Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

Woodborough Baptist Chapel - Internment by Philip E Jones

In Nottinghamshire there are two known examples of burials inside chapels, one in a Baptist chapel and the other in a Methodist chapel, although I suspect there may be more which I have not discovered. Surprisingly both these men had the same name, William Clay, but do not appear to have been related to each other.

William Clay (1781-1849) was the first deacon of Woodborough Baptist Chapel. Before the chapel was built, regular prayer meeting were held at the home of William Clay and his wife Mary, and later in a barn belonging to Benjamin Greaves, which stood in front of the Nag’s Head public house.

In 1831 a small plot of land on Shelt Hill [known at the time as Dark Lane], part of an orchard belonging to Charles Donnelly, was purchased and a chapel built at a cost of £250. The cost was partly met by members of George Street Baptist Chapel in Nottingham, together with eight men from Woodborough, including William Clay.

William Clay was born at Woodborough and baptised at the parish church of St Swithun on 15th May 1781. He was one of four children born to Samuel Clay and Elizabeth Hopkinson, who had married at Woodborough in 1778. Like his father, William was a tailor by trade. He was forty years old when he married his first wife, Mary Hucknall, by licence at St Swithun’s on 8th April 1822 (the licence bond records his age as only 30!). Mary died in November 1836 and eight months later, on 29th July 1837, he married Mary, daughter of Benjamin and Mary Greaves, at Woodborough by licence.

When William Clay died in 1849 he was buried in the Baptist Chapel at Woodborough. The reasons for this are not clear. In his will, drawn up less than a month after marrying Mary Greaves, he left his ‘copyhold dwelling house and garden adjoining….situate in Woodborough’ to Mary, together with his household furniture, ready money, plate, linen and china, amounting in value to less than £200. His sister Elizabeth benefited by a legacy of £5. There is no mention as to the burial of his body.

A memorandum, signed by Reverend Samuel Ward, the then pastor of the chapel, and now in the Nottinghamshire Archives, reads:

‘We the undersigned members of the Baptist Church, Woodbro and Calverton having been called to sustain the loss of our highly esteemed friend and Brother William Clay who departed this life Nov’r. Third 1849—do hereby agree and sign our hands that as a token of the affection in which he was held His remains should be interred in the chapel to which he was so much devoted—But that it is also unanimously agreed that this shall be considered a solitary case and no future repetition of the same kind for various reasons be allowed hereafter—William Clay was chosen a Deacon at the formation of the Church which office he filled to the close of life with great fidelity—S. Ward, Pastor.’

A plaque was later placed on the chapel wall, which reads:

‘In memory of the late

William Clay

Whose remains are interred
In this place

He died November 3rd 1849
Aged 68 years

Having faithfully discharged the office
Of Deacon in the Church
From its foundation

His end was Peace.’

It is possible however that the other William Clay of Fishpool knew of the burial of William Clay in Woodborough Baptist Chapel in 1849. William Clay of Woodborough had married Mary Greaves at Woodborough in July 1837. Mary’s father was Benjamin Greaves, a butcher, whose origins can be traced back to Lowdham in the 1770’s.

The above is part of an article by Philip E Jones entitled ‘Interred in the chapel’ published in the Nottinghamshire Historian (Autumn/winter 2010)


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