Quorn WW1 Roll of Honour - William Henry Clay
Died 27th April 1915, aged 20
Before the war
William Henry Clay’s father, who was also called William, was a hunt servant. This meant that he was part of the hunt staff and his job would have involved varied duties, including looking after the horses, the dogs and riding with the hunt to assist the huntsman. His occupation took him around the country as he worked for different hunts, and in the 1890s he was employed by Quorn Hunt and lived in the village. It was whilst here that he met Ellen Makepeace who lived with her parents on Freehold Street and worked at Wright’s factory. The couple were married in June 1896, in St Bartholomew’s Church, when William (senior) was 26 and Ellen was 23. It seems that young William Henry was on the way by then, as he was baptised five months later on 11th October 1896.
The 1901 census finds the Clays living at ‘The Kennels’ in Albrighton, Shropshire, where William (senior) was working for the Albrighton Hunt. By 1911 the family had moved again and are recorded living in hunt property in Wellow, near Newark in Nottinghamshire.
Surrounded by horses all his life, it is probably not surprising that William Henry Clay joined the Life Guards (the Household Cavalry). He enlisted at Windsor, but it was only a matter of months later when he was killed in action in Belgium. By this time his parents were living at The Kennels in Binstead, near Ryde on the Isle of Wight, but his maternal grandparents, Henry and Emily Makepeace, were still living in Quorn on Station Road.
William was killed near Ypres on 27th April 1915. Shortly afterwards an item appeared in the Quorn Parish Magazine:
“William Clay who had previously lived in Quorn and is remembered by many, was killed by the shelling of his hut on April 24th.”
From this wording, it seems likely that although William’s parents hadn’t lived in Quorn for many years, William had probably spent a lot of time here with his grandparents.
William’s death was even more tragic for his parents, as he was their only child. Later, in the early 1920s, William senior and Ellen moved back to the local area.
William’s maternal grandmother, Emily Makepeace, died 3 months after William in July 1915 and his death is recorded on her gravestone in Quorn St Bartholomew’s Churchyard near Nursery Lane. From the inscription you could almost believe he was buried there, but he was actually buried in Klein-Vierstraat Cemetery, Heuvelland, Belgium. The stone in Quorn Churchyard reads:
“In loving memory of Henry Makepeace
Who died Feb 23rd 1937 aged 87 years At rest
Also of Emily, beloved wife of Henry Makepeace
Who died July 26th 1915 aged 63 years At rest
Also of Cprl W H Clay 1st Life Guards
Killed in action at Vlamertinghe April 27th 1915 Aged 19 years
Grandson of the above and only son of W and E Clay
Gone but not forgotten R.I.P.”
Sadly William’s father (William senior), died of throat cancer in 1925, aged 55. Prior to his death, he and Ellen had moved in with Ellen’s father, Henry Makepeace, at 7 Station Road (now demolished), a few doors away from the White Horse pub. William senior was buried just a few feet away from his mother-in-law and his son’s memorial. William’s mother Ellen died in 1934 aged 62 and is buried with her husband. Henry Makepeace (William’s grandfather), lived until the great age of 87, and in 1937 when he died, he was buried with his beloved Emily. Below is a photograph of the Makepeace grave (now laying flat), together with a close-up of the tribute to their grandson, William Clay.