Clay of England Society

Welcome to the 'Clay of England Society' website, all researchers of the Clay surname are invited to join the society whether your surname is Clay or otherwise. Descendants of the English Clay’s have over the centuries spread across the British Isles and to many other countries around the world. The object of the society is to provide a platform for sharing knowledge and information of the Clay surname. Articles, letters, photographs and enquiries would be greatly received for inclusion on this site please email me (address at top of page).

Edmund de Clay Coat of Arms
The Clay Coat of Arms

The coat of arms featured above was used in the 1300s by Edmund de Clay (TNA Ref.- Catalogue of Seals. 8617) the catalogue does not state from which part of the country he came but an Edmund de Clay is documented in 1389 in the south of England in the counties of Essex and Surrey.

At a later date Sir John Clay of Crich in the county of Derbyshire was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1588 and was granted the same coat of arms of which the design on his shield is described as three trefoils between a chevron (an inverted scalloped triangle). The background of the shield is described as argent which is a French word for silver and the scalloped triangle and trefoils are described as sable which is the heraldry term for black.

Sir John Clay of Crich died in 1633 after which time others with the same surname continued to use the Clay coat of arms including Hercules Clay who in 1643 was the Mayor of Newark in Nottinghamshire, his brother John Clay of Kelham in Nottinghamshire also displayed the same at the Heralds Visitation of 1662 and John Clay Mayor of Leicester in 1660 also used the coat of arms. In 1698 Mrs Barbara Clay of Heath in Derbyshire donated to the parish church a silver chalice with the Clay coat of arms engraved upon it. In more recent times other branches of the Clay’s have used the coat of arms as can be seen in the volumes of Burkes Peerage. 

The Heralds travelled through the realms of England checking that people were entitled to their coat of arms.  In the county of Derbyshire the Heralds made visitations in 1569, 1611, 1634, and 1662 and all gentlemen had to present themselves at a certain place to show what arms they bore and by what authority.

During my research into the history of the English Clay's I have found many accounts of interest some of which have given me food for thought and others which have caused me to smile.The following are a small selection from various archives. -

In the year 1281 William de Clay is accused of being a night walker after the curfew in London armed with buckler and sword contrary to the peace and statutes.

From 1296 to 1330 Lambyn Clay of London was a minstrel for the King and performed at many prestigious events.
In 1299 William de Clay was a goldsmith in London and in 1370 Edmond de Clay of the same town lost his Bond of £100 which he had put up as surety for Richard Page who had feloniously killed someone and later failed to Surrender.

In 1415 John Clay an archer in the retinue of Lord Roos went over seas with the English army of 12,000 men to do battle with the French,they laid siege to the castle at Harfleur for five weeks but during that time the English suffered an outbreak of dysentery through drinking contaminated water from the river and hundreds of men died and John Clay was one of the 1,330 men sent home with illness which meant he missed the oncoming Battle of Agincourt.

In 1471 a Writ was delivered to the Sheriff of Leicestershire stating that Thomas Clay and John Clay will not do damage nor ill to anyone nor burn their houses.Also in 1471 another John Clay of Cheshunt was knighted by the King after the Battle of Tewksbury.

In 1588 John Clay of Crich in Derbyshire was knighted by Queen Elizabeth and later in 1605 "made a slanderous speech accusing the Earl of Shrewsbury of being forewarned about the Gunpowder Plot and absenting himself from Parliament".

In 1612 one John Clay left England on a ship called the Treasurer and sailed to Virginia to become the first Clay in America and his descendants still live there today having traced their line back to him but can't find out which part of England he came from.

In 1642 Anne Clay was ordered to keep the peace with John Hopwood by the magistrates at Manchester Quarter Sessions.(She must have been a dangerous volatile woman).

In 1644 Hercules Clay was the Royalist Mayor of Newark in Nottinghamshire during the English Civil War when the castle and town were under siege from the Parliamentary army. when he died he left a legacy for the poor and for an annual service to be held in church to commemorate his families survival when his house was attacked by fire bombs.The annual service still takes place at Newark nearly 400 years later.His family bible is kept in the town hall museum.

In 1660 John Clay mayor of Leicester collected £300 towards the Restoration of the Monarchy and travelled to London to make the presentation.

In 1662 another Hercules Clay mayor of Chesterfield in Derbyshire was removed from office for refusing to take the Oath of Allegience which was designed to exclude Catholics and non conformists from holding public office.

In 1694 Daniel Clay was put in the pillory at Mansfield in Nottinghamshire on market day for saying "God damn the King and Queen"He lived on a street called Church Gate and was listed there in the Hearth Tax of 1674.

1716 Charles Clay originally from Yorkshire became famous in London for making musical clocks and several of his master pieces are still in existence including those at Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace.

