The Hay family
Methodist farmer-landowners from Lincolnshire



0th generation

1st generation

2nd generation

Children of Thomas Hay and Eliz. Sharpley

Children of Thomas Hay and Ann Mawer


Other sources

  1. Notes on local research by Lindy Selley and Harriet Bridle, 2012, much of which found its way into:
  1. 'Lincolnshire Nonconformists, vol. 1', incl. Dissenters' Certificates 1740-1852, Nonconformist Marriages 1647-1845, Lincolnshire Family History Society, 2006
  2. Unofficial Wesleyan Methodist Register for Saltfleet (ref. PAR/23/1), from the Lincolnshire Archives

Family trees

Smith family tree
Family trees of the Smith, Watton, Carr and Hay families


Other information

Marriage certificate of James Carr and Martha Hay
Marriage certificate of James Carr and Martha Hay, [St Peter's] parish church, Holton-le-Clay, 7th August 1838
Holton Wesleyan Chapel
Wesleyan Chapel in Holton-le-Clay, built 1827, demolished 1965

Photo (1964): Lincolnshire Family Historical Society

Holton Primitive Methodist Chapel
Primitive Methodist Chapel in Holton-le-Clay, built 1836, demolished 1970

Photo (1964): Lincolnshire Family Historical Society

Saltfleet Wesleyan Chapel
Saltfleet Wesleyan Chapel, built 1813

Photo: Google Street View

Unofficial Wesleyan Methodist Register 1838
Unofficial Wesleyan Methodist Register for Saltfleet, recording the marriage of James B. Carr and Martha Hay, 7th August 1838

This was a record of births, marriages and deaths of Methodists in the parish of Skidbrooke and neighbouring parishes, kept by Miss Kirby of Saltfleet between 1801 and 1856.8,9,iii

'Gypsy Blood'

No history of this side of the family would be complete without a reference to this legend, namely that a male ancestor had a 'dalliance' with a gypsy girl who was passing through the district, and that she bore him a child which he brought up in his own family. (See the introductory page on the Johnstone / Smith families for note on use of the word 'gypsy'.) Despite intensive research by many cousins, this story has not been 'nailed', but it centres around the Carr and Hay families, some of whom supposedly have dark hair and features. The 'Carr version', written down by Jan Carr, a granddaughter of Granny Mick, is given on the Carr family page. There the male ancestor is Robert Carr, and his half-gypsy child is David (1731-1794). In the 'Hay version' the male ancestor is none other than Thomas Hay, and the infant left on his doorstep is his daughter Martha.

A possible sequence of events might go like this:

This is essentially conjecture, construed as a plausible alternative to the more concrete tale handed down by Jan Carr, in whose version the child is a boy. Mie Trentham for example (Harriet's mother) was convinced the 'Hay version' was the true tale. A few points are worth noting:

Probably neither version has much basis in fact, but both have provided considerable family amusement over the generations!

Holton Lodge


Holton Lodge, Holton-le-Clay, Lincolnshire, in 2021

The family of my maternal great-great-great-grandmother Martha Hay, on the extreme right of the family tree, were of a different nature from the others of the 'Johnstone/Smith' branch of my ancestors. They were farmers and landowners on the flat coastal lands of Lincolnshire, far from the industrial centres of Birmingham or Leeds, and were linked by marriage - and Methodism - to the Carrs, who in turn married into the Smith family. My dear cousins Harriet Bridle and Lindy Selley (both great-granddaughters of Granny Mick, from the Johnstone and Smith/Carr sides respectively) 'discovered' these fascinating ancestors some years ago, visiting the area and talking to residents and local history societies, and I am extremely grateful for the use of their notes, contacts and photographs (see also photo on the Johnstone family home page). I also visited Holton Lodge in 2021, and am grateful to John for showing me around.1 My other main source of information is the excellent website on the history of the Sadler and Dewar families.2

Scottish origins

One can trace the Hay ancestors with reasonable accuracy back to Abrami and Beatricia Hay (as they are called in the baptism register for their son Jonathan in 1716), who lived in Epworth, north-west Lincolnshire, in the first half of the 18th century. (The locations of many of the places mentioned here are given on the map of Lincolnshire.) Abrami's father was Godfrey Hay who died in 1694.2 But the origin of the Hays in Lincolnshire is less certain.

