Clayton, John (1709-1773) (DNB00)

CLAYTON, JOHN (1709–1773), divine, son of William Clayton, bookseller, of Manchester, was born 9 Oct. 1709. He was educated at the Manchester grammar school, and gained the school exhibition to Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1825. In 1829 the Hulmean scholarship was awarded to him, and a little later he became a college tutor. He proceeded B.A. on 16 April 1729, and M.A. on 8 June 1732. One of his early friends was John Byrom [q. v.], his fellow-townsman, and at Oxford he knew John and Charles Wesley, James Hervey, Benjamin Ingham, and a few other pious young collegians, who formed the little society of 'Oxford Methodists,' the germ of the great Wesleyan methodist body. Fasting, almsgiving, and the visitation of the sick were among the main ] objects of the friends, and the influence of Clayton's devotional spirit and earnest churchmanship was soon felt in the little community. He left Oxford in 1732, and was ordained deacon at Chester on 29 Dec. of that year. His first cure was that of Sacred Trinity Chapel in Salford. His house became the resort of Wesley and others of the Oxford society whenever they came to Manchester, and Wesley on several occasions preached from his pulpit. George Whitefield also delivered one of his stirring addresses in Clayton's chapel. When Wesley was contemplating his mission to Georgia, he visited Manchester to take the opinions of Clayton and Byrom, and was, it is thought, influenced by their advice in carrying out that important project. Clayton acted as chaplain to Darcy Lever, LL.D., high sheriff of Lancashire in 1736, and published the assize sermon which he preached at Lancaster in that year. On 6 March 1739-40 he was elected one of the chaplains of the Manchester Collegiate Church, and twenty years later (28 June 1760) was appointed a fellow of the same. His high-church practices and strongly pronounced Jacobite views proved very obnoxious to the whig party of the neighbourhood. He was attacked in a pamphlet by Thomas Percival of Royton, and subsequently by the Rev. Josiah Owen, presbyterian minister of Rochdale, and John Collier [q. v.], otherwise 'Tim Bobbin.' When the Young Pretender visited Manchester in 1745, Clayton publicly advocated his claims, and offered up prayer in the collegiate church for the deposed royal family. It is related that when the young chevalier was passing along the streets of Salford, he was met by Clayton, who fell upon his knees and invoked a divine blessing upon the prince. For his temerity the Jacobite chaplain had afterwards to suffer. He was obliged to conceal himself, and was suspended from his office for violating his ordination vow, and for acting as one disaffected towards the protestant succession. He was reinstated when a general amnesty towards the misguided adherents of the prince was proclaimed, and he recovered his allegiance to the church and gained the respect of his townsmen as a sincere and conscientious man.

For many years he conducted an academy at Salford, and so attached himself to his pupils, that after his death they formed themselves into a society called the Cyprianites, and at their first meeting decided to erect a monument to their master's memory, 'as a grateful token of their affectionate regard.' This monument is still remaining in the Manchester Cathedral. For their use he published in 1754 'Anacreontis et Sapphonis Carmina, cum virorum doctorum notis et emendationibus.' An excellent library of six thousand volumes, collected by himself, was attached to this school. It was dispersed in 1773. In Chetham's Hospital and Library at Manchester he naturally took considerable interest, and in 1764 was elected a feoffee of that foundation. In 1755 he published a little volume entitled 'Friendly Advice to the Poor; written and published at the request of the late and present Officers of the Town of Manchester,' in which he presented an interesting account of the manners and state of society of the poorer inhabitants of the town, and suggested various wise sanitary and provident remedies for the evils which he exposed. It was replied to in the following year in a jocular and sarcastic manner in 'A Sequel to the Friendly Advice to the Poor of Manchester. By Joseph Stot, Cobbler.' The real author was Robert Whitworth, printer and bookseller.

Clayton died on 25 Sept. 1773, aged 64, and was interred in the Derby chapel of the Manchester Collegiate Church (now cathedral). His wife was Mary, daughter of William Dawson of Manchester. She appears to have died young.

[Hibbert Ware's Foundations in Manchester, ii. 94, 100, 159, 336; Everett's Methodism in Manchester, 1827; Wesley's Works. 1831, vide index; Byrom's Remains (Chetham Soc.), i. 236, 515, 534, ii. 63, 218, 301, 394; Tyerman's Oxford Methodists. 1873, pp. 24-56; Rawlinson MSS. fol. 16, 311, 384; Raines's Lancashire MSS. vol. xl., in Chetham Library; Evans's Memorials of St. John's, Manchester (still in manuscript). Portraits of Clayton and his wife and sister are in the possession of Colonel Mawson of Manchester; and a picture of Clayton in his school was formerly at Kersall Cell, Manchester, the property of the late Miss Atherton.]

C. W. S.