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12331  Henry Clay 1796-1874 

Ancestor of the Clays of Piercefield

Henry Clay, the eldest son of Joseph Clay and  Sarah Spender, was born 11 August 1796, probably at 5 Horninglow Street, Burton.  He was baptised at St Modwen's Church, Burton, on 4 November 1796, and according to an old family Bible presently in the possession of             Clay[1], he had measles in September 1797 and was inoculated on 15 November 1798.  In 1810, at the age of 14, he entered Repton School, and at this time the family was living at Stapenhill.  By 1818,[2] the brewing interests of the Clays had been sold[3] and Henry had become a partner with his father as bankers. 

However, young Henry had other interests, not concerned with commerce.  In January of that year, 1818, when he was 22, the Needwood Forest Association,[4] a body of local landowners who had acquired a controlling interest in the Needwood Forest lands after the disafforestation, and tried to restrain the sporting proclivities of the people of Burton, passed a Resolution "That Mr Clay, son of Joseph Clay, Banker, have a notice given by our Solicitor not to trespass upon Crown lands and lands of John Spencer and Robert Stone."  And a year later in 1819, another Resolution was passed "That a representation having been made to the Association of the conduct of Mr Henry Clay in his passing upon the land in the occupation of Mr Robert Stone.  It is Resolved that the Association will support Mr Stone in any action against Mr Henry Clay which he may be advised to commence against him touching such trespass."  As Mr Underhill has commented "This was, of course, one of the many episodes which characterised the rivalry between the old established country families and the rising commercial magnates of Burton-upon-Trent."

On 22 June 1824 Henry's father died, and as his two younger brothers, Rev. Joseph and Rev. John, had gone into the Church[5], Henry, now 28, became sole owner of the bank.  On 15 November 1824 he married Elizabeth Leigh at Walton-on-the-Hill, Liverpool, and between 1825 and 1834 they had the following children -

Henry (junior)                               born  4 October 1825

Joseph Spender                           baptised on 20 November 1826

Charles John                                born on 21 August 1828

(Caroline Elizabeth) "Carrie       born in 1831, married Rev Walter Baskerville-Mynors (1826-99), on 3 April 1856 in Steyning, West Sussex, and died on 3 October 1922 aged 91. For her children, see here.

Emily Jane                                 born 1833, married in Llandaf on 11 October 1865 Richard Bott (1834-97) of Hanbury.  They had two sonns, John and Arthur, and a daughter Alice.  She died in 1885 aged 52;  her descendants farm at Benington Lordship, Stevenage, Herts.

For the year 1828/9 Henry was a churchwarden of the Burton Parish Church.  In 1831 his mother died at Stapenhill, where she may have remained when Henry married and moved back to Burton - Stapenhill is on the other side of the River Trent, in Derbyshire.  In 1832 Henry is recorded in the Poll Book as Henry Clay of Burton;  Freehold, Stapenhill. 

Stapenhill House

The history of Stapenhill House is complex.  When Joseph Clay made his Will in January 1824, he stated that he had lately contracted to purchase "a messuage, dwelling house or tenement with all the outbuildings, yards, gardens, orchards and other appurtenances thereto belonging, situate and being in Stapenhill in the County of Derby, containing in the whole one acre, one rood and 26 perches ... together with a seat in the north gallery of the parish church of Stapenhill ..." and he left them to his wife Sarah for her lifetime and then equally to his five children.  By 1824, the local Directory locates Henry at Horninglow Street, and it seems he was still living above the Bank when his two daughters were born in 1831 and 1834;  they were baptised at the new Holy Trinity Church.[6]

Clay's Bank

Let us turn now to the history of Clay's Bank.  It has already been noted that by 1818 Henry Clay had becomes a partner in his father's bank.  Among the family papers is a note in Gerard's handwriting from which is gleaned the following information concerning the later history of the Bank.  Apparently, in 1839, Henry got together with the banking firm of Blurton, Webb, Peel & Co., and founded the Burton, Uttoxeter and Ashbourne Union Bank.  By 1843/4 this had become the Burton Union and Ashbourne Union Bank.  Henry Clay was a director from 1843 to 1863, when, after losing money in the Overend, Gurney crash[7] of 1863, he retired at the age of 67, owing to ill-health and anxiety, and sold a share in the Bank.  His youngest son Charles John Clay then took over as Director from 1863 to 1867 when he was Chairman.  The bank became a limited company in 1880, the name was changed again in 1893 to the Burton Union Bank, which was finally sold to Lloyds Bank on 1 January 1899.


