The Alston and Clayton Families

(Because there are so many people with the same Christian name, each has been given a number to distinguish between them.)

The two key people as far as Chalfont St Giles is concerned are Mary Alston (1663-1730) who married James Clayton of the Vache, and Margaret Mary Alston (1701-1784) her great niece who married the Francis(1) Hare who became Bishop of Chichester and who owned the Vache after the Claytons.

Francis(1) Hare already had a son named Francis(2) by his first wife and subsequently had a second son, Robert, by Margaret Mary Alston. The first son made an unusual match by marrying Margaret Mary's sister Charlotte who thus became her sister's daughter-in-law!

Published accounts (including the Victoria County History for Bucks) state that Mary Clayton left the Vache to her niece and this is how it came into the possession of the Hare family. However investigation has shown the truth is far more complex.

The Alston family originated in Suffolk and the branch with which we are concerned was eventually based at Edwardstone. Successive generations were good business men and made good marriages to prosperous wives. Unfortunately there was a tendency for there to be few sons and a succession of early deaths. This led to a number of inheritances by daughters.

There is quite a strong link to Bucks in that Joseph(1) Alston the first baronet "of Chelsea" who, together with his son, also Joseph(2), bought Bradwell Abbey in 1666. Which today is within Milton Keynes. This estate was added to his extensive property in the City of London, houses in Chelsea and property in Norfolk as well as Suffolk. Bradwell became the family seat, both Joseph(2) Alston the second Baronet and his son Joseph(3) the third Baronet became High Sheriffs of Bucks in 1670 and 1702 respectively.

Joseph(1) Alston the first baronet (1603-1688) had four surviving children at the time of his death, Joseph(2) the eldest who became the second Baronet, Isaac, Edward and Mary (who had married James Clayton of the Vache in Chalfont St Giles). In his very complicated Will the first Baronet split up his property. Most of the Chelsea property and part of the City property went to Joseph(2), the rest of the Chelsea property and some of the City properties and all Suffolk property went to Isaac. Edward received the remainder of the City properties. Bradwell Abbey was not mentioned in the Will as it was already settled on the eldest son Joseph(2). Mary and James Clayton only received £20 each because as it says in the Will, "I had lately gave my daughter a portion of £4,250 on her marriage".

Both sons Joseph(2) and Isaac died within a year of their father dying in 1688 so their inheritance descended to their children. In the case of Joseph(2) it descended to his son another Joseph(3) who became the third Baronet; and in the case of Isaac who died intestate it descended to his son, yet another Joseph(4). It is this latter Joseph(4) (1671-1736) who is of most interest to the Chalfont St Giles story. He had married in 1699 Laurentia Trumbull who brought significant property to the marriage, both through the original marriage settlement and through being the sole heir of her father who died in 1718. They had nine children of whom only three lived to become adults, a son another Joseph(5) (1706 to 1733 ) who never married and died in 1733 before his father, and three daughters, Margaret Mary who married Francis(1) Hare, Ann who married a Stephen Soame, and Charlotte who married Francis Hare Naylor the son of the of Francis(1) Hare. On Joseph's(4) death in 1736 he was survived by his mother and the three daughters.

However in 1730, six years before his death in 1736, Joseph(4) inherited the Vache from his aunt Mary Clayton who had had no children. In her complex Will she left it to him for his life and then entailed it on his male heirs so it could not be sold. She also left a number of other restrictive legacies including the right for her long time servant and presumed companion, Elizabeth Kettleby, to live in two rooms at the Vache for her life and to receive regular loads of wood for her fire. Unfortunately Mary Clayton and the Vache were encumbered with considerable debt. The reason for this is not known but James Clayton had had to sell well over half the estate long before his death and had also taken out a mortgage on the remainder. Whether he was not good at running the estate, was a gambler or indulged in high living we do not know. In summary Joseph(4) inherited an estate he could not sell and with debts whose interest payments were greater than any income he could get by renting out the estate.

The only option for Joseph (4) was to seek an Act of Parliament to allow him to circumvent the legal restrictions.

This he did and an Act was passed in 1731 which allowed him to sell the estate to pay off the debts but with any surplus money having to be re-invested in new land which had the same restrictions as Mary Clayton had specified in her Will so that further inheritance had to descend only in the male line. Joseph(4) had also made an arrangement with Mary Clayton's servant Elizabeth Kettleby to give her an annuity in exchange for moving out of the Vache so that restriction of having a sitting tenant was also removed. But Joseph(4) did not sell the Vache immediately. Maybe he could not find a buyer. Then, as already said, in 1733 his only son dies leaving him with three daughters and his mother as his heirs.

His eldest daughter Margaret Mary had married Francis(1) Hare in 1728 and they had been living since 1730 at Herstmonceux Castle which they did not like. Francis(1) Hare obviously did like the Vache, for in 1734 he bought it from Joseph(4) Alston leaving Herstmonceux to be taken over by his eldest son Francis(2) who had just come of age.

It was only two years later in 1736 that Joseph(4) Alston died and left the rest of his property to his daughter Margaret Mary for life and then to her son Robert. Joseph's(4) two daughters, Ann and Charlotte were left sums of money.

In about 1743 Charlotte married her sister Margaret Mary's stepson Francis(2) Hare Naylor and the relations within the Hare family became very strained. (See the Hare family page for why Francis(2) adopted the surname Naylor and the intrigues in the family.)

Margaret Mary survived until 1784 although her husband had died in 1740. Both are buried in the church of Chalfont St Giles.

From this time onwards there do not seem to be any Alston connections to Chalfont St Giles except as part of the Hare family. See the separate page about the history of that family.


National Probate Wills

Victoria County history of Buckinghamshire.

"Stemmata Alstoniana" - Lionel Cresswell 1898

REFERENCES. Unless otherwise specified, all references given above refer to catalogue references at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies at Aylesbury. (County Record Office)

This print is a section of the Chalfont History website.

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John Dodd ©2012