In the year 1745 a band of Scottish rebels came south into Derbyshire where the Duke had left John Clay of Shirland in charge of his house whilst he went to fetch reinforcements to repell the invaders.One of the rebels named McDonald liked John Clay's leather breeches and made him an exchange for his kilt. - John Clay's wife made much fun of his attire when he returned home.The kilt was kept in the family for many generations.

1745 to 1768 The records of Southwell Minster in Notts give details of the "Declaration of Penance" where during those years single girls with the surname of Clay (Alice Clay in 1745 and Elizabeth Clay in 1765 and others) who had sex outside of marriage were made to stand on a stool in front of the congregation wearing only a white sheet and holding a white wand in their hand and the poor girls being humiliated in front of their neighbours were made to recite the words of the Declaration of Penance saying she was guilty of fornication.

1781-82.William Waldegrove Clay of Southwell.Notts was a British redcoat army officer who fought against the Americans during the War of Independence he eventually became a Major General.He is buried at Southwell Minster.

In 1794 the landlord of a pub in North Wingfield. Derbyshire seized the dead body of Thomas Clay a bachelor who died owing him money and demanded the family pay his debt.

In 1805 John Clay age 19 from Epsom in Surrey served on Lord Nelsons ship HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

In 1815 Mathew Clay from Blidworth in Nottinghamshire was a sergeant at the Battle of Waterloo and took part in the defense of the fortification at Quartre - Bras which was under siege by Napoleons army he gives a full account in his diary of the hand to hand fighting.His sword and medals are in a museum in London and a portrait of him is on the village green at Blidworth.- His descendants still live locally.

In 1832 John Clay and Charles Roberts both solicitors of Barnstaple in Devon fought a duel with pistols at 12 paces and Clay was shot in the leg.

In 1836 William Clay was on coast guard duty when he was involved in a fracus with smugglers who tied him up and were going to throw him over the cliff when his colleagues arrived in time to save him.

In 1943 James Henry Clay from North Shields was in RAF 617 Sqaudron in the Dambusters raid his Lancaster bomber was damaged by flak during the flight over Holland and had to return to base with the bouncing bomb still intact.

In 1944 during the second world war both my father and mother were stationed at RAF Manston which was the cause of another Clay being born- myself in 1945.
John Clay - English Archer 1415 (article researched and compiled by David Clay)
Ancient laws in England forced compulsory archery one day a week on all adult males in every parish in the country. In the year 1415 John Clay like all other Englishmen was well practiced at shooting with his longbow,little did he know what events were soon to follow.

On the 30th of June that year King Henry V of England declared that he was the rightful King of France through the line of his grandfather but this claim was rejected by the French so Henry began his invasion plans, A declaration was sent out to every parish that 6 goose feathers from every goose in the land was to be taken for the making of arrows for the coming campaign. The muster of men were taken in all parishes and John Clay a yeoman farmer was commandeered as an archer  in the retinue of Lord Roos at 6 pence a day.

They made their way to the south coast to join the Kings invasion fleet and John Clay with the English army of 12,000 set sail on Sunday 11th of August and arrived at the French coastal town of Harfleur. The English laid siege to the walled town and after 5 weeks of bombardment the French garrison yielded,but during that period the English suffered  a severe outbreak of dysentery through drinking contaminated water from the river. Hundreds of men died through the illness and after the siege was over John Clay was amongst  the 1,300 men who were sent home sick to England. (The National Archives Ref.- E101/44/30.no1.m14).Thus missing his chance of fame and glory at the ensuing famous battle. King Henry marched his remaining army onwards to Agincourt where a major English victory took place against a much superior French army who were defeated by the well trained English and Welsh archers. Lord Roos who commanded the retinue in which John Clay was an archer lived at Helmsley Castle in the county of Yorkshire and the Clay family lived one mile away at Sproxton. What became of John Clay after his illness is not known but a large number of those with the sickness did not survive. In the "Calendar of Fine Rolls" for the year 1417 the Manor of Sproxton near Helmsley was granted to Nicholas Clay and Joan his wife, maybe this grant was for the service of their son who was possibly lost in the Kings campaign.  In 1443 Dame Joan Clay of Sproxton left a Will (Borthwick Archives) which indicated she had one surviving son Thomas Clay esquire. It is not proved but it is likely that John Clay the archer who served in the retinue of Lord Roos was the son of Nicholas and Joan Clay of Sproxton in the English County of Yorkshire.

Helmsley Castle
Remains of Helmsley Castle in the County of Yorkshire, occupied by the Roos family. c1180 - 1478. 
Helmsley Castle Ruins
The gatehouse of Helmsley Castle near Sproxton in Yorkshire.

John Clay's Breeches
In 1745 a Scottish army with the McDonalds of Glengarry marched south and got as far as the town of Derby, this article is taken from the Nottingham Guardian newspaper 9th October 1885.

