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Historyeye | Harry Clarke's Yorkshire ancestors

Irish stained glass artist Harry Clarke (1889-1931) had Yorkshire ancestry. His father, Joshua Clarke was born in Leeds in 1859 to Godfrey Clark and Frances Naylor. Records show that the Clarks (who usually went without the “e” in Yorkshire) were associated with the important market town of Wakefield from at least the 18th century, especially the Alverthorpe region. Wakefield was an important trading centre for large volumes of grain and wool at the time.

Joshua Clarke was the eldest of two children. His younger sister Margaret Emily never married and may have been delicate. She died in Leeds in 1902.

Joshua’s father Godfrey Clark grew up at his parent’s grocery shop at 18 Barstow Street, Wakefield. He started life as a tailor before migrating to the key cloth-finishing centre of Leeds to become a pattern dyer. He had two siblings, John Henry and Margaret. John H. Clark trained as a letterhead printer, started his own printing business, married Sarah Jane Glew in Manchester in 1858, and died at his home on Reginald View, Chapeltown, Leeds in 1903.

Joshua Clarke was still a very young child when his father Godfrey (sometimes referred to as Godford) died aged 33 in 1863. Joshua’s mother Frances or Fanny Naylor made ends meet after his death by becoming a woolen weaver. In the 1871 census she was living in North Hall Street, Leeds. In 1867 she gave birth to a child. The child, Elizabeth, went on to marry Robert Scarfe Wilkinson at Burley in 1886 and lived in the Leeds area all her life.

In 1874 Frances Clarke, now over ten years a widow, remarried a woolen dyer called Samuel Walker at Burley, Leeds, in 1874.

The Naylor family had long-standing roots in Leeds and its surrounding areas, especially the village of Chapel Allerton. (Now a fashionable suburb of Leeds).

Harry’s great-grandfather was Joshua Naylor, a draper and provision merchant in Chapel Allerton, who was married to Sarah Atkinson. The Naylors had a very large family of at least 11 children and Frances was the couple’s fourth daughter.

Naylor/Neilor/Nailor, an occupational surname, is quite common in the north of England. It is virtually unknown in Ireland, although there was a family of Naylors based in the Bray area of Wicklow from at least the 19th century. Naylor’s Cove, Bray Head, is named after one of these Naylors.

Joshua Clark came to Ireland circa 1877 and married Sligo woman Brigid (Mc)Gonigal in 1881. By the mid 1880s he had established his own ecclesiastical decoration business on the north side of Dublin city. Harry was born there at North Frederick Street in 1889.

Disappointingly Historyeye could not find any stained glass works attributed to Harry Clarke in Yorkshire.


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