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Clayton family papers

Call Number: MSS 2

Scope and Contents

The original collector of the papers was William Clayton Clayton, Dorothea Clayton's adoptive nephew. He was the executor of her will and the heir to her London house. He kept many papers related to her estate, including inventories, legal documents and household receipts. He sold most of her assets soon after her death in 1849, but the house remained in his hands until after 1870. The bulk of the papers date from the period soon after Dorothea's death, 1849-1850.

The collection consists of two parts: papers related to the house on Hyde Park Street, and papers related to the Dorothea Clayton estate. The Hyde Park Street House section includes the inventory that was made after Dorothea's death, a catalog of its library, household bills and receipts, taxes and ground rent documents, and documents related to leases and sales offers. The Dorothea Clayton section contains her will and other documents related to probate, legacies, expenses associated with her estate, and sales of her non-real property. There is also a small group of material related to her adoptive brother's estate and other family papers, which William Clayton Clayton probably included in the collection because they related to Dorothea's assets.

The inventory of Dorothea Clayton's house provides an extraordinarily complete listing of all of its contents, including furniture, decorations, clothes, tools, crockery, linens and wine. It describes not only valuable items, but everything down to the slop pail in the housemaid's closet and the "quantity of coals" in the coal cellar. Arranged room-by-room, it gives a short description of each item, with an estimated value for all the items together at the end. A few sections, such as the listings of china, jewelry and plate, are listed separately. William Clayton, Dorothea's adoptive nephew, ordered the inventory to be made a few days after her death in September 1849. He needed an account of the value of her belongings for probate proceedings. Gillow & Co., the same London firm that had supplied Dorothea with most of her furnishings, did the appraisal.

The appraiser began in the right front room of the house's attic and worked his way down through three floors, and then into the basement. Probably because he worked for Gillow & Co., he paid special attention to describing the furniture, frequently noting the wood each item was made of, and whether it had any decorative elements. For example, in the first floor drawing room, he described a "small rosewood table, curved rim, on pillar, triangular block." His also tended to give detailed descriptive of textiles. In a second floor bedroom, he noted a "pair of chintz window curtains lined, green, w. brass pole cornice." His descriptions of paintings were somewhat less detailed; for one room, he simply listed "an oil painting in gilt frame (waterfall); a ditto (archway w peasants); a ditto (female writing)…"and so on. However, the placement of the paintings inside particular rooms, and the descriptions of all the items that surrounded them, provides a rich context for understanding how the art was displayed.

The inventory also supplies many details related to the ordering of class within Dorothea's house. The servants' rooms are clearly labeled, and their contents as minutely noted as the public areas of the house. Kitchen tools and cleaning supplies and scullery equipment are listed in detail. Not all of the servants' items were utilitarian; the contents of the housekeeper's room included "4 etchings in gilt frames" and a "portrait of Charles 1st & 18 smaller portraits in black felt frames." They nonetheless contrast sharply with Dorothea's personal possessions, which included numerous bottles of perfume, gold brooches and chains, an agate snuffbox, 6 pairs of shoes and a sable boa.

The next item in the papers is a Catalog of Dorothea's library. Completed in 1845 while Dorothea was still alive, it lists all of the books that she owned. It describes the author and title of approximately 800 volumes. Organized by bookcase and then by shelf, it reveals not only her reading tastes, but also how she organized her reading. For example, the first four shelves of the first bookcase in her drawing room contained histories, biographies and travel narratives. On the fifth shelf, foreign histories began shading into French literature. The next two bookcases contained increasing numbers of literary works in French and English, with an occasional history or travel narrative tucked in. Small groups of books on geology, mineralogy, chemistry and botany were interspersed. In a bookcase in "the left wing," she placed her copy of the Bible along with sermons and devotional works. Towards the middle of the case, however, travel narratives begin to creep in again. One can imagine that she might have arranged a section of religious books, but then had to add in travel books as they overflowed from their allotted space. By the bottom of the case, nearly all of the books were literary. She placed light reading and utilitarian matter (magazines, memoirs, sermons, directories, dictionaries, novels, etc.) in location separate from the main library, in cupboards and on shelves in a back parlor. The catalog seems to have functioned as a way for Dorothea to locate all her books, no small problem considering the size of her library.

If she read all of the books that she collected, Dorothea must have had very broad interests. A large portion of Dorothea's books was related to travel, suggesting that she was fascinated with lands beyond her own. Aside from many books on Scotland, France, Italy, and Germany, her library also included works on Constantinople, Greece, Palestine, Iceland and Wyoming. She seems to have been a fan of Swift, with many volumes of his works along with commentaries, placed both in her drawing room and back parlor. Her large collection of classical French literature combined with many guides to the city of Paris and its museums strongly suggests she visited that city. She had many Anglican tracts and sermons, probably reflecting an active religious life. Quite a few of her books were related to emerging sciences, including geology, chemistry, and botany. On the other hand, she had almost no books on business or law, a conspicuous absence considering that most of the men in her family were lawyers.

The household bills and receipts in the collection begin with 1845 and end in 1850. A few of them relate to Dorothea's personal expenses, including bills from a milliner and a silk merchant. However, most of them pertain to the time period after Dorothea's death, when William Clayton Clayton was paying the accounts. Many of them describe repairs and maintenance done on the house, such as replacement and cleaning of windows, repairing of hardware, painting, and plumbing. There are some records of everyday household accounts as well, for expenses such as the milkman and the baker.

The taxes and ground rent receipts document the payments Dorothea and William made on the house and the stable. Because the properties were located on the old grounds of the Bishop of London's Paddington Estate, the land under the buildings was leased. William may not have been happy with having to pay the ground rent, however, for there are two documents related to legal research he did on the practice. This research was squarely within William's area of interest, as he published both on law and religion.

The lease and tenant documents contain evidence of William Clayton Clayton's dealings with tenants from 1849 onwards, though the documentation is sparse and fragmentary. There are references to several tenants, including Robert Hanbury, who leased the house from November 1849 to sometime in 1850; James Mure, who leased the house from August-October 1850; and Samuel Cohen, who arrived in late 1850.

Several letters relate to two of William Clayton Clayton's attempts to sell the house, in 1856 and 1862. Neither of these attempts were successful, as he was unwilling to sell the house for a price in the £4,000 range.

Most of the items in this section of the collection relate to the disposal of Dorothea Clayton's property after her death on September 15, 1849. A working copy of her will, with emendations in her own hand, records how she wished her property to be disbursed. The probate documents record how the disbursal was actually carried out. They show that she left legacies to her housekeeper and servants, her relatives and her attorneys.

Several documents relate to William Clayton Clayton's claim on £40,000 of Dorothea's estate. Perhaps because he did not wish to pay duties on the entire sum, he claimed that he had loaned the amount to Dorothea a few months before her death. As a debt, it would not be subject to taxes. He engaged Lydia Payne, Dorothea's housekeeper, to attest to the existence of the loan. The documents show, however, that the courts were not sympathetic to his story.

The remainder of the papers consists of bills related to Dorothea's funeral, letters and documents relating to the sale of her stock, a few items related to the estate of her adoptive brother Ralph Clayton, and miscellaneous family papers. There is also a bill for legal services she used to change her name from Brack to Clayton in 1814.


  • 1814-1871


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is the physical property of the Yale Center for British Art. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired in 2005.


This collection is arranged into two series: I. Hyde Park Street house papers, including documents directly related to the townhouse, its contents and its maintenance. II. Dorothea Clayton estate papers, including documents related to the estate of Dorothea Clayton, as well as a few miscellaneous documents pertaining to other Clayton family members. The items within each series are arranged by document type (for example, household bills and receipts), and then chronologically.


0.42 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Papers related to the Clayton family house in London and the estate of its first owner, Dorothea Clayton. Includes an inventory of the house and its library; receipts for repairs, household expenses; lease and sales offers; and documents relating to Dorothea Clayton's estate.

Biographical / Historical

Dorothea Brack was born circa 1770 and raised in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. She was probably the daughter of James Brack of Durham County, who married Dorothy Clayton of Newcastle in 1769.* Apparently orphaned at a young age, she grew up in the family of her maternal uncle, Alderman William Clayton. He was an attorney who also briefly served as sheriff and mayor of Newcastle. Dorothea never married. After reaching adulthood, she stayed for some time with her adoptive brother's in-laws, the Feilden family. They lived in a large manor house named Mollington Hall near Cheshire. Later, she would maintain her own household in London.

