A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World, with The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, John Speed, 1631

John Speed (1552-1629) was an English cartographer and historian, one of the most famous English mapmakers of the early modern period. Speed is best known for two atlases, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, first published in 1611/1612, and A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World, first published in 1627. This 1631 edition incorporates these two great works in one volume. Speed’s The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine has become a landmark in the history of British topography. It was the first English attempt to produce a grand scale atlas of England, Wales, Scotland an...

The Collection

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.


Thomas Layton bequeathed his collection to the people of Brentford to create a museum. Difficulties with his will thwarted his plan and parts of the collection were dispersed. The Thomas Layton Trust is bringing his bequest back together on this website as our Virtual Museum.

Archaeology & Ethnography

Medals and Coins 5,200 archaeological and ethnographic artifacts including items from UK, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Peru and N. America.

Medals & Coins

Medals and Coins A remarkable collection of 3,500 coins, tokens and medals - Roman, Greek, Indian, American and British.

Maps & Prints

Medals and Coins 4,000 maps and prints and 150 framed prints, maps and paintings.

Books & Manuscripts

Medals and Coins 8,000 from the 16th century to 19th century, remain in the collection, together with a small collection of manuscripts and some of Layton's personal papers.


Thomas Layton lived in Brentford, Middlesex between 1826 and more


Download a walk through Victorian Brentford and discover some of Layton's legacy



Purchase a beautifully illustrated book by Mike Galer, called Layton's Legacy.

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