Chapter 11 – Looking Back at Yorkshire Roots

Chapter 1 begins with a recitation from the headstone on the grave of Leonard Clark in the Kirklington churchyard. The chapters which follow tell the tale of those who came after him. This chapter looks backward to what is known of Leonard himself, and his siblings and ancestors. The subject matter of the paragraph is almost entirely derived from research done by Hilary Battcock1 during a visit which he made to Yorkshire in 1981. The results of this research were set out in a letter from Hilary to Nobby Clark, from which extensive quotations will appear in this chapter.

Leonard was the eleventh of the fourteen children born to John Clark, a cartwright of Skipton, Yorkshire, and his wife Jane. Leonard was born in Topcliffe, in 1784, and he died in Sutton Howgrave in 1849. Both towns are situated within a few miles from Kirklington. Leonard’s wife Sarah, nee’ Milburn, of Kirklington, was born in 1788. She died in 1883, and was buried in the churchyard of the Ripon Cathedral. John Frank Clark’s papers include a letter to him from his daughter Sylvia (Hilary Battcock’s mother), dated May 11, 1932, describing her visit to Yorkshire in that year. It reads, in part:

At Ripon we looked looked over the cathedral and found the grave of Sarah Clark, born Milburn. She is buried with her daughter: “In remembrance of Ellen the beloved wife of William Garbutt of Low Mills, Ripon, who died 22nd May 1872 aged 59 years. Her end was peace. Also four children who died in infancy: also of Sarah Clark, mother of the above Ellen Garbutt, born August 1788, died 13th January 1883”.

Many graves in the yard of Ripon Cathedral have fallen over, and are covered with grass. Hilary Battcock could not find this grave when he visited the cathedral in 1981, and the writer was similarly unsuccessful in 1990. However, there is a prominent headstone dedicated to William Garbutt, which reflects that it is also in memory of “Ellen wife of the above named, who died May 22nd 1872, aged 59.” This is behind and facing away from the cathedral, a few yards in from the boundary retaining wall which runs along the lane behind the cathedral.

Leonard and Sarah had nine childen, of whom seven survived their childhood. They are John (born 1808 – see Chapter 9); Robert; Ellen (born 1810); Jane (died young); Mary (died in infancy); James (born 1819); William (born 1822 – the focus of this booklet); Sarah (born 1823); and Ann (born 1826). According to the 1841 Census Records in London, Leonard and Sarah were in that year living in Sutton Howgrave with three of their children – James, William (who would have been nineteen years old at the time); and Sarah.2 By that time John, Leonard and Sarah’s oldest son, was married and living in nearby Carthorpe. (See Chapter 9). Robert and Ellen had obviously left home too: although no record has been found of Robert’s whereabouts, Ellen was apparently living in or near Ripon.

Hilary Battcock went on his own journey of exploration into the “Clark country” of Northern Yorkshire in 1981. He described his activities and his discoveries as follows:

“I firstly tackled the Kirklington Parish records, as it seemed to me to be possible that Leonard had married Sarah in that church. I had seen the gravestone of their son John in York near New Hanover, Natal, showing that he died aged 88 in 1896 – and therefore presumably born in about 1808. I therefore looked for Leonard and Sarah’s marriage (I hoped!) some time before 1808. My searches were successful, and I found an entry 28th November 1807 “Leonard Clark, bachelor of the Parish of Topcliffe, and Sarah Milburn of the Parish of Kirklington, married by the Curate, Richard Hawksworth.” I looked for a record of the baptism of their son John in 1808 without success, but found baptism entries in respect of their daughter Ellen, 1810, and Jane, 1812, and some others.

Before moving on to the Topcliffe Registers, however, I found a considerable number of further baptisms in Kirklington, various burials, including the burial on the 25th April 1849 of Leonard Clark of Sutton Howgrave, aged 64 (not 66 as on the gravestone), and also the banns of marriage on the 13th, 20th and 27th January 1833 of John Clark of this Parish and Margaret Cooper of Thornton Steward (who are buried side by side in the grave at York, New Hanover, and who are my great great grandfather and great great grandmother).

I then moved on to Topcliffe, to see whether by chance there was a record of the baptism of Leonard Clark, who, if he was 64 or 66 when he died in 1849, must have been born in about 1784. Sure enough, there was an entry on the 1st May 1784 relating to Leonard Clark, fifth son of John Clark. I think it was in fact spelt Clarke, but in those days, the spelling was pretty optional.

What is more, it gave his date of birth as 29th April 1784 and to cap it all, the Vicar at that time seemed to be a very careful person indeed, who kept very clear, full and legible records. The baptism entry gives full details of Leonard’s father in one column and of his mother in the other. In the father’s column the father’s name is given as “John Clark of Skipton, cartwright (i.e. carpenter) son of William Clark of Skipton, cartwright, Elizabeth his wife, daughter of John Gamesby of Skipton, labourer”. In the mother’s column it gives the name “Jane, daughter of John Barker of Kirby-Wiske, bricklayer”. So at one jump I had gone back from Leonard to his father John, and his grandfather William, both cartwrights of Skipton-on- Swale, near Topcliffe.