John Clay of Shirland. Derbyshire (Born 1702) was a tenant and retainer of William Cavendish the Duke of Devonshire in 1745 and when Prince Charles Stuart marched to Derby the Duke rode from Chatsworth and called at Shirland and asked John Clay to go to his Lordships house at Derby and secure his plate and valuables there. Clay immediately obeyed and bade his wife to bring him his leather breeches to travel in.When he arrived at Derby he found no one but women in the Dukes house,he at once buried the plate in a large ash hole under the kitchen fire, had all the pictures and other valuables removed to the attic which he locked and ordered a plentiful supply of food and drink to be provided on the table in the great hall. Scarcely had these precautions been taken when loud knockings occurred at the gates which Clay opened to Lochiel and Glengarry with some of their followers. "Ah", said John Clay to the Scotchmen, "We heard you were coming and we hope you will make yourselves comfortable for the moment but the Duke of Cumberland is at hand and if after you have refreshed yourselves you do not make yourselves scarce it will be worse for you all". 

After a substantial meal and deep drinking on their part John Clay who sat between the chiefs still pressed their retirement,when Glengarry said he was a good fellow and should suffer no hurt as he would draw off his men only he must have Clay's leather breeches in exchange for his kilt and sporran. Against this Mr. Clay stoutly remonstrated pleading the fun his wife would make of him to see him in petticoats  but as nothing less would satisfy McDonald he made the exchange and the Scotts left. As soon as he could he returned to Shirland where his wife (Mary Clay) made quite a scoff, he however regained his character and footing when he explained this affair and the kilt dark green and blue plaid sporran were kept in the family till they fell to pieces from age. The Duke shortly after called to thank Mr. Clay for preserving his property none of which was injured or lost and he said "As long as there is a Cavendish and a Clay the latter shall never be refused any request that the former can grant".  

William Cavendish 4th Duke of Devonshire
William Cavendish of Hardwick.Duke of Devonshire.
John Clay saved his valuables from the rebels in 1745.
Scottish Army 1745
Scottish Army in 1745 were met at Derby by John Clay of Shirland who unwillingly had to give them hospitality.

William Clay - Civil War Fugitive (article by David Clay).
Civil War broke out in England in 1642 when Parliament fell out with the King with some people becoming Royalists on the side of the King and some siding with Parliament. William Clay was the Registrar of Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire and he was on the side of the King. In 1643 he received a warning that the Parliamentary army was on its way to Southwell  and that Oliver Cromwells men were searching for him and that he must leave at once or he would be captured.

William had married his wife Joane in 1641 and she was now heavily pregnant, to take her with him was impossible and it seemed out of the question to leave her. In their dilemma his wife thought of the hidden room over the church porch door it was very tiny but contained a bedstead. After being under much duress from his wife to go William Clay consented to flee from Southwell and leave her hiding in the concealed chamber.

The soldiers came and took over the church and even stabled their horses inside and poor Joane had many frights as pillage of the church took place. An old clergyman watched for opportunities to take her food and a women who was a family friend nursed her through the birth of the daughter who was born in the tiny room over the porch door.

After the soldiers had gone and as soon as Mrs Clay could travel she went to her grandfathers house at Rolleston where the baby was christened at the church - Joane Clay on January 14th 1644 unfortunately the mother never recovered from her ordeal and this entry can be seen in the church register - Joan the wife of William Clay was buried March the 4th, 1644.

William Clay eventually returned to Southwell to his old position at the Minster and was later married again to Bridget Lee where they had several children and he lived at Southwell until he died, the register records - "Mr William Clay Registrar and Auditor of the Register buried 1692".

His descendants prospered well and became landowners and leading members of the town and there are quite a number of brass plaques inside the church where the Clay's are buried including his great grandson William Waldgrave Pelham Clay who was a British red coat soldier in North America during the Revolution from 1781 to 1782 he is recorded as having taken part in battles and eventually became a Major General in the 40th Foot Regiment.

Southwell Minster Porch where William Clay's pregnant wife hid.

Southwell Minster Porch where Joane Clay had the baby.

An English Red Coat Army Officer
William Waldegrave Pelham Clay was an officer in the British army who was born in 1760 at Southwell in the county of Nottinghamshire, he was the son of William Clay gentleman and Attorney at Law his middle names come from his mothers side (Jemima Pelham) a gentry family in the county of Essex. He was the Gt,Gt grandson of the previously mentioned William Clay (Civil War Fugitive).  He had a distinguished army career which is recorded in the "Royal Military Calendar" as follows.-

Major General William Waldegrave Pelham Clay
On the 27th May 1777 he was appointed to an Ensigncy in the 40th Foot and on the 17th April 1779 promoted to Lieutenant when he served in the West Indies and America, he was on board the "Sultan" Man of War in the general action off Grenada between the English and French fleets 6th July 1779. He remained in the West Indies until August 1781 when he embarked with the regiment for America.

He was at the storming of Fort Griswold by the 40th and 54th regiments on the 10th September 1781 and next appointed to the Light Company on detachment to destroy Hylers gun-boats on 10th January 1782. On the 10th June he succeeded to a company and served in America until the evacuation of New York in November and returned to England in 1784.

