Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The family of William and Mary Clayton




Children from St Peter’s Roman catholic school near Broad Street, attended by many of the Clayton and Millington children in the 1930s and 1940s. This is the procession of the Virgin Mary, an annual event for Catholic children who would walk to St Chad’s Cathedral. My dad Geoff is one of the older boys at the back, far right.



Memories of Granddad Clayton


William Clayton did national service in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and I am told he may have fought in the 2nd Boer War (1899 to 1902) in South Africa. I have also been told that he was posted to Ireland and sometimes told stories about the terrible things he witnessed there.

William Clayton is always remembered with very great affection by his grand children, who say that he was a handsome man who could also have a fierce temper and who hated cats.

Kathleen Robinson told me:

“Our granddad hated cats, he wouldn’t have one in the house. If ever one came in he’d swing his foot at it!”

She also recalled other occasions when her Granddad could be a very formidable character, including one particular incident when he had a heated argument with a neighbour:

“There was a big crowd gathered in the road outside the house because they all loved to see a fight. But when our granddad started to go towards the other man, he began to back off down the street. But before he turned and ran off, he thrust his fist up in the air at our granddad and said to him, “You just wait there mate, I’m gunna get Tup up to you!”

“But our granddad just laughed and said “Oh ar! Go and get Tup up then! In fact you can get Tup and bloody Bottom up for all I care, I’ll have ’em both!” You should have heard all the neighbors laughing when they heard my granddad say that! And that bloke didn’t half run off down the street with his tail between his legs!”



A view along Garbett Street in Ladywood in the 1950s. The back-to-back houses and courtyards of old Ladywood and Newtown were home to four or five successive generations of our family

William Clayton worked as a painter and decorator. Kathleen Robinson recalled how he once worked for a company called Jackson’s Fruits and she remembered how he would come home with free fruit from the boss. She told me:

“Mostly though it was bananas he’d bring home in his Gladstone bag and we were all sick of them by the finish. I still can’t eat bananas to this day”.

In spite of his messy trade, Granddad Clayton was generally a well-turned out man, as Kathleen explained:

“He was a smart man and he used to dote on our Nance, because she had lived with them. He took her on holiday once on a boat and Nance said that a man came up to him and asked him if he was the captain of the boat. He was a very smart looking man you see”.

Nance told me about William Clayton in later years:

“I did love my granddad. When I was working for the gas board during the War he would come up the road to meet me and make sure I was alright getting home. He didn’t have much then so I’d always give him a backhander and he’d say “thanks our Nance, don’t tell your granny though will you?” ”



An advert for the Palais De Danse on Monument Road. The Palais was a popular local venue for dancing and live big bands in the 1940s.

The Children and Grand Children of William and Mary Clayton

William and Mary Clayton had seven children – William (Bill), George, Florence, Ann, Harold, Frederick and Thomas.

In the 1901 Census, the Clayton family were recorded at Back of 50 George Street, number 52 House. William was aged 34 and recorded as a house painter, Mary was 30. The oldest child William J was aged 9, George was 6, Harold was 4, Florence was 1 and Annie was 6 months old.

In the 1911 Census, the Clayton family are living at 20 Garbett Street:

William, Henry Clayton, aged 42, head of household, married for 20 years, total children born alive and also still living was 6, labourer housepainter working for an employer. Born in Birmingham

Mary Clayton, wife, aged 38 born in Birmingham

George Clayton, aged 16, metal roller

Harold Clayton, aged 13

Florence, aged 11

Anne, aged 10

Thomas, aged 7

Frederick, aged 4

Maria Flynn aged 52, aunt

So by 1911 the Claytons have moved into Garbett Street and it is interesting to see all of the children still at home, including my grand mother Florence, except for the oldest son William (Bill) who would have been aged 19 and more than likely has left home.

We should note that in the Census the family state they have had 6 children all of whom are still living. Actually they had 7 if we include the oldest son Bill who doesn't appear in this record, so one can assume they only counted the ones at home.

But it is also interesting to see Maria Flynn still alive and living and living with her niece Mary Clayton, nee Finn. We will recall that Aunt Maria was the younger sister of Mary's mother Bridget, thought to have had some degree of mental illness or even learning disability, described a shaving "religious mania". There is no indication in this record that Maria was born in Ireland, though we know from previous records that she was.

Of the seven children:

Bill Clayton married a lady named Emily, from Willenhall, and they had three children: Lucy, Pat and Mary.

George Clayton married Emily Wayne from London. They had 4 sons and 2 daughters: Bernard, Dennis, William (Bill), George, Sheila and Emily. My dad Geoff told me that Emily’s mother, known as Aunt May was a Jewish lady and was married to Great Granddad Clayton’s brother Fred. Aunt May was apparently a money-lender who kept a book of her creditors which included my grandmother Florence.

Florence married William Millington from Ladywood and they had four children: Ann (Nance), Kathleen, William (Bill or Fred) and Geoffrey.

Ann Clayton married Harry Joyce and they had two children: Irene and Rita. Irene died of pneumonia at the age of about 3.


Annie Joyce (nee. Clayton). My grandmother’s only sister.

Harold Clayton served in the army in India around the same time as my own grandfather William Millington. He married Amy and they had three children: Harold, Leonard and Amy.

Thomas Clayton never married, it is said that he was let down by a girl whom he deeply loved.

Frederick Clayton was the youngest of the Clayton brothers. He married Agnes but died in his forties before the couple had children. Agnes remarried.

More about the Clayton family from the 1920s onwards in a future and updated version of this family record.


The wedding of Kath Millington to Harry Robinson in June 1942. My father Geoff Millington is in the front row next to his cousin Rita Joyce. Their older sister Anne (or Nance) is on the left side of Kath. The Millington children were sons and daughters of Florence nee.Clayton.
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