JAMES Clayton spent his childhood in an orphanage — and now he is on a quest to trace his long-lost relatives.

Mr Clayton, aged 70, who lives in Great Lever, has used Facebook to find eight of his 17 brothers and sisters after they were separated as babies.

He now plans to write a book about his experiences, including the hardships he suffered in the orphanage.

Mr Clayton was born in Crumpsall Workhouse in Manchester in 1942, but was sent to Styal Cottage Homes, an orphanage in Wilmslow, Cheshire, before his first birthday.

His mother could not afford to keep all of the children at home, so 12 of them were sent to the orphanage as babies.

Although the siblings were in the same institution, they were separated most of the time and only got to spend time together at the weekend.

This separation was a great wrench for Mr Clayton — who says his time at Styal has always played on his mind.

He said: “I think when the book is finished I will feel like I can move on with my life and the future. The past has always been with me.”

At the age of 13, Mr Clayton was put into a foster home in Middleton with his brother, Harold, where he later found work in a cotton mill.

By the time he joined the Army in 1958, he had lost touch with all of his other surviving siblings.

It was not until his sister, Joyce Clayton, got in touch with him on Facebook, that Mr Clayton could piece his family back together.

Such was the pull of his search, Mr Clayton moved to Great Lever with his wife, Sarah, to be nearer his sister Joyce, who lives in Heywood.

Together, they have found three other brothers and three sisters. While carrying out his research, Mr Clayton also found his son, James, aged 49, who lives in Middleton.

Mr Clayton added: “I had been trying to find them for years but had no luck. We tried Manchester Town Hall, the Jeremy Kyle show and doing a family tree, but it was through Facebook we found each other.

“On my 70th birthday, I had a message from someone I knew who worked in the police saying she’d found two of my brothers. I hadn’t seen them since 1956.”

The family now have one more brother to trace — the rest have died.

The book, which will be called Jimmy’s Dayz, will revisit some of the mistreatment Mr Clayton claims to have suffered while at Styal, which is now a women’s prison.

He said: “It didn’t happen every day, but we were mistreated. We used to march in threes going to and from school.

“When we got back we were stripped to the waist before we had tea. The woman who used to do it would pinch my ribs, but at the time we couldn’t report it .

“When I was five, I used to have to get up at half past five every morning to light the fires and we would have to scrub floors. These were chores we had to do.

“The only time I was happy was at the weekends when I could see my brothers and sisters, but Monday to Friday we were not allowed to see each other.”

The Claytons are planning a big family reunion with their brothers and sisters in June.