives in Holloway Sanatorium where she remained until her death in May 1973 aged ninety. She spent some of her time at the main site and some at Lyne Place.

Her long stay at the Sanatorium, where she was registered as Mrs Eric Loder, was a happy one. Everyone liked her – the infectious smile seen in her photographs gives a clue as to why – and she was treated with great kindness and affection. She was visited by other former Gaiety Girls such as Gertie Millar and Lily Elsie, who had become firm friends, and by Lord Dudley, the owner of Great Fosters. She loved her walks into the village for shopping, being taken on car rides several times a week, and sitting in the grounds feeding the birds and squirrels. She continued to take great care over her appearance, always wearing smart clothes and hats and dressing her hair immaculately. When she died, one of the last of the Gaiety Girls, her few surviving relatives were present at her funeral as well as people from the Sanatorium. She is buried in Englefield Green cemetery.


  • Blythman, G. (2014) “The Holloway Sanatorium” Egham and Runnymede Historical Society (p 65)

After further discussions with Guy Blythman about Miss Ray’s continued stay at The Holloway Sanatorium he said that her relatives didn’t want her back because of the stigma of mental illness and the alcohol/drugs involved. Also she needed to remain in a controlled environment because she wasn’t capable of looking after herself. He added that from his research, the Loder family never accepted Miss Ray and didn’t visit her at Holloway; one of her former nurses recalled “she was a very quiet lady, small and neat, who did not give any indication of the high life she must have enjoyed”.



October 23, 2014 - Posted by | Actress, Biography, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,


  1. […] – was forced to retire from the stage in 1924. Subsequently she was placed by her relatives in Holloway Sanatorium where she remained until her death in May 1973 aged ninety. She spent some of her time at the main […]

    Pingback by Biography « Gabrielle Ray | October 23, 2014 | Reply

  2. what a sad story – thanks for your wonderful research and pictures. Great job!

    Comment by Jesse Rowan | March 8, 2015 | Reply

    • Thank you, I’m always pleased when people enjoy my efforts. It does seem to be a very sad part of her life but it appears that she was well liked by the staff there which is some consolation given the treatment in some psychiatric hospitals at the time.

      Comment by summertime75 | March 8, 2015 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: