|Barker of Clare Priory|
Joseph Barker outlived his patron by only five years, and bequeathed Clare Priory to his two married sisters, Martha Shrive (d. 1764) and Lydia Sayer (d. 1766) and their husbands. Martha's son, William Shrive (d. 1803), another solicitor, inherited her moiety of the estate and bought the other moiety from Lydia's husband, Joseph Sayer (1715-86), who was one of the serjeants-at-law, thus reuniting the estate. He, however, had no children, and when he died he left Clare Priory to his cousin, Lt-Col. John Barker (c.1752-1804), the son of Rear-Adm. John Barker, who lived nearby at Poslingford (Suffk) before coming into his inheritance. Col. Barker put in hand some restoration of the house which was not in fact completed before his death the following year, and it was his widow Caroline and her two young children who occupied the house in the early 19th century, Caroline having been left the estate for life. Extracts from Caroline Barker's diary were published in a history of the house written between the wars and published in 1962, and reveal a life straight from the pages of Jane Austen: a simple, untroubled, if empty, round of small social occasions and occasional larger parties.
The heir to the estate was John Barker (1800-37), who in 1829 married a neighbour's daughter, Georgiana Weston, and brought her to live in Clare Priory, where separate suites of rooms were set aside for the couple and for John's mother. The couple had four sons and one daughter before John died unexpectedly in 1837. Three years later, Georgiana married a clergyman, the Rev. Stephen Jenner, and took her children by her first marriage to his homes in London and Kent, where she had four further children. When Caroline Barker died in 1848, Clare Priory passed to her grandson, John Barker (1832-96), who was still under age, and his trustees let the house to his aunt Caroline (1802-73) and her husband, Col. George Baker (1794-1859). John never, in fact, came to live at Clare at all. He continued to let the property until his death in 1896, both to private tenants and as a school. It is not, in fact, clear where he lived: perhaps in London, which is where was living when he died, though he held a commission in the West Essex militia for sixteen years, and so may have had connections with that area. He was unmarried and without issue.
In 1896 the Clare estate passed to John's brother, General Sir George Digby Barker (1833-1914), who had just been appointed Governor of Bermuda after a long army career and five years in Hong Kong. Understandably, he continued to let the house until his term in Bermuda ended and he retired in 1902. He then decided to settle at Clare Priory, but needed to modernise and restore the house before moving in. He chose the young Detmar Blow (1867-1939) as his architect, who gave the house a thorough Arts & Crafts makeover, removing a great deal of accreted partitioning, unblocking windows, restoring historic surfaces and taking measures to make the house less damp. Unfortunately, Sir George's only son had died in 1897, so when he in turn died in 1914 the house and estate passed to his elder daughter, Helena (1863-1945), the wife of Sir Francis May (1860-1922), the Governor of Hong Kong. After Sir Francis died, she came to live at Clare Priory, and throughout the 1920s and 1930s was a dominant presence in the town. By 1926 her four daughters were all married to professional men and had homes of their own. During the Second World War Lady May moved into a smaller house in the town and she decided that in post-war conditions neither she nor her daughters was likely to want to live in the Priory again. She therefore asked her daughters to try and ensure that the property was returned to the Roman Catholic Augustinian order, from whose predecessors it had been expropriated in the 16th century. This took a little time to arrange, as it could not be an outright gift, but a sale was finally agreed in 1953. The house became a seminary and later a retreat house, and the surviving medieval infirmary building was converted into a Catholic parish church.
