A First World War memorial plaque, known as a ‘Death Penny’, was originally discovered back in the Sixties among scrap metal bought by dealer Tommy Stronach, based in Selby. His son Jack Stronach had no idea what it was until visiting the York Castle Museum many years later. It turned out to be one of the plaques given to the next of kin of soldiers who died serving with the British and Empire forces during the 1914-18 conflict.
It was only when Jack visited Tadcaster and recognised the name in St Mary’s Church that he knew it belonged to a family from there. These coins are worth £60 to £100, but more importantly are part of a WWI story of a local man.
The person was Lance Corporal Alfred B Clayton from Tadcaster, who died on March 26, 1918 serving with the East Lancashire Regiment. There was no rank on the ‘Death Penny’ as everyone’s death was as important as each other’s. All that mattered was the remembrance of a life lost fighting the war. Apparently Lance Corporal Clayton was originally a gardener and lived in the Bothy at Oxton Hall according to the 1911 census.
The plaques were made of bronze, and became known as the “Dead Man’s Penny”, because of the similarity in appearance to the somewhat smaller penny coin. 1,355,000 plaques were issued, and continued to be issued into the 1930s to commemorate people who died as a consequence of the war.
The Penny is being kindly donated to Tadcaster Grammar School by Jack. He was hoping to give it to a family member of Lance Corporal Clayton, but haven’t found one, so just wanted it returning to Tadcaster.
The History department were delighted with the gift and are looking for a suitable area in school to display the Penny for everyone to see.