One tradition has it that Hays came down from Scotland (where the hub of the clan is in Aberdeen and Erroll in Perthshire) as supporters of Charles I in the English Civil War. After the Royalists were defeated by Oliver Cromwell at Worcester in 1651, many Scots were taken prisoner and put to work draining the marshes in the Lincolnshire fenland. Some settled there after the Restoration in 1660, perhaps including the forbears of Abrami and Beatricia. In this version then, the Hay family lived in Epworth from the late 17th century, moving to eastern Lincolnshire in about 1780.i

An alternative tradition comes from the Shaw family, who inherited Holton Lodge from Richard Hardy Hay in the 1990s (see below). This version has it that three Hay brothers and one Shaw came down from Scotland with Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, as part of the second Stuart uprising. (The Hay clan were Protestant but strongly Jacobite.) Charles Stuart (the 'Young Pretender') got as far as Derby before turning back when it became clear he had little support from the English and none from the French. The Hay/Shaw group however stayed in England, moving to Lincolnshire sometime after.i Intriguing through this possibility is, it lacks the solid documentary basis (birth/marriage/death records) of the first version - for example, none of the three Hay brothers is named.

The Hays of Epworth

Abrami and Beatricia Hay lived in Epworth in the late 17th / early 18th century, and were probably farmers, as were their descendants. Their son Jonathan, born 1716, married Mary Maw, and they had a son ('Jonathan II'), and three daughters about whom little is known.2 Jonathan II also married a Mary, and they had 13 children, of which nine reached adulthood. The first four of these were born in Epworth, then in about 1780 Jonathan and family moved to Great Carlton in north-east Lincolnshire, where the other five were born.

John Wesley
John Wesley (1703-1791)

Portrait 1789 by George Romney (National Gallery) (PD)

Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Portrait by John Russell (PD)

The Wesleys

At about this time another family was living in Epworth, whom the Hays almost certainly knew: John and Charles Wesley, sons of controversial Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley, were born there in 1703 and 1707. These two brothers, a few years older than Jonathan Hay (I), went on to found the religious movement which became known as Methodism or Wesleyanism. This non-conformist movement was essentially a reforming, evangelical movement, aimed at Christians who felt disconnected from the Church of England. Methodism became a separate denomination in 1791, and Methodist ministers were allowed to perform some sacraments, including holy communion, from 1795. Religious services were conducted, amongst other places, out of doors, but increasingly in 'chapels', built in a distinctively simple, plain style.

An offshoot of Methodism was the Primitive Methodist movement, started in about 1810, an attempt to return to the plain style of worship and buildings which had characterised the early movement. The 'mainstream' of the movement was then known as Wesleyan Methodism.

In order to hold religious services in a building, Methodists (like other 'dissenting' non-conformist movements) had to obtain permission from the Bishop, by means of a Dissenters' Certificate. The signatories of these certificates were often landowners or financial backers for the place of worship concerned. The lists of Dissenters' Certificates for Lincolnshire is thus a useful indicator as to the leading Methodists in the county:ii the surname Hay features prominently on the list (12 times), and in the view of one local historian, Hays were part of the Methodist movement "since the early days of Wesley himself".i In particular, a certain Jonathan Hay (probably II) signed a certificate in 1796 for a chapel in Great Carlton - "preaching house, lately erected, my property", and Thomas Hay signed certificates in 1791 for a place of worship in Tothill, and in 1811 for one in Holton-le-Clay.ii See below.

Thomas Hay
Thomas Hay in 1834

Portrait belonging to the Shaw family

Thomas Hay

This gentleman, my gt-gt-gt-gt-grandfather, is the central figure among our Hay ancestors. Born in Epworth in 1774 - his parents and paternal grandparents were both called Jonathan and Mary - he would perhaps have known some of the Wesley family (John and Charles were just two of ten children). When he was about six his family moved across the county to Great Carlton in north-east Lincolnshire, where some of his younger siblings were born. Thomas (like most of his family?) had been brought up a Methodist, and at age about 18 was co-signatory (probably with his father) to a Dissenters' Certificate for a place of worship in Tothill, near to where the family lived in Great Carlton.

Thomas married Elizabeth Sharpley of Kelstern in 1798. (The large and diverse Sharpley family also supplied husbands for three of Thomas and Elizabeth's daughters.) At first they lived in Riseholme north of Lincoln, where their first child William was born; by 1802 they had moved back north-east, to Waithe, where the rest of their nine children were born (four of whom sadly died as young children).

In 1810, Thomas and family moved into Holton Lodge, a fine, substantial 18th-century farmhouse, between the villages of Holton-le-Clay and Waithe, thus starting the 'Hays of Holton' dynasty which lasted until the late 20th century (five generations). The following year Thomas licensed this house for religious services.3

In February 1814 Elizabeth died at the young age of 36. Thomas remarried the following year, to Ann Riggall, the widow of George Mawer (also a family of Dissenters). Thomas and Ann had four daughters, all born at Holton Lodge: the first of these, Martha, was my great-great-great-grandmother.

