Frederick Lord Clay
Solicitor, early settler
Frederick Lord Clay arrived in Port Phillip in 1840 and was one of the first solicitors admitted to practice in Melbourne. From the 1850s he owned a house in Victoria Street Abbotsford, and the family attended St Philip’s Church in Abbotsford.
In setting up business in Melbourne, Clay was briefly in partnership with Horatio Nelson Carrington. The firm of Carrington and Clay was dissolved in 1842. He was employed as assessor for Lonsdale Ward in 1843 for Melbourne Council, and acted as solicitor for well-known identities such as Mrs Eliza Batman (after John Batman’s death). He participated in the laying of the foundation stone of the first Prince’s Bridge in 1846.
While forging connections with Melbourne’s professional elite, helped by his membership of the Masonic brotherhood, Clay did not neglect the artistic and literary areas of life. He formed one of the first string quartets in Melbourne, and was involved with the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institute, now the Melbourne Athenaeum. Here he gave lectures on music. He supported George Coppin in musical endeavours, and was involved with the Melbourne Philharmonic Society.
By 1849 he had established himself in Portland, where his youngest daughter was born, but resumed practice in Melbourne in 1851, in Chancery Lane. In the early 1850s the Clays probably lived in Studley Park, near John Hodgson. Clay’s house, on an acre of land, was advertised to let in 1855. Clay’s house in Abbotsford (just over the river from Studley Park) was a wooden building with a garden running down to the river. His neighbours included George Lynch, an accountant in the sheriff’s office, and later Deputy Sheriff, Peter Nettleton and his wool works, wine merchant Edouard Adet, and brewer Thomas Graham.
In finding marriage partners, Clay’s daughters had the benefit of a social milieu of their father’s legal confreres and Melbourne Council colleagues. He knew John Hodgson both as a neighbour in Studley Park and through his membership of the committee of the Collingwood Bridge Company. His eldest daughter Anne married John Hodgson’s son in 1858. The following year his second daughter Julia Carrington married surveyor James Ramsay Shaw; in 1865 his third daughter Caroline married barrister John Bowman at St Philip’s Anglican church in Abbotsford. Geraldine, his fourth daughter married Sidney Smith, a solicitor, son of Dr Haden Smith of Home Lodge in St Helier’s Street, Abbotsford (later home to Max Kreitmayer). The youngest daughter Frances married Sidney’s brother Robert Haden Smith, also a solicitor, in 1867. Robert had already made a name for himself as the compiler of the colony’s first Law List, a welcomed tome which he continued as an annual.
In the 1860s Clay again spent some time in Portland, while the rest of the family apparently remained in Abbotsford. Geraldine and Sidney Smith also lived in the Victoria Street house with Mrs Clay. Robert and Frances moved into a large brick house on the corner of Walmer Street, a couple of doors from the Clay family home, and previously home to wine merchant and French consul, Edouard Adet.
The senior Clays had moved from the area by the time of Mr Clay’s death in 1885; the house was sold and the family’s Abbotsford connections seem to have completely ended at that time. After his death, and from time to time in the following 25 years, articles appeared in the press extolling Clay’s contributions to Melbourne’s early society, although some of the claims seem to be exaggerated, for example that he was a founder of the Mechanics Institute (it existed before his arrival). But despite an element of hyperbole, he obviously made quite a mark on both the legal profession and the cultural environment of Melbourne.
|Birth Date||Birth Place|
|30 March 1813||Durham, England|
|Spouse Name||Date of Marriage||Children|
|Isabella Caroline Spence||1832, Gretna Green and Durham||Richard 1833, Frederick 1835, Anne Penelope Pemberton 1837, Harry 1839-1843, Julia 1841, Julia Carrington 1842, Caroline 1843-1872, Ralph 1845, Geraldine 1847, Frances 1849 (Portland), Percy 1852, Robert 1853 (Boroondara).|
|Home Street||Home City||Status of Building|
|659 Victoria Street||Abbotsford||Demolished|
|St Philip's Anglican, Abbotsford||Freemason|
|Death Date||Death Place||Cemetery|
|3 January 1885||Toorak||MGC|
The Age; The Argus; The Sydney Herald; Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser; Weekly Times; Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers; Sydney Sportsman.