A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1963.
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THE civil parish of Clayton was created in 1896 out of the townships of Clayton, Seabridge, and Clayton Griffith. (fn. 1) Clayton and Seabridge formed the western part of the parish of Stoke-upon-Trent, and Clayton Griffith to the north was a detached portion of Trentham parish. (fn. 2) At first 1,807 acres in extent, (fn. 3) Clayton was gradually reduced in size between 1921 and 1932 when it was taken into the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme in three stages, in 1921, 1927, and 1932. (fn. 4)
The district is an upland area lying mainly around the 400- and 500-ft. contours above the Lyme Brook on the east and the Park Brook (formerly the Hanchurch Brook) (fn. 5) on the south. There is a dip in the level north of Clayton village where a stream runs down to the Lyme Brook. The soil is clay and the subsoil sandstone gravel. (fn. 6) The southern part of the area is still (1960) largely rural, with Clayton village lying in the south-east on the Newcastle– Eccleshall road and the hamlet of Seabridge in the south-west near the Newcastle to Market Drayton road. Most of the farms and cottages are of the 19th century and later. To the west of Clayton Lodge is a partly timber-framed house, probably of 17thcentury date. Clayton Lodge, now an hotel, is a small late-Georgian house much altered and enlarged at subsequent periods; most of it is about to be rebuilt. In the northern part of the former parish there are extensive housing estates representing the southward development of Newcastle. In Clayton Griffith, taken into the borough of Newcastle in 1921, the corporation built the Westlands estate, comprising 104 houses by 1926. (fn. 7) It bought agricultural land in Clayton in the 1930's for housing, (fn. 8) and before 1939 another council estate had been built to the north of Clayton Lane; a smaller estate in Northwood Road in Clayton village itself also dates from the 1930's. An estate was built in Clayton Lane after 1945, and another has recently been completed in Seabridge Lane. In recent years there has been much private building in Seabridge which has given it something of a middle-class residential character. The aircraft hangars in Northwood Road, Clayton, were built during the Second World War for the Fleet Air Arm, which also occupied Clayton Hall; the hangars were subsequently converted into a Royal Navy motor transport depot which was closed in 1959. (fn. 9)
Clayton was inhabited by 4 villeins and 6 bordars in 1086; it then included Clayton Griffith also, the separation of which probably took place in the 13th century. (fn. 10) Seabridge occurs on the Pipe Roll of 1199–1200. (fn. 11) There were 11 persons in Clayton and Seabridge assessed to the subsidy of 1332, (fn. 12) and c. 1680 there were '12 or 14' houses in Clayton and '10 or 12' in Seabridge; (fn. 13) in 1701 the population was 105 and 77 respectively. (fn. 14) Clayton Griffith by the late 17th century, and probably by the early 16th century, centred on the estate called Hill farm, (fn. 15) the house of which was still in existence in the early 1920's. (fn. 16) In 1834, however, the township was described as having 'a few scattered houses near the canal'. (fn. 17) The population of Clayton in 1821 was 152, of Seabridge 140, and of Clayton Griffith 34. (fn. 18) The population of the civil parish, comprising all three, was 269 in 1901, 312 in 1911, and 349 in 1921; in 1931, after the transfer of part of the parish to Newcastle (see above), the population was 264. (fn. 19)
The main road from Newcastle to Eccleshall passes through Clayton village as Clayton Road, with a side road, Northwood Lane, running from the village to Trentham. This stretch of the main road was constructed under the Turnpike Act of 1823, (fn. 20) and by 1832 there was a toll-gate where Clayton Road meets Friarswood Road and Brook Lane near the former Newcastle boundary. (fn. 21) Before 1823 the way to Newcastle was the present Clayton Lane which runs north-eastwards from the village down to the Newcastle-Stone road at Spring Fields. (fn. 22) The southern end of Clayton Lane was diverted to its present more northerly course evidently in connexion with the rebuilding of Clayton Hall in the 1840's. (fn. 23) The road from Newcastle to Market Drayton runs through the western part of the area as Whitmore Road. Its course was straightened to its present line in the 1830's or 1840's. (fn. 24) It originally ran farther east along what is now called Harrowby Drive, past Roe Lane Farm and through Seabridge hamlet to Butterton, in Trentham ancient parish. This Seabridge-Butterton stretch, mentioned in 1483 when Thomas Swynnerton of Butterton was fined for stopping it up, (fn. 25) can still be traced as a sunken way down the slope between Seabridge Hall and Seabridge Farm, as an embankment on the north side of the Park Brook, and as a further sunken way up the slope on the south side of the brook. The Newcastle-Market Drayton road was turnpiked under an Act of 1769, (fn. 26) and by 1820 there was a toll-gate at its junction with Seabridge Lane which ran then as now from Clayton Road north of Clayton village. (fn. 27) The foundations of the bridge carrying the old road over the Park Brook between Seabridge and Butterton are still (1960) visible a little to the west of the present footbridge below Seabridge Farm. (fn. 28) A parish rate was levied for the repair of the bridge at the end of the 17th century when it was known as Butterton Bridge. (fn. 29)