He next embarked as Captain of the Light Company with the battalions expedition to the West Indies. The 33rd and 40th Light Companies were selected to attack the heights above St Pierre's, Martinique which they carried out on 17th February 1794 and on the same day repulsed the enemy who advanced to retake them, he also served at the siege and surrender of Fort Bourbon.

On the 1st November 1794  he received the brevet of Major and on the 1st September 1795 was appointed to the Majority of the 40th. Major Clay served in the siege of Morne Fortunee, St Lucie and in other affairs of that Campaign and at its conclusion was sent home dangerously ill. In 1796 he embarked for St Domingo and in 1797 was appointed Deputy Inspector General of Colonial Troops with local rank of Lieutenant Colonel and on the 1st January 1798 he received the brevet of Lieutenant Colonel and on 6th August 1799 as Lieutenant Colonel in his regiment and served in the West Indies and in the expedition to Holland in 1799.

In 1803 he was appointed Inspecting Field Officer of a recruiting district in Ireland and in November 1804 removed to one in England. On the 25th April 1808 he received the brevet of Colonel and on the 4th June 1811 he was promoted to Major General and served in Trinidad in the West Indies. -- (Details from the Ledger of the "Royal Military Calendar" transcribed and edited by John Philliport Esq in 1815).

William Waldegrave Pelham Clay had two brothers who also served in the military - John who was a Lieutenent Colonel in the army and Edward who was an Admiral in the Royal Navy, William was married to Catherine Charlotte Pole and they had 6 children, William died in 1822 and his Will was proved 13th March 1823. (TNA Ref.- PROB11/1667/338). There are Brass plaques to William and his wife Catherine and also other members of their family inset in stone slabs on the floor inside Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire.

Portrait of William Waldegrave Pelham Clay.

Floor of Southwell Minster where William Clay and his relatives are buried.(See Plaques).

Burial plaque of William Waldegrave Pelham Clay inset in stone slab in the church

Burial plaque of his wife Catherine Charlotte Clay inset in stone slab in church.

Sir John Clay. Knight
John Clay was the son of Robert and Emma Clay of Glapwell in the County of Derbyshire yeoman farmers, they had acquired a substantial amount of land and became very prosperous working for the Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick). In 1585 after his parents died John Clay sold the lands in Glapwell and moved to the Derbyshire parish of Crich where he married a very rich widow and after she passed away he again married another very rich widow and he became the Lord of the Manor and owner of more property and Lands.

John Clay had now become well established with the gentry and being a substantial landowner was now required to take up public office which eventually led to him being knighted in the year 1588 by Queen Elizabeth. He was now Sir John Clay and was granted the Coat of Arms which can be seen at the top of the page. In 1601 when the the Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick) died she bequeathed money to Sir John Clay and his daughter Marie no doubt the Clay's were favourites of Bess. Her estranged husband the Earl of Shrewsbury with whom she had fallen out with many years ago was also not in the good books of Sir John Clay who made a slanderous speech in 1605 accusing the Earl of being forewarned of the Gunpowder Plot and absenting himself from Parliament.

Sir John Clay had a large manor house near the church in Crich and according to dates of various events relating to him he must have been born around 1545 and lived well into his eighties.  After he died in 1633 he left a lengthy Will and Inventory in which he mentions a number of furnished rooms containing 23 beds of which there were five four poster beds, he had a suit of armour and various weaponry he also had a number of servants, he requests to be buried inside the church at Crich in the tomb he had made for his first wife Mary and on the top it has an engraving of him and his wife with the Clay Coat of Arms and his five children are featured around the sides. The top of the tomb has been much ill used over the centuries and the engraving is gradually becoming worn away.  

Tomb of John Clay
John Clay Tomb
The tomb of Sir John Clay in the church at Crich.           The faded image of Sir John Clay on his tomb showing Coat of Arms each side of his head.

Charles Clay. Clock Maker Royal
Charles Clay from Flockton in the County of Yorkshire was an ingenious clock and watchmaker, he became a Freeman of the Clock Maker Company in 1706. He applied for a patent for his repeating pocket watch in 1717. (TNA Ref.- SP35/8/41) but was opposed by Daniel Quare another watch maker who claimed to have made a similar watch. In the year 1720 Charles Clay moved to London and had a shop on Cecil Street opposite St Mary's Church on the Strand.

His intricately made and beautifully decorated musical clocks were highly sought after and he commissioned the famous London based German music composer George Frideric Handel to provide tunes for his clocks. Eventually in 1723 Charles Clay became the Royal Clock Maker and in 1731 made a clock for the gatehouse at St James Palace. In the newspaper "The Weekly Advertiser" 8th May 1736 it stated that - "On Monday Mr Clay the inventor of machine watches in the Strand had the honour of exhibiting to Her Majesty at Kensington his surprising musical clock which gave uncommon satisfaction to all the Royal Family". The prestigious clock which stood 8 foot 6 inches tall was to be raffled off and Her Majesty ordered fifty guineas of tickets, it is not known who won the raffle but many years later the same clock was found to be contained in a manor house in the County of Suffolk.

