rev john





William Gayer of Okehampton, Devon

John Gayer, Week St. Mary;

Samuell Gayer of Stratton;

Benjamin Gayer of Stratton


Rev John Gayer

Philip Gayer

Edward Gayer

John Gayer of Dublin and children

Rev. John Gayer was my ancestor. His birth date is not known but is estimated to be 1668, based on information from his Oxford University Record. This much information is known from John’s university record: John matriculated (i.e. was admitted) to St. Mary's Hall, Oxford in 1688 at the age of 20  

"Aula B. Mar. "Term". S. Hilar. 1688. Vice-Cancell. D DTM Ironside. Mart. 30. "Johis Gayre, 20. Benj. G. Whiteston. Cornub. Paup." 

The definition of "Matriculation" as described in Alumni Cantabrigienses is "the formal admission of a student into a university as distinguished from his admission to a college" As 20 years of age is unusually late for a student to be admitted to university as an undergraduate so I have made the assumption that John could have already spent three years in a college prior to arriving at Oxford.  No record of  a  previous college has been found to confirm this supposition.

Entry from the Alumni Oxonienses:

Gayer, Johns. Benj., of Whiteston, Cornwall, paup. St. Mary Hall, matric. 30 March, 1688, aged 20; vicar of Deriaghy, co. Antrim; died about 1745.

St. Mary Hall, Oxford University was part of Oriel College in the 1600s.

The university record states that John was admitted as a "pauper". Pauper had a different meaning when applied to admissions to a university than it does now. "Paupers" were often sons of clergy who were not wealthy.  Students who were classified as "paupers" were required to provide menial services such as serving in Hall, in return for their education. Having said that I have no evidence that his father was a clergyman or that he was poor.


In order to try and establish the heritage of John Gayer of Whitstone I plotted on a map, all the Gayer families I could find from the records (Including all possible variations in the spelling, e.g. Gayre, Gayer, Gaire, Geere, etc.). I used the records from the Family History Centre (  and the Cornwall OPC database which was particularly helpful (  Several discrete family groups of Gayers were found, i.e.:

  • North Coast at: Stratton, Whitstone, Week St. Mary, Lesnewth, Forrabury, Minster, Lanteglos by Camelford, and St. Minver.
  • Around Land’s End, there is another group of communities including: Phillack, Paul, Breage and Marazion. 
  • South Coast at St. Keverne’s and inland at Liskeard and Plymouth (Devon).cornwall

In trying to determine family groups it can be helpful to examine the first names of Gayers in the various groups. All three groups used the name “John” frequently

  • The North Coast Gayer names also frequently include, Samuell, Phillip and Benjamin.
  • The Land’s End group also frequently include, Alexander,  Abraham, William, Arthur and Isaac
  • The other group from, St. Kevernes’ and Liskeard also use the name “John” as well as Reginald, Stephen, Thomas, Richard, Robert and Henry.

Neither geography or name usage appear to show any strong  linkage among the three groups, therefore I have concluded that these three groups evolved into separate families although they may have arisen from the same origins.

My Gayer ancestors in the 1600s came from North Cornwall.


Although John Gayer is described as being the son of Benjamin "of Whitstone Cornwall" (Oxford University record). Research has proven that he was the son of Benjamin Gayer of Stratton. The breakthrough in my research occured when I obtained the will of William Watts of St Genny's, who died in 1724. William Watts was the husband of Johan (Gayer) Watts. Johan Gayer was the daughter of Benjamin Gayer (Jun) of Stratton (who was the son of Benjamin Gayer (Sen) of Stratton) and grandson of Roger Gayer.

In William Watt's will be bequeaths his property, Flaunders Farm, to his wife Johan (Gayer) Watts and, after her death, to his nephew Philip Gayer of Derriaghy. Philip's father was Rev. John Gayer (of Derriaghy) who attended Oxford University. John Gayer therefore must have been the older sibling of  Johan Gayer of Stratton and the son of Benjamin Gayer (Jr.) of Stratton

Why Benjamin Gayer was desribed as "of Whitstone" at the time his son John went to Oxford University, I cannot explain. Neither can I explain why, when Johan Gayer married William Watts, they married in Week St. Mary (it was common practice for a groom to go the parish of the bride when marrying). One assumption could be that their father, Benjamin Gayer (Jun) of Stratton died before 1688 and the children were living with other relatives. This may explain why John Gayer was classified as a "pauper" when he went to Oxford. A Jone Gayer, assumed to be the wife of Benjamin Gayer (Jr.) was a widow when she died in Stratton in 1705.   