Clare Priory, Suffolk
The Order of Friars of St. Augustine was constituted in the middle of the 13th century to bring under one rule various congregations of hermits in northern Italy who were mostly living in accordance with the Rule of St. Augustine of Hippo. The order obtained full equality with the other great orders of Friars in 1241, and the first house of the order in England was established at Clare in about 1248 by Richard de Clare, 5th Earl of Hertford and 2nd Earl of Gloucester. The original priory buildings were rebuilt in the early 14th century, with the new church being consecrated in 1338. After the dissolution of the priory in 1538, almost all of the church and many of the claustral buildings were demolished, but the former prior's lodging on the west side of the cloister was converted into a house for the new secular owners, and the infirmary building was retained and used as a barn and later as a school. In 1953-54 the infirmary was adapted as the RC parish church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, but in 2011-13 it became the narthex to a starkly Modernist new church of concrete, timber and glass built on the south side of this to the designs of Inkpen Downie of Colchester.
|Clare Priory: the house represents the medieval prior's lodging as remodelled c.1600 and in 1902-08. Image: Historic England|
|Clare Priory: the rear of the prior's lodging where the recessed gables give it a more traditionally manorial appearance. Image: Country Life.|
|Clare Priory: the former billiard room added in 1908. Image: Historic England|
Descent: Crown granted 1539 to Richard Frende (d. 1553); to son, Richard Frende (d. 1576); to widow, Elizabeth (d. 1578), later wife of William Bysshop; to son, John Frende; sold 1589 to John Killingworth, who sold 1596 to Sir John Barnardiston (d. 1619), kt., of Kedington; to son, Giles Barnardiston (d. 1679); to son, Giles Barnardiston (d. 1680); to widow, Frances Barnardiston, who sold 1685 to Edward Johnson (d. 1714); to son, Barnardiston Johnson, who sold 1715 to Samuel Barnardiston, who sold 1715 to John Poulter; sold 1718 to Francis Boteler; sold back in 1720 to John Poulter (d. 1745); to Joseph Barker (d. 1750); to sisters, Martha, wife of William Shrive and Lydia, wife of Joseph Sayer; to William Shrive (d. 1803) (who inherited one moiety and bought the other); to cousin, Lt-Col. John Barker (1750-1804); to widow, Caroline Barker (1768-1848); to grandson, John Barker (1832-96), who let it to his aunt and uncle and later to strangers; to brother, Gen. Sir George Digby Barker (1833-1914), kt.; to daughter, Helena Augusta Victoria (1863-1945), wife of Sir Francis Henry May (1860-1922), kt.; to daughters who at her request sold it to the Augustinian order in 1953.
Barker family of Clare Priory
Barker, William (c.1668-1721). Fourth son of John Barker (b. c.1630) and his wife Mary, daughter of Edmund Plume of Hawkedon Manor. He was probably the man of this name who was a grocer at Clare (Suffolk). He married, August 1694 at Brockley (Suffk), Mary, daughter of Thomas Harrington of Sudbury (Suffk), and had issue:
(1) Edmund Barker (1695-1713), baptised at Clare, 20 June 1695; died unmarried and was buried at Clare, 1 December 1713;
(2) William Barker (b. 1697), born 14 April 1697;
(3) John Barker (b. 1698), born 16 January 1698; died young;
(4) Joseph Barker (1700-50) (q.v.);
(8) Rear-Admiral John Barker (1706?-76) (q.v.);
He died 21 June 1721 and was buried at Clare. His widow was living in 1736.
Barker, Joseph (1700-50). Fourth son of William Barker (c.1668-1721) of Clare and his wife Mary Harrington, born 11 April 1700. Clerk to John Poulter of Clare, solicitor. He died unmarried and had no legitimate issue.
He had an illegitimate child by Ann Brooks of Clare in 1734:
(X1) A child (b. 1734), possibly to be identified with the Sarah Martin of Clare who was left an annuity of £20 a year in his will.
He inherited Clare Priory from John Poulter in 1745. In 1750 he bequeathed the estate to his sisters, Martha and Lydia, and their descendants. It was reunited by Martha's son, William Shrive (d. 1803), who bequeathed it to his cousin, Lt-Col. John Barker (q.v.).
He was buried at Clare, 13 April 1750; his will was proved in the PCC, 15 October 1750.