Dorothea took her mother's family name in 1814, becoming Dorothea Clayton. By the 1830s, she owned property in Durham County, a house and stable in London, and had many thousands of pounds invested in stocks. She received her income from rents and dividends from these investments. By the time of her death, she possessed more than £65,000 in assets.

Dorothea's London house was located in Paddington Parish just north of Hyde Park, at 6 Hyde Park Street.** Her stable was two short blocks away, at 12 Albion Mews North. The land on which the properties stood belonged to the Bishop of London's Paddington estate. She paid ground rent, though she owned the structures. Most of the houses in the neighborhood dated from after 1800, when speculators had begun to build on leased lots. 6 Hyde Park Street was probably built in the late 1820s or 1830s, and Dorothea may have been its first owner. One of her heirs described it many years later: "The house purchased by my relatives in an unfinished state & was completed without regard to expense & is I believe one of the best houses in the street. It is completed furnished almost entirely from Gillows [i.e. Gillows & Co., a London furniture firm]." The house was three stories high, not including the attic and basement. It had two attic rooms, a maid's room, four bedrooms, two dressing rooms, two drawing rooms, a library, a dining room, a butler's pantry, a housekeeper's room, a scullery and a coal cellar. She lived with several servants, including a housekeeper named Lydia Payne.

When she died on September 15, 1849, Dorothea left the London house to her nephew, William Clayton Walters. William was the second son of Dorothea's adoptive sister, Isabella, and Robert Walters, a Newcastle attorney. William was a graduate of Jesus College, Cambridge, where he excelled in religious history, taking the Hulsean Prize for his essay, "A dissertation on the nature and advantages of the influence of the Holy Spirit." He earned his BA in 1822 and an MA in1825. Following in his father's and maternal grandfather's footsteps, he entered the field of law, studying at Lincoln's Inn. Though he soon became a practicing barrister, he gained more fame as a writer. His published works include several books on the legal rights of the Church of England, a book of sayings and proverbs, and an essay on the sacrament of baptism. Strongly opposed to teetotalism, he also wrote two articles on the consumption of alcohol in the Scriptures.

Dorothea named William the executor of her estate. He inherited her house, and claimed a further £40,000 as a repayment of a sum that he said he had lent her seven months before her death. However, it is unclear whether there had truly been a loan, or if William simply wanted to avoid paying duties on that portion of her estate.*** Dorothea also left legacies to two of his siblings, Ralph and Dorothea June. Ralph received almost £4900, while Dorothea June received £1000. Dorothea Clayton probably left such a substantial sum to Ralph because his older brother William had already inherited property from other relatives. William owned significant tracts of land in Bradford Abbas, Dorsetshire, including the Elizabethan manor house of Stella Hall. Perhaps because he had gained most of his fortune through the Clayton family, Dorothea asked William to take her mother's family name after she died. He complied, changing his name from William Clayton Walters to William Clayton Clayton in 1849.

William never lived in the London house. He leased it to a series of tenants beginning just one month after Dorothea died. In later years, he would try unsuccessfully to sell it with all of its furnishings intact. It stayed in his hands until 1871, when he (or perhaps his son of the same name) mortgaged it to a relative, John Clayton.

* Definite evidence of Dorothea Brack's parentage could not be found.

** 6 Hyde Park Street was renumbered 12 Hyde Park Street around 1870. It may have been renumbered again at a later date.

*** William Clayton Clayton paid Lydia Payne, Dorothea's housekeeper, to furnish an affidavit stating that the loan was genuine. This would have allowed him to recoup some of the duties paid on the estate. However, the probate court eventually "declined to accede to the claim" regarding the loan.


  • Boase, Frederic. "William Clayton Walters." Modern English biography. [England]: For the author, 1892-1921.
  • History of the County of Middlesex. Volume IX: Hampstead and Paddington Parishes. Edited by T. F. T. Baker. London: Published for the Institute of Historical Research by Oxford University Press, 1989. (Victoria History of the Counties of London).
  • Welford, Richard. "Ralph Walters." Men of mark 'twixt Tyne and Tweed. London: W. Scott, 1895.

Processing Information

Many of the items in the collection were folded into sections early in their existence, probably by the original collector. They have been left in this state.

Guide to the Clayton Family Papers
compiled by Eva Guggemos; edited by Francis Lapka
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Center for British Art, Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

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