|Thomas Layton collected books, coins, and archaeological items (usually described as ‘antiquities’) for 70 years. In that time he had accumulated what has been described as “probably the largest collection of London antiquities ever amassed by a single individual”.The vast majority of items are believed to have been bought at auctions. Some came to him from his men working on the river. His businesses provided opportunities for finds from dredging, building of bridges and embankments along the banks of the Thames, for which Layton paid good money. Even by the standards of the day Layton kept poor records of where items were found. Despite this, the collection is considered highly important particularly to archaeologists and pre-historians.
Some of Layton’s collection remains lost to us. Contemporary accounts hint of skulls, many fossils, elephant tusks and legs, hippo ribs and other items which might be described as Victorian ‘curios’. Much of this was sold off in 1914 and apart from fossils, would be regarded as unethical to collect today.