Paul Clayden, 5 November 1941 – 1 January 2020

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We are very sad to report that our vice-president, Paul Clayden, died suddenly aged 78 on new year’s day.  A former general secretary of the society (1976-84) he was the author of many of our books and information sheets, and a kind and helpful adviser to members on their open space issues.

Paul was born in Seaton, Devon, the second son of Richard and Mary Clayden.  His father died of a duodenal ulcer during the war, leaving his mother to raise two small children.  His mother found a teaching post at Henley grammar school and joined forces with her parents to buy the family home in Henley.

Paul was educated at Laxton, Northamptonshire, then Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire, where he was under the care of Basil Hume.  He excelled in history and developed a love of classical music.  He went on to Jesus College, Oxford, where he met his future wife Lyn.  They were married in 1964, after Paul had taken a teaching course.  He took a job at Northampton Record Office where he first became acquainted with inclosure, manorial and other records relating to commons and highways.  Then they moved to Shiplake near Henley while Paul studied law in London, qualifying as a solicitor.

His first job in law was in Nailsworth in Gloucestershire, but he did not enjoy private practice and in due course joined the Open Spaces Society as general secretary.  Its offices were at the top of a building in the insalubrious Shaftesbury Avenue, and Paul soon moved them to his home town of Henley.

He led the society with distinction, his legal skills and knowledge proving a great asset, and his kind and painstaking responses to members and others were much appreciated.

After leaving the society in 1984 he went to the National Association of Local Councils which he represented on the Common Land Forum from 1983 to 1986, a cause close to his heart.  He was elected a vice-president of the Open Spaces Society in 2003 and frequently chaired our AGMs.  He worked closely with local councils, writing for their journals and speaking at training events.

For the society he will be especially remembered as co-author with John Trevelyan of the first edition of Rights of Way, a guide to law and practice (‘the blue Bible’) and as author of the third to seventh editions of Our Common Land.  He finished the seventh edition shortly before he died and it was delivered to us posthumously—a terrific legacy.


We shall remember Paul with great affection and gratitude.  Kind and generous, he was a modest man with great ability.

He is survived by Lyn, his sons Philip and Robert (his second son, Thomas, predeceased him), his four grandsons and one granddaughter.

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