Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

The Clay family lived in a small area of Old Portsmouth throughout the period from 1843 until at least the 1920s. They did not however originate from Portsmouth as the 1841 census records Henry's great-grandfather Charles, a 73 year old agricultural labourer, living with his wife Elizabeth and three children at Hambledon, a few miles north of Portsmouth.
The eldest of those three children was James Clay, born 1817, and it was he who moved the succeeding generations of the Clay family to Portsmouth when he married the 21 year old Lucy Thomas there in 1843. Prior to their marriage Lucy had been living with her mother, also called Lucy, at St. Nicholas's Street, Old Portsmouth and it was round the corner in Hogg's Yard that the couple set up home.
James and Lucy remained at Hogg's Yard for over thirty years during which time they raised a family of five children, Caroline (b.1850), James William (b. 1854), Mary (b. 1856), Noah (b. 1860) and Henry (b. 1862). Throughout this time James was working as a bricklayer but that ended when he died in 1876 having outlived his wife Lucy by three years.
It was James William who took over the home in Hogg's Yard and raised his own family there. For the first few years his brother Henry remained in the household, which may have made working together as bricklayers labourers a little easier, but in 1892 Henry married Ellen Elizabeth Titheradge and together they moved to 11 Barrack Street, just round the corner from St. Nicholas's Street. Ellen was born in 1870, the daughter of James and Mary Titheradge, and lived at Claremont Road, near Fratton Station, prior to the marriage.
Henry and Ellen had six children at Barrack Street, James (b. 1893), Henry (b. 1895), Joseph (b. 1896), Frederick (b. 1898), Bertha (b. 1903) and Herbert (b. 1905). By 1911 the elder Henry had changed jobs to become a Brewer's labourer, working at one of the two major brewers on the doorstep, whilst Henry jnr. probably joined him there as a bottle washer.
At the outbreak of the Great War Henry Clay was 19 years old and volunteered immediately, being posted to the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was undergoing gunnery training when he contracted a serious illness from which he died in June 1915 at Queen Alexandra's Hospital. He was buried at Kingston Cemetery.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) list Gunner H Clay, (814), Royal Garrison Artillery, died 13/06/1915. Buried at the Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth (Grave Ref: Baldwin's.13.22.). Son of Henry and Ellen Clay, of 11, Barrack St., Portsmouth.
Henry Clay is commemorated on the Anglican Cathedral WW1 Memorial Cross, the RGA Memorial in the Garrison Church and the Cenotaph. He is listed in "The National Roll of the Great War", Section X, p46.
11 Barrack Street (now Peacock Lane) is one of the oldest surviving private houses in Portsmouth. The National Roll gives the address of the family as 9 Barrack Street but Kelly's Directory for 1921 shows that they were still at No. 11.
Tim Backhouse
October 2014