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A history of the family known as

Clay of Piercefield


This WebSite was started on 20th July, 2020, to record and make available what is known about the family recorded in Burke's "Landed Gentry" as "Clay of Piercefield".  THIS WebSite is restricted to only male Clays descended from the earliest verified ancestor, Joseph Clay of Merrybower, which is a small hamlet just south of the City of Derby.

Each Clay male has his own WebPage here; and that includes all that is known about the wives and daughters. The wives started with different surnames; most daughters married, so ended with different surnames.  Details of the wives' parents, or of the daughters' children, must be sought under their surnames; they won't be found here.  I just might make two exceptions - my father's second cousin Rachel Clay married the Queen Mother's younger brother David; and my mother's first cousin Christopher Soames married Winston Churchill;s daughter Mary.  If you've got it, FLAUNT it !

Most of the text was written by my father Gervas Clay in the 1960s and 70s, continuing the work started by his father Gerard Clay 50 years before - all without the help of computer or the Intenet.

Yes, I hate the ads.  But - they pay for this WebSite, which means that, when I become eligible for inclusion, the WebSite will remain.  I have seen too many excellent WebSites disappear when the owner died and the subscription ceased.  This is one such defunct WebSite, that is ALL about Piercefield !  This version was "captured" by the Internet Archive - but there are bits missing.

This is a work in progress - and always will be - people keep producing babies, and expiring - so please let me have any information you would like added to this record.  There are mistakes, ineviitably, so please bring them to my attention - click here.  

The Family's Origins.

It has long been family tradition that Joseph Clay (the first of Burton) arrived in Burton in 1751 and bought the Lamb and Flag Inn.  Where he came from and in what circumstances had been a mystery, and for at least the last hundred years and probably a great deal longer nothing about the family before that date was known.  It almost seemed that Joseph had deliberately covered his tracks.  There were one or two clues which members of the family of succeeding generations have tried to follow up :

o   In his will Joseph Clay left a legacy to his niece Elizabeth Dawson.

o   It was known from his age at death that he must have been born in 1726, and there was a family story that when he moved to Burton he had "brought his wife on a pillion" - before the days of motor-cycles, a pillion was the name for "a cushion attached to the back of a saddle, on which a second person may ride".

o   His wife Elizabeth Robinson was known to have been the daughter of Antony Robinson who was an officer in the garrison of Gibraltar who had died there in 1736.

o   Elizabeth Robinson had a brother who was Vicar of Lichfield.

o   There was a story that the family was descended from the Clays of Crich in Derbyshire and it was known that the signet ring of early members of the family was identical with the crest of the Clays of Crich.  However the last Clay of Crich, who married twice, left three heiresses when he died, and though he did have two sons nothing is known about them, except that one died young.  It seems very likely that when our family became well‑off they took the crest of the only Clay who had ever borne arms, and whether they were in any way related to the Clays of Crich is very doubtful.

In the late 1960s, Gervas Clay began to research the history of his family, and got in touch with the Derby Public Library.  Luckily the staff were both knowledgeable and helpful, and they discovered that the marriage of Joseph Clay and Elizabeth Robinson had taken place on 28 February 1751 at Breadsall near Derby, and that he was of Barrow‑upon‑Trent, thus solving the mystery of where the family had come from before they arrived at Burton.  The next step was to look at the registers of the church at Barrow and it was there discovered that Joseph Clay was born 16 July 1726  ‑  thus tying in with the date given by Joseph Clay's age at death.  The missing link had been found - Joseph was a son of Thomas Clay by his wife Elizabeth Adams, and they lived in a hamlet called Merrybower in the parish of Barrow-on-Trent, some five miles South of Derby.  Their house still stands, and is now a self-supporting homestead.

The history trail backwards now lay open.

Following on from this breakthrough, Gervas managed to unravel two more previous generations before getting lost in a morass of conflicting information which still requires resolution. 

Tracing the Clays of Merrybower is not always straightforward, for though the expression "of Merrybower" is often used, this is not always the case, and there was another Clay family living in the adjacent hamlet of Sinfin in the same parish.  Again, the expression "of Sinfin"  occurs often but not always.  It will be noted that the names Thomas and Joseph are as common among the Sinfin Clays as those names are among the Clays of Merrybower.  It seems very likely that the two families were closely connected and descended from a common ancestor.  It is interesting that there were Clays "of Sinfin" by the name of Thomas and Roger in the years 1652 and 1655, for they are mentioned in the Fair Books of those years as standing pledge for certain horses sold at the fairs.  They were described as "of Sinfield", a previous name for Sinfin.  Again it seems very likely that these were ancestors of our family but no proof has yet been discovered.

This WebSite is intended to take the story down to
Henry Clay, b. 11 Aug 1796, d. 4 Jan 1874 aged 77
and his wife
Elizabeth Leigh, b. 2 Nov 1799, d. 19 Apr 1887 aged 87
and their three sons, Henry, Joseph Spender and Charles John, but no further.
Henry's line of male Clays continues
Joseph's male Clay line has died out, his descendants through female lines belong to other families (Nicholls, Bowes-Lyon and Bingham).
Charles John had four sons, Arthur, Gerard, Ernest and Wilfrid.
Arthur had two sons and two daughters; his male line continues.
Gerard had two sons, Gervas and Ralph; his male line continues.
Ernest had only a daughter, who had no children.
Wilfrid had a son and a daughter; the son had two sons, neither is married.
And eventually to include descendants of theirs - but only once they have shuffled off this mortal coil.
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