Barker, Rear-Admiral John (1706?-76). Son of William Barker (c.1668-1721) of Clare and his wife Mary Harrington, said to have been born 8 August 1706. An officer in the Royal Navy from 1725 (Lt., 1735; Cmdr., 1744; Capt., 1745; Rear-Adm. of the White, 1770; Rear-Adm. of the Red, 1775); he fought at the Battle of Lagos Bay and was third in command at the capture of Havana in 1762. He married, c.1740, Ann (1710-88), daughter of [forename unknown] Russell and widow of [forename unknown] Charlton, and had issue:
(1) twin, Elizabeth Barker (b. & d. 1743), baptised at Portchester, 23 October 1743 but died in infancy and was buried at Portchester, 3 December 1743;
(2) twin, Ann Barker (b. 1743), baptised at Portchester, 23 October 1743; married Major Edward Owen (c.1741-87), an officer in the Royal Marines, and had issue one surviving daughter; living in 1788; her death has not been traced;
(3) Lydia Barker (1748-1813), born 12 April and baptised at Portchester, 15 April 1748; married, 12 February 1767 at Holy Trinity, Gosport (Hants), Lt. William Hills RN (1739-77), son of Andrew Hills, and had issue one son; received a naval pension of £25 a year after her husband died when HMS Sprightly was shipwrecked off Guernsey, 23 December 1777; died 29 March and was buried at Clare, 5 April 1813; her will was proved 17 December 1813;
(4) Mary Barker (1749-1809), baptised at Portchester, 15 August 1749; died unmarried, 19 November and was buried at Clare, 25 November 1809;
(5) Frances Harriet Barker (1751-1811), baptised at Portchester, 1 March 1750/1; married, 6 April 1778 at St Thomas, Winchester (Hants), Col. John Robert Jenkinson (1740-1805), MP for Corfe Castle 1768-80, second son of Col. Charles Jenkinson, and had issue four sons (the eldest of whom inherited the Jenkinson family baronetcy in 1851) and one daughter; died 28 August and was buried in Winchester Cathedral, 6 September 1811; will proved 17 October 1811.
(6) Lt-Col. John Barker (c.1752?-1804) (q.v.);
He lived at Portchester (Hants) and later at Guildford (Surrey). He owned an estate 'in and about Lawrence Town in Nova Scotia' which he bequeathed to his son.
He died at Bath (Somerset), 23 January 1776; his will was proved in the PCC, 22 February 1776. His widow died in Winchester (Hants), 21 December and was buried at St Thomas, Winchester, 27 December 1788; her will was proved in the PCC, 17 January 1789.
Barker, Lt-Col. John (c.1752?-1804). Only son of Rear-Adm. John Barker (1708-76) and his wife Mrs Ann Charlton, said to have been born 1750 but probably born after 1751 and only baptised at Clare, 24 September 1758. An officer in the army (Ensign, 1767; Lt., 1771; Capt., 1776; Maj., 1795; Lt-Col., 1795; retired 1795) who served in the American War of Independence; his diary of the years 1774-76 was published in America in 1877 and 1924 and in the UK in the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 1928. He married, 10 April 1799 at St George, Hanover Square, London, Caroline (1768-1848), daughter of John Conyers of Copped Hall (Essex) and grand-daughter of Thomas Fermor, 1st Earl of Pomfret, and had issue:
(1) John Barker (1800-37) (q.v.);
(2) Caroline Julia Barker (1802-73), baptised at Arreton (Isle of Wight), 25 July 1802; she and her husband rented Clare Priory after the death of her mother; married, 27 February 1824 at Clare, Col. George Baker (1794-1859) of 16th Lancers, seventh son of William Baker of Bayfordbury (Herts) and had issue three sons and four daughters; died 20 October 1873; will proved 14 November 1873 (estate under £4000).
He lived at Wentford Farm, Poslingford until 1803 when he inherited Clare Priory from his cousin. He left his property to his wife for life, with remainders to his children.
He was buried at Clare, 4 December 1804; his will was proved in the PCC, 6 December 1804. His widow died 8 January and was buried at Clare, 17 January 1848; her will was proved in the PCC, 10 February 1848.
