Clayton, Mrs Mary Ann

Collection date: Jan 1909

Area: Gloucestershire


Mrs Mary Ann Clayton at Chipping Campden, Glos (1844-?): age 64, 7 songs 13 Jan 1909: Two of her songs had alternative titles – FT 2064 ‘Earl Richard’ (or ‘Knight and Shepherd’s daughter’) and FT2066 ‘Soldier’s Boy’ (or ‘Orphan Boy’).

Mary Ann Clayton is famous for her tune of ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ (FT2068), which has become the standard tune that we sing today. Sharp published her tune and three verses in his English Folk-Carols book (Novello 1911 song 7) - see Sharp’s field notebook CJS1/9/1/1909/1 p21. Sharp added in some words from Mrs Wyatt of East Harptree Somerset (FW1101 Aug 1906). He also referred to broadside ballad sheets that carried the lyrics in early 19th century. Prior to Mrs Clayton’s tune a rather dreary French tune accompanied the text in carol books in the second half of the 19th century (e.g. Bramley & Stainer Christmas Carols New and Old 1871). See discussion in Keyte and Parrott New Oxford Book of Carols OUP 1992 pp436-7. See also www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com. Sharp later collected 2 other versions in Cornwall (Mrs Hezeltine & Mrs Oliver) and 2 in Shropshire (Mrs Price & Mr Taylor). Other versions existed in Yorkshire etc.

In census returns Mary Ann stated that she was born in Aldington, which is a village just east of Evesham (parish of Badsey) in Worcestershire. A birth registration for a Mary Ann Watkins was recorded July qr 1844 (ref 18.343). In the 1851 census (HO107/2044 f54 p23) a Mary Ann Watkins aged 6 is recorded in the Little Hampton Union workhouse just outside Evesham, third child of Ann Watkins (unmarried) aged 35. Her siblings were Elizabeth 11, George 8 and Jesse 1, and Mary Ann is listed as born in Badsey. If we go back to the 1841 census at Badsey, we find mother Ann Watkins, aged 26, single with daughter Elizabeth 1, living with her parents Thomas & Elizabeth Watkins. When Elizabeth (grandmother) died in 1848, Thomas Watkins went to live with his son Charles and is shown as a pauper in the 1851 Badsey census. Ann had no choice but to go into the workhouse.

It’s not clear what happened to Ann but daughter Mary Ann was still in the workhouse in 1861, aged 16 ‘general servant’ with care of her younger brother Jesse, aged 11 (ref RG9/2100 f46 p20). There were 109 inmates in this census. In 1871 Mary Ann was still in the workhouse, aged 25, general servant (ref RG10/3058 f44 p2). Because of her very uncertain start in life, Mary Ann may perhaps have enjoyed carols for the Christmas cheer they brought to the workhouse.

Mary Ann Watkins married Thomas Clayton on 14/6/1875 at Chipping Campden church. She was a spinster, aged 30, while he was a widower ‘of full age’ (actually 53). Their only child Elizabeth was baptised at Chipping Campden on 10/11/1881, confirming their names as parents. Mary Ann Clayton was shown as a widow living in Sheep Street, Chipping Campden in both 1891 and 1901 censuses. When her daughter Elizabeth got married in 1909 to Charles Keyte, a carter, Mary Ann moved with them to Dumbleton (12 miles east). Her date of death is to be discovered.

No image available