In the Late 1700s Sir John Acton bequeathed one of Charles Clay's clocks to Maria Carolina Queen of Naples. Mr Clay made many outstanding musical clocks and watches some of which exist today, one of his clocks can be seen in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and it measures 7 feet 7 inches tall. In 1740 three days before he passed away on his deathbed Charles Clay instructed his wife Sarah to destroy and break into pieces  a particular clock in his workshop which had cost him so much time and expense  to bring to perfection that he did not want anyone else the further experience of time and money to finish it, but the clock was eventually finished by John Pyke clock maker to the Prince of Wales and he acquired it for the wife of the Prince of Wales.

Sarah Clay now the widow of Charles Clay wisely exhibited in 1741 and 1743 two of her late husbands masterpieces  charging one shilling admission to see the musical clocks entitled "The Temple of the Four Grand Monarchies of the World" and "The Temple and Oracle of Apollo" which were both eventually acquired for the British Royal Collection and can be seen today at Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace.

Charles Clay Gold Pocket Watch 1724
Gold pocket watch made in 1724 by Charles Clay.
Sold at Sotheby's in 2015 for £9,375
Clay Pocket Watch 1720
Gold pocket watch made by Charles Clay in 1720

Charles Clay Clock
Charles Clay Musical Clock c1730 now in Birmingham Museum.                           
Charles Clay Musical Clock
Close up of top section of Charles Clay Musical Clock

Clay Family Clock Makers of Gainsborough
There was another outstanding family of clock makers with the surname of Clay living at Gainsborough in the County of Lincolnshire who were making clocks and watches for around 200 years, some of their clocks are still in existence and frequently come up for auction.

Samuel Clay clock maker was working in Gainsborough from 1715 followed by his son Samuel Clay also a clock maker who in turn had a son Charles Clay born 1762 and he was also a clock maker and lived in Fosters Yard at Gainsborough.

Charles had two sons Samuel and Charles Clay who were both clock and watch makers and again Samuel who lived on Bridge Street had a son Thomas Clay in 1852 who also carried on the tradition and lived on Ruskin Street in Gainsborough. In 2017 a bookseller contacted me to say he had acquired the business trade book of Thomas Clay clock maker of Ruskin Street and the book related to 1885 to 1895. In the 1911 Gainsborough Census Thomas Clay is still living on Ruskin Street and is listed as a retired clock maker.

One of the Gainsborough family James Clay moved to Derby in 1739 and opened a shop next door to the George Inn and was advertised in the Derby Mercury newspaper as a maker of gold and silver watches.

Samuel Clay Clock
Full image of the clock made by Samuel Clay of Gainsborough in 1850.
For sale at Norwich Antique Clock Shop in 2017.
Samuel Clay Clock Closeup
Top section of clock made in 1850 by Samuel Clay of Gainsborough.

Clock made in 1828 by Charles Clay of Gainsborough.
Charles Clay of Gainsborough Long Case Clock c1790.

Clay Currency
During the English Civil War in the 1600s there became a great shortage of coins for small change as production of coins had stopped. After the war was over licence was given to merchants to produce farthings and halfpenny coins. The coins indicated the name or the initials of the merchant, where initials were given it was common practice to give three initials one for the surname of the merchant and the other two for the christian names of the merchant and his wife, the coins also indicated the merchants trade. Thousands of merchants issued these coins some with the surname of Clay up until 1672 when official production was resumed and private production was suppressed. In major cities such as London the address was given on the coin and some had designs which showed their type of business.

The coins were made of copper and pictured below are three very rare examples of existing ones made by business people with the surname of Clay and one shown which I managed to purchase from a sale is a farthing coin made by John Clay of Kings Lynn in the county of Norfolk.

On one side it gives his name John Clay and the year 1664 and in the middle the insignia of his trade which indicates he was a Tallowchandler (Dealer in Candles). On the other side of the coin it gives his town Linn Regis which is Latin for Kings Lynn and in the middle of the coin the initials C.I.S in those days an I would be Latin for J so here we have C for Clay I for John and an S which would be for his wife possibly Sarah.

The second coin shown is a halfpenny which on one side features a horse and cart in the middle and round the sides "John Clay. Woodmonger". (A Dealer in Wood) on the other side in the middle it says - "His Half Penny", and round the sides his address - "White Fryars" (Which is White Friars in London) and the date 1667. There are two examples of this particular coin which I know to exist one of the images is from a past London sale and the other coin is in the Museum of London.

The third coin shown features a falcoln in the middle and round the sides says "Edmund Clay. The Golden" and on the other side in the middle says - "His Half Penny", and round the sides says "1667 Falcoln. Holborne" - So here we have Edmund Clay at the Golden Falcoln in Holborn in the City of London in 1667. This coin is also in the Museum of London it may relate to the Edmund Clay of London who left a Will in 1676. There are probably more coins of the Clay's held by collectors.