For parochial purposes the townships of Clayton and Seabridge lay within the parish of Stoke-uponTrent. (fn. 30) Clayton came within the jurisdiction of the Stoke Improvement Commissioners established in 1839 but did not form part of the borough of Stoke as incorporated in 1874. (fn. 31) In 1894 both Clayton and Seabridge were included in the new civil parish of Stoke Rural, but in 1896 they were combined with the detached portion of Trentham parish known as Clayton Griffith to form the civil parish of Clayton. (fn. 32) Between 1921 and 1932 the parish was gradually absorbed into the borough of Newcastle. (fn. 33) As part of Stoke parish Clayton and Seabridge were included in 1836 in the poor law union of Stoke-upon-Trent; (fn. 34) after 1896, however, the civil parish of Clayton was assigned to Newcastle Union. (fn. 35) Manorially Clayton and Seabridge were part of Newcastle manor from the 13th century and were represented at the court leet by three frankpledges by at least 1335. (fn. 36) They lay within the constablewick of Penkhull. (fn. 37)
The history of Clayton's Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Nonconformist churches and chapels and of its schools is treated under Newcastle. (fn. 38)
CLAYTON was held by Seagrim, a free man, before the Conquest and by Richard the Forester, with Nigel de Stafford as his tenant, in 1086; it was then assessed at ½ hide. (fn. 39) By the middle of the 13th century Clayton had been divided. Great Clayton, the southern portion, had been absorbed into the royal manor of Newcastle, of which it continued to form a part. (fn. 40) Clayton Griffith or Little Clayton, lying between Great Clayton and Newcastle, was held by the Griffin family of the lord of Knutton (in Wolstanton). (fn. 41) This second manor is historically a detached portion of the ancient parish of Trentham and is reserved for treatment there.
Part at least of Seabridge was included in the Keele estate by the end of the 17th century. (fn. 42)
The Dawson family had settled in the Clayton area by the early 15th century when Thomas Dawson held an estate there in succession to William Dawson. (fn. 43) A Robert Dawson succeeded his brother John in a messuage and lands in Stoke parish during the first half of Elizabeth I's reign. (fn. 44) The family held an estate in Clayton between at least 1599 and the death of John Dawson in or shortly before 1775 when the farm belonged to John Fenton. (fn. 45) They held another in Seabridge between at least 1599 and 1692 when William Sneyd of Keele granted to Thomas Dawson of Seabridge a 21-year renewal of the lease of Biddles Tenement where Thomas was then living. (fn. 46) It is possible that the Seabridge estate may be identifiable with Long Hay farm which in 1761 was a 61-acre property owned by Ralph Sneyd and in the tenure of Thomas Wiggin. (fn. 47)
In 1681 Lawrence Wellington and his wife Jane held 2 messuages in Clayton, with lands there and in Seabridge. (fn. 48) In 1704 Lawrence (by then of Coalbrookdale, Salop.), conveyed these farms, both held by tenants, to his son John, who by will of 1708 left them to his brother Lawrence. (fn. 49) In 1717 Lawrence sold one of them to Thomas Fenton of Penkhull in whose family it remained, still held by tenants, until at least 1785 when Thomas Fenton of Newcastle held it. (fn. 50) This farm is probably identifiable with Clayton farm held in 1811 by the Bougheys who had inherited lands from the Fentons through the marriage of Anne, sister and coheir of Thomas Fenton of Newcastle. (fn. 51) Clayton farm remained in the Boughey family until at least 1844. (fn. 52)
In 1223 the Earl of Chester gave 2 virgates of land in Seabridge to the Prior of Kenilworth in return for the prior's acknowledgement of the earl's right to the advowson of a moiety of Stoke church. (fn. 53) This land evidently passed to Stone Priory, a daughterhouse of Kenilworth, since in 1291 the Prior of Stone held a carucate of land in Seabridge. (fn. 54) This remained part of the priory's estates until the Dissolution, (fn. 55) and in 1552 the Crown granted the priory's messuage and lands in Seabridge to Lord Clinton and Say as part of a large grant of former church property. (fn. 56) The estate was then in the tenure of Ralph Machin, (fn. 57) who had evidently been living there by 1547, (fn. 58) and a branch of the Machin family continued to hold a house and lands at Seabridge (fn. 59) until at any rate the early 18th century when Samuel Machin (d. 1719–23) was living there. (fn. 60)
