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12 Thomas Clay of Merrybower 1698-1767

Thomas Clay was baptised at Barrow 8 April 1698, the son of Joseph Clay and his second wife Elizabeth Gybson of Merrybower.  Thomas was sent to school at Repton, not far away.  When Thomas was married he was described as `of Merrybower'.  Two licences were issued for the marriage of Thomas Clay by the Bishop's office in Lichfield, one specified the marriage was to take place at Barrow, the other, at Barrow or Derby.  However, there is no record of Thomas's marriage at either place.  Gervas, by a very lucky stroke, found the record of the marriage of Thomas, quite by chance, when he was looking for another marriage in the register of Lichfield Cathedral, for that is where our Thomas married Elizabeth Adams on 2 July 1721, when he was 23 and she was 21.  They had three sons, and two daughters :-

Thomas         baptised at Barrow 22 January 1722

Samuel          baptised at Barrow 13 July 1724, who probably died young, as, unlike his brothers, he is not mentioned in his father's Will.

Joseph I of Burton      our ancestor, baptised at Barrow 1 July 1726

Elizabeth      baptised at Barrow 3 March 1729;  what happened to her is not known , and there is no trace of her marriage in the Barrow register.[2]

Prudence     baptised at Barrow in January 1731, and died at eighteen months on 21 June 1732. 

Following the death of his wife in July 1740, Thomas re‑married on 3 December 1742 Eleanor[3] Cooper, a widow, and by her he had four more daughters, and another son :-

Ann              baptised at Barrow on 16 October 1744, and of whom nothing more is known;

Eleanor        baptised at Barrow on 12 June 1745, married at Barrow on 27 December 1769 a James Dawson of Foremark and to them four sons, William, Joseph, Richard (died young) and Richard, and three daughters, Martha, Elizabeth and Frances were born between 1771 and 1783,  Note Martha Dawson (a niece of Joseph I of Burton) who is menioned in 'clue 1' here.  Eleanor and James Dawson's daughter Elizabeth Dawson married a John Porter at Barrow on 13 November 1800 nine months after Joseph Clay had died leaving a legacy to Elizabeth Dawson his niece.  Did the legacy enable her to get married ?

Martha         baptised at Barrow on 8 June 1747, died at the age of 25 and was buried at Barrow 9 May 1772;

George         baptised at Barrow 22 August 1748, see below

Lucy             born in 1751 and died on 4 April 1769 at the age of 18, her gravestone is in the Barrow churchyard with that of her parents;

Thomas Clay the father described himself at the time of his two marriages in 1721 and 1742 as a butcher, but in his Will as a farmer.  He died at Barrow aged 69 and was buried with his first wife Elizabeth née Adams in the churchyard there on 18 April 1767.  The gravestone still survives;  it states that he was aged 66 when he died and there is a discrepancy in this, but he would have been buried by his second wife and may have told her he was younger than he really was?  At his death he was "of Arlestone", another hamlet in the Barrow parish. 

Thomas's Will

Thomas made a Will which was proved 5 May 1767.  It is a short but very interesting document.  He left Ann and Lucy £20 each, and Ellen and Martha £50 each, but he added that it was his will "that all my aforesaid four daughters shall reside and have their maintenance at Arlestone with my said wife and son George Clay", or with the Executors of the Will, until they married or chose to leave that place.  While they lived there, they were to do such work and service as they could for the Executors.  However, if any of them married without the consent of his sons Thomas Clay and Joseph Clay (who were the sons of the first marriage, though this is not stated in the Will) they lost their legacies.

He left everything else he had to his wife and son George and made them the Executors of his Will.  However, he provided that "if my wife shall happen to marry again or shall wilfully waste or embezzle any part of the residue of my personal estate or shall do any act matter or thing in the execution of this my Will which shall be made to appear to my said sons Thomas Clay and Joseph Clay to be detrimental to the said personal estate or to the interest or advantage of my said son George Clay then I will and direct that from such time the aforesaid bequest to my said wife and also the executorship shall cease and be utterly void and in such case I appoint my said son George Clay to be sole Executor hereof and do give and bequeath unto my said wife the annual sum of Ten Pounds a year and nothing more for and during the term of her natural life to be paid to her by four quarterly payments ... "  He goes on to say that if George shall marry before he is 23 years old without the consent of Thomas and Joseph, the bequest to him and the Executorship shall cease and be void.  Nothing whatever is left to Thomas and Joseph, for whom it seems certain he had already provided during his lifetime.  It is interesting to find that George did in fact get married just under four months after he attained the age of 23.  Further, George soon acquired a very bad reputation for himself.

One can well imagine that George's half‑brother Joseph Clay, at that time an up-and-coming businessman in Burton, was only too anxious to forget his connection with George, and this may well account for the fact that none of his great‑grandsons appear to have had any knowledge of the origin of the family at Merrybower. 

Elizabeth Clay (nee Adams)

Elizabeth married Thomas Clay in Lichfield Cathedral on 2 July 1721, when she was about 21.  She was buried on 16 July 1740 and her grave‑stone in the Barrow churchyard states that she was then aged 38, although it is thought[4] that she was born in 1700. 

Eleanor Cooper

Eleanor Cooper was a widow when she married on 3 December 1742.  It has not yet been discovered whether that was her maiden name or her married name, nor when nor where she was born, nor any details of her first husband nor any children she may have had by him.


[1]  Note typed by Gervas Clay, but undated and unsigned.

On a recent visit to Lichfield we found the marriage licences with allegation bonds of the two marriages of Thomas Clay ‑ we are descended from the first marriage.  Half the first form is in Latin but it does refer to Thomas as Lanium (lanius means butcher), and continues in English "... the above bounden Thomas Clay, bachelor aged 22 years and Elizabeth Adams of the same parish (i.e. Barrow) Spinster, aged 21 years and upwards."

John Cartwright who was bounden on behalf of the bride was of the parish of Swarkestone, Derbys ‑ the next parish to Barrow.

The second marriage licence concerned "Thomas Clay in the parish of Barrow in the County of Derby widower aged 40 years butcher and Eleanor Cooper of the parish of Barrow widow aged 30 years."  Francis Meynell who was bounden on behalf of the bride was "of the parish of All Saints Derby in the said County, Apothecary."  (It could be that he was the father the bride ‑ the name Eleanor is a typical Meynell name).

The first Licence specifically stated that the marriage should take place at Barrow, while the second specifies Barrow or St Michael's Derby.  Neither can be traced in the Bishop's transcripts for Barrow, but by a wonderful stroke of luck, when Gervas was looking for an Arden / Cotton marriage in Lichfield Cathedral marriages, he found:‑

        "July 1721. Thomas Clay and Elizabeth Adams." 

The actual entry may give witnesses or other details.

The dates of the two marriage licences were 2nd July 1721 and 3rd December 1742.

[2]  Is there a record of her burial ?  Probably not worth searching `on spec'.

[3]  Spelt Elenor in the Register.

[4]  Her marriage Licence dated 2 July 1721 describes her as "aged 21 years and upwards", see earlier footnote.

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