Barker, John (1800-37). Only son of Lt-Col. John Barker (1750-1804) and his wife Caroline, daughter of John Conyers of Copped Hall (Essex), born at Chatham (Kent), 24 May 1800. Educated at Charterhouse and Christ's College, Cambridge (matriculated 1819; BA 1823). He married, 5 February 1829 at Poslingford (Suffk), Georgiana (1807-73), daughter and co-heir of Col. Thomas Weston of Shadowbush Farm, Poslingford, and had issue:
(1) Mary Georgiana Barker (1831-80), baptised at Clare, 19 February 1831; married, 5 September 1854, Rev. Henry Jarvis (1821-1902), vicar of Poslingford, son of John Jarvis, gent., but had no issue; died 30 April 1880 and was buried at Poslingford, 7 May 1880; will proved 7 July 1880 (estate under £3,000);
(2) John Barker (1832-96) (q.v.);
(3) Gen. Sir George Digby Barker (1833-1914), kt. (q.v.);
(4) Thomas Weston Barker (1835-71), baptised at Clare, 11 September 1835; an officer in the merchant navy (second mate, 1859); lived latterly at Gualeguaychu, Entre Rios (Argentina); died unmarried at the mouth of the Rio Negro (Argentina), 13 April 1871; administration of his goods granted to his eldest brother, 1 August 1871 (effects under £1,500);
(5) Maj. Walter Julius Barker (1837-1912), born 13 October and baptised at Clare, 29 November 1837; an officer in the Royal Marines Light Infantry (2nd Lt., 1855; Lt., 1859; Quartermaster, 1866; Second Captain, 1867; Capt., 1873; retired as Maj., 1879); later worked as Conservative Party agent in Sudbury (Suffk) until his retirement in 1893, and was a freemason from 1889; married, 1872 Anne Mary Downing (1846-1914), and had issue one daughter; died at Sutton (Surrey), 4 or 5 February 1912; will proved 12 April 1912 (estate £548).
He lived at Clare Priory with his mother, the house being divided into two units.
He died 20 August and was buried at Clare, 29 August 1837. His widow married 2nd, 1840, Rev. Stephen Jenner (1808-80), clergyman and theological writer, and had further issue two sons and two daughters, and died 3 November 1873.
Barker, John (1832-96). Eldest son of John Barker (1800-37) and his wife Georgiana, daughter and co-heir of Col. Thomas Weston of Shadowbush, Poslingford, born 19 May and baptised at Clare, 3 July 1832. Educated at Clapham Grammar School and Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1852; BA 1856; MA 1866). An officer in the West Essex Militia (Lt., 1860; Capt., 1863; retired 1876). He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited Clare Priory from his father in 1837 and came of age in 1853. He never occupied the house, which was let to his aunt and her husband, from 1867-81 as a school, and later to strangers. He lived latterly in London.
He died in London, 10 April 1896, and was buried at Clare; administration of his goods was granted to his brother, 30 May 1896 (effects £3,992).
|Sir George Digby Barker GCB|
(1.1) Helena Augusta Victoria Barker (1863-1945) (q.v.);
(1.2) Mary Caroline Barker (1864-1958), born 5 July 1864; appointed Dame of Justice of the Order of St. John; married, 30 October 1899 in Bermuda, Maj-Gen. James Cecil Dalton (1848-1931) of The Hutts, Grewelthorpe (Yorks NR) and had issue two sons and two daughters; died aged 93 on 8 January 1958 and was buried at Grewelthorpe; will proved 21 May 1958 (estate £28,102);
(1.3) Digby Hildyard Barker (1865-99), born 8 October and baptised at Yorktown (Surrey), 14 December 1865; educated at Wellington College; an officer in the army (Lt., 1885; Capt., 1893; retired 1897); ADC to his father, 1890-92; commanded a detachment which fired fatal shots in suppressing a riot at Lord Masham's Colliery in Yorkshire, 1893; declared bankrupt, 1894; married, c.1897, Idalia Jessie [surname unknown] (d. 1902) but died without issue, 26 October 1899; administration of his goods was granted 11 May 1900 (estate £533).