Returning now to Henry Clay - by the time of the Census of 1841, he was then 45 and had moved to Barton-under-Needwood, a few miles from Burton, and he was still there in 1842 when his second son Joseph Spender Clay went to Repton School.  From 1843 until 1850 he leased Sudbury Hall (now the National Trust the Museum of Childhood) beside the River Dove in Derbyshire, until its owner, the then Lord Vernon, came of age.  By the next Census on 30 March 1851, when he was 55, he had moved to Garnons, near Hereford, leased from the Cottrell family, again until the heir should come of age, in 1855/6.  After that he moved to Foremark in Derbyshire (one of the largest houses in the country, and now a Preparatory School for Repton), which he leased from the Burdett family.  He was there for the 1861 Census, at which time his three sons were all still unmarried and living with him, as was his daughter Emily.  Staying with him and his wife on that Census night were his daughter Caroline and her husband Walter Baskerville-Mynors and their first two children Harry aged three and Evelyn aged three months;  more were to follow.  Caroline and Walter had met when the Clays were living at Garnons.  After leaving Garnons, and before moving to Foremark, the family had spent a winter in Brighton, and there Caroline and Walter were married, on 3 April 1856.

The 1861 Census also records the names of the seventeen servants who completed the Clay household, and among these was the groom Bancroft, with whose great-grandson Gervas corresponded and had the pleasure of meeting.

Finally, in 1861[8], when he was 65, Henry bought the estate of Piercefield Park, near the village of St Arvans outside Chepstow, Monmouthshire, where he was for the 1871 Census.  He died at Piercefield 4 January 1874, and was buried at St Arvans.  No obituary of Henry Clay has yet been traced in the Press[9] of the time, but it is interesting to note that an obituary of his son Charles John Clay[10] in the Burton Chronicle of 21 May 1910 states "Death, it transpires, was due to sudden heart failure, and it may be mentioned that Mr Clay's father died in a similar manner."  Henry's Will (see end of page) had been made and witnessed on the 22 January 1868, and was proved on 13 February 1874.  It was then stated that he left effects under £80,000 and no leaseholders.

Perhaps the most interesting section of Henry Clay's Will reads :

"My son Joseph Spender Clay being possessed of very considerable property and having therefore out of kind consideration for his brothers and sisters requested me not to leave him anything, I wish it to be understood that this is the only reason he takes no beneficial interest under this my Will, although I have the same love for him that I have for my other children ..."

According to the note entitled `My lineage' written by Gerard Clay, "Uncle Joe made money in S. African diamond mines in the early days."  Gerard's son Gervas believed that this meant that Jospeh Spender had spent time in South Africa, but it was more likely that this richness was the result of shrewd share-dealing on the Stock Exchange. Jospeh Spender had also married the only daughter of a millionaire ...

Henry left all his land and property in Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire to his eldest son Henry, and all his land and property in Derbyshire and Staffordshire to his youngest son Charles John Clay, and, having made due provision for his widow, left £10,000 each to his two daughters Caroline and Emily. 

A photograph of Henry Clay, probably in front of Piercefield, has survived, and is, so far as I know, the earliest picture or photograph of any Clay ancestor to have survived.  It is believed he was very tall.

His Will can be read below.


Elizabeth Clay née Leigh.

Elizabeth Leigh was born at Basnett Street, Liverpool, on 2 November 1799. 

Quoting again from Gerard's `My lineage' :-  My grandfather married in 1824 Elizabeth, second daughter of John Leigh of Sandhill and Upton in Lancashire, whose father, a solicitor, had at one time owned a large part of the Mersey foreshore, and whose sister's husband De Falbe owned Luton Hoo."  The male descendants of the Leighs can be found in Burke's Landed Gentry under Leigh of Thorpe Satchville Hall, formerly of Luton Hoo.