Mathew Clay.  Battle of Waterloo Hero
Mathew Clay was born in the village of Blidworth in the County of Nottinghamshire in the year 1796 the son of Mathew and Sarah Clay, he joined the army in 1813 and fought in various battles including Waterloo in 1815. Today he is highly regarded by his regiment as he kept a diary of daily occurrences during the battles and the record is one of the best surviving accounts of the time. In his diary he describes how in the field of battle during a cavalry charge by the enemy his battalion formed square ready to repel them and receiving cannon fire first he says he can testify to the accuracy of the enemy cannon fire as a fragment passed by the side of his head. In one battle he describes how he was frantically firing and reloading his musket all day and when it began to misfire he picked  up another rifle from a dead soldier. On the 18th of June 1815 Mathew Clay took part in heroic Defence of Hougoumont  (A chateau in a walled enclosure) against the onslaught of French troops and during the siege the French eventually burst through the gates but were repulsed by Mathew Clay and his colleagues, he describes how the bodies of soldiers were piled high at the gates during the hand to hand fighting. Mathew gives many other accounts of action in his diary, he served in various wars for twenty years and eventually he was discharged from service in 1833 and went to live in Bedford where he became Sergeant Major of the local militia for another twenty years a rank he held until 1852. Mathew Clay married Johanna Cornish in 1823 and they had twelve children. Mathew died in 1873 aged 78 and he was given a heroes funeral and on the top of his coffin lay his sword and the militia fired three volleys of shots over his grave. His sword and medal are now kept at the Fusillers Museum in London. An edition of Mathew Clay's diary was published in 2006 edited by Gareth Glover (ISBN 1-905074 - 25-5).

Today in the village of Blidworth his portrait looks out across the place of his birth in a memorial exhibition erected in recent years by one of his descendants.

Portrait of Mathew Clay born 1796
Siege of Hougoumont 1816
Siege of Hougoumont 1816

HMS Victory
HMS Victory. Admiral Lord Nelson's Flagship.104 Guns.

Battle of Trafalgar 1805
John Clay was born at Epsom in the County of Surrey c1786 and served on Admiral Nelsons Flagship HMS Victory from the 3rd of August 1804 to the 20th of April 1806. He was a Volunteer 1st Class service number SLVO595. (TNA Ref.- ADM36/15900).
John Clay was on board the Victory at the age of 19 with Lord Nelson on the 21st of October 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar when the British Royal Navy fought against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish.

27 British ships led by Admiral Lord Nelson defeated 33 French and Spanish ships, the enemy lost 22 ships without a single British vessel being lost. Nelson departed from conventional naval practice of broadside engagement and sailed head on with 2 columns in single lines straight into the enemy with decisive results.  Although Lord Nelson in the lead ship was killed by a musket shot John Clay came through the battle uninjured and lived to be awarded the Trafalgar Medal and a Naval Pension. He had also served on other ships.

Nelson's Flagship HMS Victory on which John Clay served is now a museum ship and can be seen at Portsmouth Dockyard.

William Clay's Cannon
William Clay manager and owner of the Mersey Iron and Steel Company at Liverpool designed and patented a large cannon around the year 1860. It was called "Clay's Breech Loading Gun". It had amazing firepower and was used by the Confederate Army in the American Civil War. William was Vice President of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and his cannon was displayed at an Industrial Exhibition, an account of his invention was given in the January edition of The Illustrated London News of 1862. William Clay was also Lieutenant Colonel of the 8th Lancashire Artillery Volunteers. He was born in Liverpool in the year 1823 the son of Ralph and Margaret Clay he married Jane Greatrex and lived at Toxteth Park where they had sons William, Charles and Ralph. William Clay later moved to Clifton Park in Birkenhead he died in 1881 age 57.

Clay's Gun
William Clay's newly designed cannon.

Formark Hall
Foremark Hall at Milton. Derbyshire. Home of Henry Clay. Banker and JP in the mid 1800s. He lived here with his wife Elizabeth and children.They had 15 servants. He was the son of Joseph Clay and Sarah Spender. His great grandaughter Rachel Spender Clay married Sir David Bowes Lyon the brother of the Queen Mother. (See 1861 Census in Derbyshire Section).

Rachel Pauline Spender Clay

Rachel Pauline Spender Clay 1907 - 1996. Daughter of Herbert Henry Clay. She married the Queen Mothers brother Sir David Bowes Lyon and became the present Queen Elizabeth's  aunt. Her children are the Queens cousins.
Rachel Pauline Spender Clay marriage

Rachel Pauline Spender Clay Married Sir David Bowes Lyon in 1929. 
She was descended from a line of wealthy bankers and brewery owners. We can trace her Clay ancestry back to Joseph Clay who was having children at Barrow on Trent in Derbyshire  in the 1600s.
(See Readers Articles).

