Thomas Layton was born a few years after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo (1815) and outlived Queen Victoria (who died 1901). He saw enormous change in Brentford, England and the rest of the world. He witnessed the effects of the Industrial Revolution and how it changed people’s lives.
He became interested in local politics and affairs from a young age and served on many local bodies. Elected as a local Councillor, he served for over 50 years.
He was Chairman of the Local Board from 1876 and the first Chairman of the Brentford Urban District Council in 1894; these were the fore-runners of today’s Borough Council. He held various offices, including that of Churchwarden, at St George’s Church near his home.
Layton was involved in many civic improvements we take for granted today. These include the library, swimming baths, sewage works, fire station and Brentford Infirmary, several of which were designed by the architect Nowell Parr. Innovations like gas street lighting, mains water and electricity were introduced to Brentford during Layton’s lifetime. It is likely that he saw his proposed museum as another civic improvement of this kind.
Layton was honoured by inclusion on the Brentford Monument in 1909 even though he was no longer a councillor.
The canals, docks and the gas-works on both sides of the High Street, were at their peak in Layton’s day and provided much of his income. He would be surprised to see how much is now gone.