Elizabeth's mother was Elizabeth Gerard, daughter of Richard Gerard, surgeon, and Alderman and Receiver of Dock Dues, Liverpool, and his wife Elizabeth Shaw , whose father Thomas Shaw (1695–1779) was a potter and also an Alderman of Liverpool.  Elizabeth Gerard was heiress of the Gerard family, and it seems likely that her mother was heiress of the Shaw family.  It was from the families of Shaw and Gerard that the Leighs inherited the Mersey foreshore. 

Gerard Clay remembered well his grandmother[11] and always spoke of her as "a brilliant woman with a very good brain".  She kept a diary all her life which most unfortunately was destroyed by her granddaughter Edith Clay.

Elizabeth's father died on 23 December 1823;  she married Henry Clay on 15 November 1824.  His Will is an interesting document and refers to her forthcoming marriage to Henry Clay, as follows :-

"... and forasmuch as since the drawing of the former part of this my Will my dear daughter Elizabeth is become engaged to marry with Henry Clay, Esquire, of Burton-on-Trent and on the treaty for that marriage I have agreed to pay her portion into the hands of the Trustees of that settlement I therefore revoke the legacy of seven thousand pounds [around £850,000 in 2020] hereinbefore directed to be paid for her benefit hereby declaring that the advancement of that sum on her marriage is in discharge of what I intended to have given to her by my Will, but as I cannot bear the idea of executing this solemn act without some further remembrance of so dear a child, I direct my son John in a convenient time after my death to lay out one hundred pounds [£12,000 in 2020] in plate for her separate use to be given her as a memorial of her father's most affectionate regard, and to lay out the further sum of nineteen guineas [£2,400 in 2020] in plate for her husband - this I do as a testimony of my approbation of the intended marriage."

Elizabeth died on 19 April 1887 at Piercefield Park, and was buried at St Arvan's, Chepstow.

[1]  Who has the Bible now ?

[2]  See his father's Page

[3]  How, then, did Charles John, Gerard, etc. come to be Directors of Bass & Co. ??  When and to whom were the interests sold, and how much of them ?

[4]  A cue, here, for a note about Needwood Forest and the disafforestation, and its effect on Burton and district.

[5]  See Note much later by John Clay about the moral attitude of these two Churchmen with regard to "Strong Drink".

[6]  What dates were these baptisms ?

[8]  Although he didn't retire from his Directorship of the Bank for another two years (see above).  At what stage did he stop going to work every day ?  Commuting must have been difficult from Sudbury Hall, Garnons and Foremark !

[9]  Some work here is obviously indicated !

[10]  See here and Appendix.

[11]  She died when he was 16.


The Will of Henry Clay

The Deaths column of  The Times dated 22 April 1887  reported that
"On the 15th Inst, at Piercefield Park, Chepstow, Elizabeth, widow of Henry Clay, Esq. aged 87" had died.

From The Times 20 February 1874 :-

"The will, dated January 22, 1863, of Henry Clay, late of Piercefield-park, Chepstow, Monmouthshire, who died on the 4th ult., was proved on the 13th inst. by Henry Clay and Charles John Clay, the acting executors, the personal estate being sworn under 80,000l. The testator gives to his wife, Mrs Elizabeth Clay, all his household furniture, plate, horses, and carriages, and Piercefield-house, with such land thereto as she may select, not exceeding 20 acres for life; subject thereto he devises all his real estate in the counties of Monmouth and Gloucester to his son the said Henry Clay, and all his real estate in the counties of Derby and Stafford to his son the said Charles John Clay. Testator also gives the residue of his personalty to his wife for life; at her death 10,000l. is settled upon each of his two daughters, and the remainder is given to his said two sons. The deceased states that it is not from any want of love to him that he has not left his other son, Joseph Spenden Clay, anything, but that he is possessed of considerable property, and had requested him, out of kindness to his brothers and sisters, not to do so."



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