By 1763 the Swynnertons of Butterton (in Trentham) held an estate in Seabridge and Clayton. (fn. 61) By 1818 this estate evidently included Seabridge House, for Elizabeth Swynnerton, one of the three daughters and coheirs of Thomas Swynnerton of Butterton, was then living there. (fn. 62) It included most of Seabridge by 1834, although the house was then held by Henry Townend. (fn. 63) On Thomas's death in 1836 the property passed to Mary, another of his daughters and the wife of Sir William Pilkington of Chevet (Yorks.). (fn. 64) The estate then descended in the Pilkington family (Milborne-Swinnerton-Pilkington from 1854) until its sale in the 1950's, although the house was not occupied by them. (fn. 65)
What is now Roe Lane farm is probably identifiable with the Roefields estate of the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1653 John Machin and a Mr. Graston both paid parish rates on land of that name. (fn. 66) In 1739 Roefield House and lands attached were held of the lord of Newcastle manor by John Clewlow who in that year conveyed the estate to John Fenton. (fn. 67) Roe Lane farm formed part of the Pilkington family's property in Seabridge by the late 1840's when it was occupied by Edwin Booth. (fn. 68) By 1938 it had been bought by Newcastle Corporation with other agricultural land in the Clayton area for housing purposes, (fn. 69) but a tenant-farmer is still (1960) in occupation.
The Clayton family are said to have settled at Clayton before the end of the 14th century, (fn. 70) and they continued to hold an extensive estate there until the death of John Clayton in the mid-17th century. (fn. 71) His lands then passed to his two nieces and coheirs, daughters of Thomas Clayton, Elizabeth wife of Thomas Lea and Mary wife of John Wynser. (fn. 72) A Clayton Lea was living at Clayton in 1657 (fn. 73) and was taxable on five hearths there in 1666. (fn. 74) The Leas were one of the two notable families living there c. 1680 (fn. 75) and were still at Clayton in 1740. (fn. 76) Before the end of the 18th century, however, they had moved to Shropshire, and their house in Clayton, called Clayton Hall in 1817 when it was in a dilapidated state, was let as a farm. (fn. 77) On the death of the Revd. John Lea of Acton Burnell (Salop.) in 1812, the family lands were divided between his three nieces, daughters of his deceased younger brother Thomas Lea of Chester. (fn. 78) The site of the house may be that of the present Barn Farm on the western side of the main road, a building of 1878 which replaced one of 1688. (fn. 79)
The Lovatt family had settled in the Clayton area by the early 15th century, (fn. 80) and a Nicholas Lovatt seems to have held land there in 1501. (fn. 81) The family estate may have passed to the Trentham branch of the Lovatts which married into the Clayton family and had come to Clayton by 1567. (fn. 82) The Lovatts continued to hold extensive property in Clayton and c. 1680 were the only notable inhabitants apart from the Leas. (fn. 83) In 1785 Thomas Lovatt bought some of the estates which had passed in the mid-17th century to the Leas and Wynsers after the death of John Clayton (fn. 84) (see above). On the death of Thomas in 1803 his property in Clayton, including Clayton Hall, passed to his daughter Anne (d. 1824), the wife of Hugh Booth of Cliff Bank, Stoke, a potter (d. 1831). (fn. 85) Mary Booth, their only child, married John Ayshford Wise in 1837, and the Clayton estate remained in the Wise family until after 1916, although the hall was in the hands of James Heath by 1892 and of Frederick Johnson between at least 1900 and 1916. (fn. 86) By 1924 the hall and estate had been sold to a Mrs. Johnson, apparently the tenant, (fn. 87) and in 1940 they were the home and property of the Misses Johnson. (fn. 88) The hall was taken over during the Second World War as a training centre for the Fleet Air Arm, and since 1948 it has been occupied as a girls' grammar school which continues to use also several of the outbuildings erected for the Fleet Air Arm. (fn. 89)
The hall, described c. 1840 as 'a mansion venerable for its antiquity', was a low, gabled building standing east of Clayton Road near its former junction with Clayton Lane and dating probably from the late 16th or early 17th century. (fn. 90) It was rebuilt on a site farther east in the 1840's, and Clayton Lane was diverted to its present more northerly course to enable the grounds of the hall to be enlarged. (fn. 91) The hall is a large stucco house in the Classical style with Italianate features standing in well-planted grounds on the ridge above the Lyme Brook and commanding a fine view to the south-east.