Old Hardwick Hall
Hardwick Hall. Derbyshire. (The Old Hall).
The Clay family who had lived in the parish of Ault Hucknall for a number of centuries were well acquainted with this ancient building having been tenant farmers on nearby land and also employees of the Hardwick family including Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury (c1527 - 1608) known as Bess of Hardwick. The Clay's are mentioned over 120 times in the surviving "Hardwick Household Accounts" from 1597 to 1623. - Ref.- Chatsworth HM/10A + HM/23 + HM/29.

Hardwick Hall
Hardwick Hall. Derbyshire. (The New Hall).
Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick) had this new hall built near the old one at Hardwick in the 1590s and members of the Clay family are listed as being employed in the building work from its beginning they included Robert Clay, John Clay, Handbeener, Thomas Clay Labourer and a Clay listed as a Smith. The building became known to locals as "Hardwick Hall more Glass than Wall" due to the amount of windows. Notice the letters E S (Elizabeth Shrewsbury)  at the top of the bulding. Both the halls are open to the public in the summer.

Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury. (Bess of Hardwick. c1527 - 1608).
Bess of Hardwick knew the Clay family of Derbyshire very well and there are letters of correspndence from Hercules Clay to his Ladyship on a number of occasions. Robert and Emma Clay did well as farmers on her estate and acquired their own land and when they died their son John Clay became very wealthy and in 1588 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. When Bess died in 1608 William Clay was witness to part of her Will as was her Steward Timothey Pusey who had married Mary Clay daughter of John Clay.

In her Will Bess left £50 each as a gift to John and his daughter Mary which in todays money would be over £12,000 each and she also left £1000 to be shared amongst all her other servants which included some more Clay's who were working at the hall.


Soldiers in Medieval England
Name                Rank            Service        Captain                    Lieutenant        Commander        Service Date