I then went through the baptism entries in the Topcliffe Registers, which showed that John and Jane Clark had the following children:

James March 20, 1771
Joseph April 10, 1772
William January 25, 1773
Betty January 10, 1774
Jane June 11, 1775
John July 10, 1777
Sarah November 30, 1778
George December 19/24, 1779
Esther April 16, 1781
Dorothy September 10, 1782
Leonard May 1, 1784 (sic)
George (again) January 6, 1787
William August 13, 1789
David February 25, 1791

The burials at Topcliffe included:

Elizabeth, wife of William Clark of Skipton
(Leonard’s grandmother?)
March 9, 1760
George, fourth son of John, aged 5
(Leonard’s brother)
December 29, 1784
William Clark of Skipton, cartwright, aged 71, of “apoplexy, suddenly” (Leonard’s grandfather?) January 5, 1784
John Clark of Skipton, aged 78 (Leonard’s father?) January 4, 1823
Jane Clark of Skipton, aged 81 (Leonard’s mother?) November 30, 1831

I also found the banns of marriage, on the 29th November 1770, of John Clark of Topcliffe and Jane Barker. At Kirby- Wiske I also found, on the 24th July, 1750, the baptism of Jane, daughter of John Barker of Kirby (Leonard’s mother?).

I similarly searched the registers of Carthorpe, in the Parish of Burneston. Carthorpe3 is a little village about three miles north of Kirklington. Once again, there were a considerable number of Clark entries. In fact, there are so many Clarks in Carthorpe that I find it difficult to fit the family together. There is, however, a record of the baptism on 25th June 1834 of William, son of John and Margaret Clark of Carthorpe, joiner”.

If the William Clark who was buried at Topcliffe in 1784 is indeed Leonard’s grandfather, the 1713 birthdate ranks him as the most distant Clark relative yet identified. To put 1713 in its proper historical perspective, recall that Queen Anne – the last of the Stuarts – was still on the throne of England, and that also in that year the Peace of Utrecht brought an end to the War of Spanish Succession, in which most of the major powers in Europe had been involved. Moreover, since Topcliffe, Howgrave and Kirklington are all within a radius of no more than ten miles, it is obvious that a fairly confined geographical area in Northern Yorkshire had been the Clark homeland for almost two centuries by the time that William and his family left for Natal in 1862.

Of Leonard and Sarah Clark’s nine children, four emigrated – to South Africa and the United States respectively – and the rest remained in England. John moved to York, Natal; Robert married an Ellen Lister, but nothing more is known of his family; Ellen married William Garbutt, and apparently lived in Ripon, where she is buried;4 Jane died at an early age; Mary died in infancy; James married Anne Blythe, remained in Howgrave, and had seven children; William, our direct ancestor, settled in Durban; Sarah married John Walls and moved to the United States; and Ann married George Pattison and also moved to the United States. The last known contact with members of James Clark’s family occurred in the thirties, through correspondence initiated by John Frank Clark III, and his daughter Sylvia Battcock’s 1932 visit to Yorkshire. (See Chapter 10) John Frank Clark’s correspondence and papers, now in the hands of his daughter Clarice Catterall of Durban, contain some most interesting notes of discussions with older members of the family who knew that John and William had both emigrated to Natal more than seventy years previously. (See Chapter 10.)

The Clark’s dispersal around the globe from a very concentrated geographical area, while perhaps typical of families in England in the economic conditions which prevailed at the time, might make an interesting case study for a social historian or sociologist. Plotting on a map the Yorkshire towns referred to in this chapter, and elsewhere in this book, illustrates the close regional ties which the family kept until the fragmentation which started with John Clark’s departure for Natal in 1850. In limited respects that close geographic base was, in the case of William’s family, transferred to Durban – where most of his family lived until the end of World War 2. That fact undoubtedly simplified the task which Nobby and the writer set ourselves in re-gathering the clan, and compiling the information in this booklet. Perhaps the post-war dispersion is simply a feature of the more mobile society which modern communications and transportation has spawned. Nevertheless, Durban remains the actual home for a large number of William’s descendants – and, with Yorkshire, no doubt the spiritual home as well.

1 Hilary is the son of Sylvia Battcock, the daughter of John Frank Clark and great grand-daughter of John Clark of York, Natal. Hilary was a solicitor in Bournemouth, England, and at the time of his visit to Yorkshire was attending a Law Society Conference in Harrogate, in his capacity as the president of the Bournemouth and District Incorporated Law Society.
2 Hilary Battcock letter dated 30th October, 1981.
3 John Clark of York, Natal, was born in Carthorpe. See Chapter 9. His Yorkshire roots are etched in the soil of Natal by the name "Carthorpe ", which he gave to his farm in the New Hanover district which name the farm still bears today.
4 Mary, the daughter of John Clark of York, Natal, and grand- daughter of Leonard, married a Robert Garbutt - possibly the son of Ellen and William Garbutt of Ripon. See Chapter 9.