The Clayton area is still largely rural except for the extensive suburban development of Newcastle in the northern part. In 1940 there were at least 11 farms in Clayton and Seabridge, all below 150 acres in extent. The chief crops were oats and wheat, and some land was under pasture. (fn. 92)
In 1086 Clayton, held by Richard the Forester and valued at 10s., contained land for 3 ploughs; ½ plough was in demesne, and the 4 villeins and 6 bordars had a plough and a half. (fn. 93) There was also woodland 1 league by ½ league in area. (fn. 94) By the end of the 12th century Seabridge, and presumably Clayton as well, lay within the 'new forest' (fn. 95) which was in existence by 1167 and evidently extended from the north-east of Newcastle southward down both sides of the Trent to Tixall and eastward to the river Blythe. (fn. 96) In the mid-13th century the men of Clayton held 4 virgates of land there of the manor of Newcastle at a rent of 15s. 4d. (fn. 97) Some 50 years later there were 9 customary tenants holding 16 bovates in Clayton at 12d. a bovate and also commuting labour services for 40d. a year; in addition there were 16 acres at 8d. an acre and 80 acres at 6d. an acre and 5 cottages yielding a total of 2s. 6d. in rents. In all, Clayton was rendering £3 13s. 6d. to the lord of Newcastle manor. (fn. 98) The men of Seabridge held 1 virgate of the manor in the mid-13th century at a rent of 4s. and assarts for which they rendered 12s. 4d. (fn. 99) At the end of the century there were 4 bovates in Seabridge held by 6 customary tenants at 12d. a bovate, labour services being commuted by a six-monthly payment of 5d.; in addition the men of Seabridge and Newcastle held 82 acres there at 6d. an acre and 33½ acres at 12d. an acre, and one cottage was yielding 2d. a year. With 20s. from the mill (see below) the total income from Seabridge was £4 16s. 0½d. (fn. 100) In the early 17th century all the land in Clayton and Seabridge held of Newcastle manor was evidently copyhold. (fn. 101)
The open fields in Seabridge included Over Field, Rowley Field, and Brook Field in the 17th century; (fn. 102) Over Field at least was still uninclosed in 1717. (fn. 103) Clayton also seems to have shared Stubbs Field with Newcastle and Penkhull. It was inclosed by an Act of 1816. (fn. 104) In the early 17th century the tenants of Clayton had pasture rights in a common called Northwood in Trentham manor. (fn. 105)
There was a water-mill at Seabridge, presumably on the Park Brook, by the mid-13th century when the men of Seabridge held it of the manor of Newcastle for 1 mark a year, a rent which had risen to 20s. before the end of the century. (fn. 106) The mill was being farmed for £1 6s. 8d. before 1387 when it was described as 'totally devastated'. (fn. 107) It appears, however, to have been in use again by 1428. (fn. 108) A sidestream and the remains of a sluice by the footbridge over the Park Brook below Seabridge Farm may indicate a mill site. (fn. 109)