Most of the early parish records from Stratton are irreparably damaged and cannot be transcribed. Neither are there Bishops' Transcripts for this period that have survived. Therefore there is no way to confirm most of the information about the Gayers of Stratton.

There is a record of a burial of a Benjamin Gayer in 1716 in St. Gennys, a community near Whitstone. Based on various clues I have come to the firm conclusion that it is Benjamin Gayer (3rd) of Stratton (son of Benjamin Gayer [Jr.]) who is buried in St. Genny’s and that he is also the Benjamin Gayer who was named in the post-marriage settlement* for William Watts and Johan Gayer.

*pre and post marriage settlements were common at this time. The groom or husband gave property or right to collect rents on a property, to a member of the bride/wife’s family, usually a father or a brother, to hold in the event that the husband pre-deceased his wife and left her without support.


John Gayer would have graduated in 1692 (1688+4 years). He was ordained by Bishop Thomas Hackett, Bishop of Down and Connor in 1694 (the ordination probably took place in England as Bishop Hackett was away from Ireland bewteen 1681 and 1694).  John Gayer became Curate at Derriaghy c. 1698. He then became Vicar of Derrigahy, Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1707 (

There are several entries in the Quaker Congregational Records (1707-1711) of John Gayere "Priest" of Derriaghy, receiving tythes from members of the Quaker community. This example is from 1711.

Quaker tythe

John Gayer married after arriving in Derriaghy. There are clues, but no records, to confirm that he married Mary Clewlow.

Abstract below from “Clergy of Connor: from patrician times to the present day / based on the unpublished Succession Lists” compiled by James Blennerhassett.Leslie.  1865-1952

"Gayer, John c 1668-1745 b.c.1668: Matric St. Mary's Hall Oxf 30 Mar 1688 aged 20 ord. either d or p 4 Sept 1694: C Derriaghy (Conn)c 1698; V 1707-1737; ret s of Benjamin Gayer of Whitstone (s of Hugh Gayer who was brother of Sir John Gayer Lord Mayor of London 1647) "his wife was probably a sister of Rev. Edward Matthews Prec of Down 1720-55 who in his will dated 12 Dec 1754 mentions his niece Sarah Gayer and nephew Rev Philip Gayer; or, perhaps she was a sister of the Precentor's wife Magdalen dau of Rev. James Clewlow Prec of Down 1688-99; if the latter her name was Mary Clewlow as Sarah was the 3rd dau who m,. Brent Smyth of Dublin"  Issue 1. Rev. Philip Gayer, 2. Joanna bur. 18 Dec 1705 at Derriaghy.


The reference in the entry above, contains an error. Benjamin Gayer was not the son of Hugh Gayer of Plymouth. Hugh Gayer’s will (National Archives) was reviewed and he had only two sons: John and Robert.  E.A. Gayer who wrote "Memoirs of the Family of Gayer" made several connections to the Gayers of Plymouth in South Devon which have since been proven to be incorrect.

Mary Clewlow was the sister of Magdalen (Clewlow) Matthews, wife of Rev. Edward Matthews. Magdalen and Mary Clewlow were the daughters of Rev. James Clewlow, Precentor of Down (1688-99) who married Mary Traill in 1667.

Mary Clewlow and John Gayer were probably married about 1696 as their daughter, Johanna was born in 1697 (she died at the age of 8 in 1705). Son Phillip, was born 1698 (no record of a marriage or the children’s births are available).  Another child, Sarah (d.o.b. unknown) is mentioned in her brother, Phillip’s will as well as the will of William Watts. She is also mentioned in a deed in 1750 which describes a land transaction for Edward Mathews and various others (1). It is not known if Sarah was the daughter of John’s marriage to Mary Clewlow or to his second wife Catherine however, as she was mentioned in the deed described above which pertained to Edward Mathews, she may have been the daughter of John Gayer and Catherine Mathews. 

Presumably Mary (Clewlow) Gayer, the mother of Phillip, died at or soon after his birth as there is a record of a second marriage of John Gayer to Catherine Matthews in 1701 (09.10.1701) in Lisburn Cathedral, Antrim, Ireland. Catherine Matthews, was the daughter of John & Elizabeth Matthews of England, sister of Rev. Edward Matthews who married Magdelene Clewlow, dau of Rev. James Clewlow and Mary Traill in Downpatrick in 1711. 

John Gayer was Vicar of Derriaghy, Antrim (1707-1737). On his retirement from Derriaghy he resided on a farm in the neighbourhood, which he rented from Lord Hertford. He died about 1745.

Registry of Deeds: Vol #, Page #, Memorial #
(1)   Memorial   138/536/94843   Image# 284

To find the Memorial go to Registry of Deeds Index Project Ireland. Insert Volume# and Image #

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