He inherited Clare Priory from his elder brother in 1896 and continued to let it until he retired in 1902 after which he restored and occupied the house.
He died 15 April 1914; his will was proved 9 June 1914 (estate £35,095). His first wife died 14 May 1900 and was buried in Bermuda; her will was proved 25 September 1900 (estate £884). His widow married 2nd, 24 October 1916, Maj. Ernald Barnardiston DSO, fifth son of Nathaniel Barnardiston of The Ryes (Suffolk), and had issue one further daughter; she died 25 March 1955; her will was proved 6 July 1955 (estate £33,941).
|Lady May (1863-1945)|
(1) Stella Mary Augusta May (1892-1966), born in Hong Kong, 15 October 1892; lived at The Change House, Great Yeldham (Essex); married, 27 March 1916, Maj-Gen. Philip de Fonblanque DSO (1886-1940), elder son of Lester Ramsay de Fonblanque, Vicomte de Fonblanque, of Guildford House, Farnham (Surrey), and had issue one son and two daughters; died 22 September 1966; will proved 3 February 1967 (estate £16,154);
(2) Phoebe Frances Eiric May (1895-1975), born 26 October 1895; married 28 November 1925 at St Andrew, Bethnal Green (Middx), Rev. George Elwes Allen Whitworth (1888-1969), vicar of St Andrew, Bethnal Green and later of Great St Mary, Cambridge, son of Preb. William Allen Whitworth, vicar of All Saints, Margaret St., London, and had issue two sons and two daughters; died in Cambridge, 4 January 1975; will proved 22 July 1975 (estate £27,308);
(3) Iris Olivia Helena May (1898-1989), born 17 October 1898; lived in America with her children during the Second World War; married, 9 September 1924 at Clare, Prof. Edward Hamilton Johnston DLitt (1885-1942), Boden Professor of Sanskrit and Keeper of the Indian Institute, Oxford University, son of Reginald Eden Johnston of Terlings, Harlow (Essex), and had issue three sons and three daughters; they also adopted the children of his brother, who predeceased him; died 10 April 1989; will proved 27 October 1989 (estate £223,498);
(4) Dione Jean Elizabeth May (1900-63), born 26 November 1900; married, 24 October 1919 at St Philip & St James, Oxford, Francis John Kinchin Smith (1895-1958), classicist, of London University, son of Rev. John Kinchin Smith, and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 22 November 1963; will proved 20 February 1964 (estate £9,900).
She inherited Clare Priory from her father in 1914. By her wish and with the agreement of her daughters it was sold to the Augustinian Order in 1953.
She died 3 October 1945 and her ashes were interred with her husband's on top of the castle mound at Clare; her will was proved 7 January 1947 (estate £20,121). Her husband died 6 February 1922 and his ashes were buried on top of the castle mound at Clare; his will was proved 4 May and 21 June 1922 (estate £59,676).
Burke's Landed Gentry, 1952, pp. 1745-46; G. Webb, 'Clare Priory, Suffolk', Country Life, 7 August 1926, pp. 206-14; K.W. Barnardiston, Clare Priory: seven centuries of a Suffolk house, 1962.
Location of archives
No significant accumulation is known to survive, although it is possible that some papers survive in the possession of the family. A late 14th century cartulary of Clare Priory will be found in the British Library (Harleian MS 4835).
Coat of arms
Argent, a maunch sable between three bears' heads erased of the last, muzzled or; on a chief gules, two swords saltirewise, points upwards proper, pommels and hilts or.
Can you help?
- If anyone knows more about why John Poulter made Joseph Barker his heir to Clare Priory I should be pleased to know the explanation.
- Can anyone tell me more about the life of John Barker (1832-96), whose career seems to be an almost complete blank? I also wonder if there is more to the story of Sir George Barker's son, Digby Hildyard Barker (1865-99) who was made bankrupt in 1894 and died young.
- I should be most grateful if anyone can provide photographs or portraits of people whose names appear in bold above, and who are not already illustrated.
- As always, any additions or corrections to the account given above will be gratefully received and incorporated.