Layton’s 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.

The book collection.

Books and Manuscripts

8000 books published from the 16th century to the 19th century, strong in landscape, history and natural history, with some of Layton’s personal papers, diaries and letters and other manuscripts.

The map and print collection.

Maps and Prints

4000 maps and prints and 150 framed prints, maps and paintings.

The archaeology collection.


5,200 archaeological and ethnographic artefacts including items from England, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Peru, North America and Malaysia.

The medal and coin collection.

Medals and Coins

3500 coins, tokens and medals: Roman, Greek, Indian, American and British.

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.