Thomas lived to age 69 (Ann outlived him by 15 years): by that time a wealthy landowner, he divided up his estate between his only surviving son, William (who got the farm and its land), and his six surviving daughters and one son-in-law, who each received £1,100, a tidy sum at that time.i


Many Methodist chapels were built in Lincolnshire in the first part of the 19th century. Holton had a Wesleyan and a Primitive Methodist chapel, built in 1827 and 1836 respectively. These chapels, sadly no longer in existence, were on Louth Road, the 1836 building slightly north of the other.4 Thomas Hay partly funded the Wesleyan building, which was extended in 1836 to accommodate 106 persons.3 The Primitive building of 1836 seated 60.5 See photos (left) of these modest-looking buildings.

The nearby parish of Skidbrooke with Saltfleet Haven, on the coast south of Holton, had four Methodist chapels, three in Saltfleet and one on Saddleback Lane in Skidbrooke.6 The Wesleyan chapel in Saltfleet, still in use (see photo left), was built in 1813 (the others were more recent).6 A Dissenters' Certificate from 1818, signed by one Thomas Mawer (probably related by marriage to Thomas Hay's second wife Ann) states that he is a "trustee of the lately erected chapel".ii


Martha Hay, the first child of Thomas and Ann, was born in Holton Lodge in 1816 (Thomas and his first wife also had a daughter named Martha, who died as a child.) When Martha was about 21, James Byron Carr, a Methodist minister from Yorkshire, swung into her orbit when he took a posting in nearby Louth, and they married a year later, in August 1838.

Holton parish church
St Peter's parish church, Holton-le-Clay

Photo from about 1900, Lincolnshire Family Historical Society

On their trip to Lincolnshire in 2012, Lindy and Harriet researched the whole question of where James and Martha married, talking to local history societies and visiting most of the places of worship mentioned. Surprisingly, given the deep Methodist roots of both James and Martha, and given that there were two Wesleyan Methodist chapels nearby, the wedding was held in the Anglican parish church of St Peter in Holton-le-Clay (see marriage certificate, left). The reason would seem to be that, although dissenting churches were authorised to hold weddings from 1st July 1837, the Wesleyan Methodist Conference didn't take up this opportunity until 1845, and even then, very few churches applied for licences - 20 years later, only about 15% of them had registered.7 Presumably in 1838 none of the above-mentioned chapels had yet obtained a licence. There is an entry in the Unofficial Wesleyan Methodist Register for Saltfleet recording the marriage (see left), but this presumably just refers to the Anglican ceremony in St Peter's, not to a Methodist ceremony.8,9,iii

Martha then accompanied James on his long pilgrimage around Britain - a further ten postings, and 15 children. These frequent moves, and many pregnancies, probably took their toll, and Martha died in 1864 aged 48, in James's birthplace near Leeds. See the page on the Carr family for details.

William Hay
William Hay in about 1870

Portrait belonging to the Shaw family

William Hay and his descendants

Back at Holton Lodge, Thomas's only son (by either wife) to reach adulthood, William, inherited the farm on his father's death in 1843. He had married Mary Ann Adams 22 years previously and they had six children. As befitted an important local landowner, William helped to restore the parish church in 1850,4 but was himself a Methodist.

For some reason it was Richard, the youngest of William's three sons, who inherited Holton Lodge on his father's death in 1882. In 1883 Richard, "a Methodist of the fourth generation", donated the 1827 Wesleyan chapel, which his family had helped fund, to the Methodist Connexion (effectively the ruling body of the church).3 His second son, also Richard, inherited the family farm in 1927, and finally the latter's son, Richard Hardy Hay, inherited the Lodge in 1960.

Richard Hardy Hay
Richard Hardy Hay in 1990

Photo courtesy of the Shaw family

This youngest of the line did not marry, and lived alone in the house into his late seventies. During his last years, Mrs. Hilary Shaw of East Lodge Farm, next-door to Holton Lodge, persuaded him to let her help by tidying and cleaning the house and perhaps looking after her elderly neighbour. (This is the same Shaw family who, according to their tradition, came to Lincolnshire with the Hays after the Bonnie Prince Charlie debacle in 1745.) Mrs. Shaw's kindness was rewarded by a generous legacy on Richard Hardy Hay's death in 1995, in the form of Holton Lodge itself! Thus the house and lands passed out of the Hay family after 185 years.i The Shaw family later sold it to the Stevenson family, and it is now run as a set of holiday cottages.1

William Hay, his son Richard and all of Richard's descendants are buried in St Peter's churchyard. Jonathan Hay (III) and his wife and son are also commemorated next to the door of the church.