Thomas Clay    Archer           France          Lord Robt.Willoughby                        King Edward         1370. July 8th    
John Clay         Man at Arms.    “   “            Sir Robt. Knolles.                                 “       “     “               “       “    “                  
Cifriet Clay esq.   “    “     “         “    “           Lord Edw.Despencer.                           “       “     “            1372.Aug15th.    
John Clay esq.    “     “     “         “    “            “      “       “     “                                     “       “     “                “      “      “
John Clay           “     “     “        Navy.          Sir William Neville.  Sir Clanevowe.  John of Gaunt.      1378. June 1st.
Nicholas Clay     “     “     “          “                  “     “    “     “    “        “      “      “            “     “      “               “        “      “
John de Clay      “     “     “  Scotish March. Sir Wm. Fulthorpe.                            Earl Henry Percy.   1383 – 1385.
John Clay           “     “     “  Berwick Garrison. Sir Degary Seys.                          Sir Degary Seys.    1384. Jan.24th.
Nicholas Clay     “     “     “     “     “      “     “        “     “     “     “                                 “     “    “      “            “        “     “
Richard Clay     Archer.         “    “       “     “       “      “     “    “                                  “     “     “    “             “        “     “
John de Clay    Man at Arms. Scottish March. Earl Hen. Percy. Sir Fulthorpe.    John of Gaunt.      1384. Feb.1st. 
John Clay            “    “     “  Berwick Garrison. Sir Degary Seys.                           Sir Degary Seys.   1384.Mar. 1st.
Nicholas Clay      “    “     “     “     “      “     “        “       “         “                                  “       “        “             “      “      “
Richard Clay    Archer.          “     “      “     “        “       “         “                                 “        “       “              “     “      “ 
Edmund Clay    Chief Justice. Ireland.                                                                                               1381 – 1389.
John Clay esq. Man at Arms. Navy.      Sir Thomas Poynings.                            Earl Fitz Alan.        1388. May.
Richard Clay esq.“    “     “         “             “      “     “     “      “                                    “     “      “                “       “
Nicholas Clay esq.“  “     “          “             “      “     “     “     “                                     “     “      “                “       “
William Clay. Archer. Naval Expedition. Sir Ralph Vernon.                                     “      “      “               “        “
John Clay  Yeoman Valet. Archer. France. Lord Roos of Helmsley.                    King Henry V.          1415.
   “      “           “            “     Sick List.   “         “       “     “       “                                   “       “       “              “
Robert Clay.  Archer. Expedition France. Sir Hugh Luterell.                                   “       “       “           1417.
John de Clay.     “         “       “         “        Earl John Holland                                   “       “       “              “
John Clay. Man at Arms.“     “         “        Earl Henry Percy.                                   “       “       “              “
Roger Clay. Yeoman Valet. Archer. “        Nicholas Bolde.                                  Duke of Bedford.     1420.
John Clay. Man at Arms. Expedition France                                                                                       1421.May.
John Clay.    “    “     “     Garrison of Rouen.                                                                                       1422.
John Clay. Official Retinue, Bailli of Rouen. Sir John Salvayn.                                                           1423.Nov.10th.
Lawrence Clay. Garrison of Tombelaine. Laurence Halden.                                                               1424.
John Clay.  Archer. Siege of Oricans. Sir Nichols Burdet.                                                                   1429.Jan.4th.
John de Clay. Garrison of Rouen.           John Clay. (Captain).                                                           1429.Dec18th.
John de Clay.    “     “     “     “                     “        “          “                                                                    1430.Apr.26th.
Laurence Clay. Archer. Siege of Louviers. Sir Richard Lowick.                                                          1430.Oct.17th.
Robert Clay. Retinue in the Field.            Thierry Robessart.                                                              1432.July31st.
Robert Clay. Siege of St Denis.                Sir Andrew Ogard.                         Lord Thomas Scales.  1435. “    “
John de Clay esq. Man at Arms. Garrison Rouen. Duke Bedford. Liet/Captain. John Clay.           1435.Aug.4th.
Peter de Clay. Man at Arms.          “      “       “          “        “      “       “      “    “         “       “                  “      “     “
Robert Clay.      “    “     “    Garrison of Vire. Sir Andrew Ogard.                     Thos Ellingham.           “  Nov.28th.
Pierre Clay.       “     “     “   Garrison of Rouen. John Talbot Earl of Shrewsbury.                             1436.Sep.29th.
Nicholas Clay. German. Archer. Garrison Vire. Lord Thos.Scales. Ellis Longworth.                       1437July 2nd.  
John de Clay. Man at Arms. Rouen Castle. Earl John Talbot.   John Clay.                                        “    July.27th.
Nicholas Clay.German. Archer Garrison Vire.  Lord Scales.  Ellis Longwoth.                                    “    July 30th.
John de Clay esq. Man at Arms. Rouen Castle. Duke of York. Earl John Talbot.                              “     Aug.27th.
Pierre Clay. Man at Arms. Siege of Tancarville. John Lord Darcy.                        Earl John Talbot.   “   Sept.8th.
John Clay.      “    “     “  Rouen Castle..Richard Duke of York. John Talbot.                                       “    Oct.26th.
John de Clay esq. Man at Arms. Rouen Castle.     “      “    “        “       “                                             “    Nov.16th.
Nicholas Clay. Archer. Garrison Vire.Lord Thos.Scales. Hugh Carrington.                                        “    Dec.19th.
John Clay. Man at Arms. Garrison Honfleur.  Sir Wm.Mountfort.                                                   1438. Jan.3rd.
John Clay.   “     “     “         “     “       “      “       “      “      “      “                                                            “     Oct.22nd.
John Clay. Archer. In the Field. Rernay.  Mathew Gough.                             Duke John Beaufort.1440.Feb.17th.
John Clay. Archer. Siege of Dangu.                                                              Lord Wm.Neville.          “    Mar.13th.
William Clay. Archer. Expedition France. Duke J.Beaufort.  Sir Robt.Vere.  Duke John Beaufort.1443. July 17th
Phillip Clay.       “          “       “         “           “          “       “       
Hugh Parker.    “           “      “          “          “           “       “
Roger Clay.      “           “      “          “           “          “       “       
Peter Davy.      “           “      “          “           “          “        “        
Roger Clay. Archer. Expedition France. Duke John Beaufort. Peter Davy. Duke John Beaufort.   1443. July17th..
William Clay.     “    Garrison Ponte de l'Arche. Lord Willoughby.                                                    1444.March 3rd.
Johan de Clay    Garrison Normandy.                                                                                             1446.Oct.1st.

Clay Surname Variations

Robert Claye. Archer. Harflieur Garrison. Sir Hugh Lutterell.            Count Thomas Beaufort.       1418.
John Claye. Man at Arms. Rouen.    “         Sir John Salvyn.                                                          1424.Oct.1st.
John de Claye Esq.            Rouen.    “         John Clay.                                                                   1430.Jan.30th.
Robert Claye. Man at Arms. Vire.     “         Sir Andrew Ogard.                                                       1434.Nov.5th.
John Claye. Archer.            Rouen    “         Guilloton Andrew.                                                        1436.June 1st.
Robert Claye. Man at Arms. Caudebec Garrison. John Talbot. Earl of Shrewsbury.                      1436.June 20th.
Bertran de la Claye. Archer. Pontoise Garrison. John Talbot.                                                         1439.Oct.20th.

Robert Cley. Man at Arms. Naval.                  Earl Hugh Courtney.             Hugh Courtney.           1418.April.
John Cley    Man at Arms.  Rouen Garrison.  Sir John Harpelay.               Thomas Beaufort.        1422.
Walter Cley  Archer. Expedition France.         Richard Duke of York.         Richard Duke of York.  1441.

Henry Clee    Wales.                                                                           Henry V. King of England.    1407.Apr.18th..


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