Clayton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Clayton Meaning
Clayton name is
locational, from various places now called Clayton in Lancashire,
Staffordshire and Sussex. Lancashire has
the largest number of these place-names – Clayton Vale near Manchester,
Clayton-le-Dale near Blackburn, Clayton-le-Moors near Accrington, and
Clayton-le-Woods near Chorley. The root is the Old English clorg-tun, meaning “settlement on the clay.”
The earliest spelling,
as Claitone and Claitune, was in the Domesday Book of 1086. The surname appeared in its present form in
the Lancashire pipe rolls of 1263.

Clayton Resources on

Clayton Ancestry

England. The
largest numbers of Claytons have been in Lancashire.

Lancashire. The forebear of the
Claytons in Lancashire
is said to have been the Norman Robert de Clayton who was granted lands
Clayton-le-Moors after the Conquest. Clayton Hall passed to the
Byron family
after the marriage of Cecilia de Clayton to Robert de Byron in 1191. But Clayton Manor remained in Clayton
hands. John Clayton of this family was
the first in the family to drop the “de” around the year 1500.

These Claytons subsequently
acquired the Adlington and Worthington manors.
Richard Clayton was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in Ireland
1765 until his death in 1770 and another Richard Clayton was created a
in 1774. The Claytons of Fulwood
near Preston were near-relatives. They
were sugar and tobacco merchants
. Their numbers also
Clayton, the
century Irish Protestant bishop.

Cheshire. Another old Clayton family, possibly related,
was recorded as
beginning with Randal de Clayton who held land at Thelwall in the early
1300’s. This family prospered at the
time of the dissolution of the monasteries.
Church records showed the baptism of Henry Clayton, son of Peter
Clayton, in Thelwall in 1577. Sir Randall
Clayton of this family left for Mallow in county Cork in the early

Elsewhere. There is a place called
Clayton in Yorkshire. But some Claytons in
Yorkshire may have come from the original Lancashire stock.
That was probably the
case with Thomas Clayton who lived at Clayton Hall in High Hoyland
parish near
Barnsley in Yorkshire in the 15th century:

  • a
    line of these Claytons was thought to have settled near Chichester in
    Sussex on the south coast. William
    Clayton of this family departed with William Penn for America in
  • John
    Clayton, a merchant, came to London from Yorkshire around the year 1650. He settled in Enfield. His
    son Samuel acquired the former royal game
    reserve, Enfield Old Park, in 1736

Another line of Claytons, dating back to the late
14th century, came from a small farming stock at Bulwick in
Northamptonshire. Robert Clayton left the
village sometime in
the 1640’s for London where he apprenticed as a scrivener
He later made his mark as a merchant banker
and became very rich and a benefactor to many causes.
His statue stands in front of St. Thomas’s
Hospital opposite the Houses of Parliament.
William Clayton was made a Baronet in 1732 and this line has continued
ten iterations until the present time.

also be a Romany (gypsy) name, found primarily in Warwickshire and its
environs from
the 1750’s onwards. In 1808 Brington
married Charlotte Booth on the same day and in the same church as
Francis Clayton married Mary Bannister.
Eric Trudgill’s 2009 booklet covered the family trees of Francis
Mary Clayton and John and Mary Booth.

America. James
Clayton, a blacksmith from Middlewich in Cheshire, was the English
forebear of
the Delaware family of Claytons. He came
with his wife and children in William Penn’s fleet to Pennsylvania in

The line through his son John and grandson
James led to Dr. Joshua Clayton who served as the first Governor and
second Senator
for Delaware. His son Thomas was also US
Senator, as was his nephew John who as well became US Secretary of
State under
Zachary Taylor. Henry Hepburn’s 1904
book The Clayton Family covered this
family and their antecedents in England.

Another line of this family, through a
later blacksmith James Clayton, migrated first to North Carolina in the
and then, after the Revolutionary War, to Georgia, Alabama and
Louisiana. Henry
D. Clayton became a general in the Confederate army and was later the
of the University of Alabama. His
Alabama home was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

Descended from the Sussex immigrant William
Clayton was Powell Clayton,
born in Pennsylvania,
who was a Union general during the Civil War.
He afterwards settled in Arkansas
his brother William, serving as both its Republican Governor and
Senator. William
Clayton, a judge, was later instrumental in bringing statehood to

Australia. William Clayton, a sawyer,
left Manchester
with his wife under an assisted passage program for South Australia in
1854. There he struggled to find work
and after ten years they returned to England.
But England was no better and they returned to Adelaide in
where William eked out a living again.

All of this
would have been forgotten had not Clayton in 1913, at the age of 80,
penned his
remarkable memoirs. They covered in
vivid and candid detail his career as a working man.
He lived to be 100.


Clayton Miscellany

Clayton Hall in Lancashire.  The Clayton family in Lancashire was said to date from the time when their forebear came to England with William the Conqueror in
1066 and was subsequently granted lands in Lancashire that were then and now known as Clayton-le-Moors.  He took the name of Robert de Clayton.

Clayton Hall was built in the 12th century and the present-day
park is situated on what remains of the vast estate of the de Clayton

When Cecilia Clayton
married Robert de Byron in 1194 it passed to the Byron family.  The Byrons lived there for more than 400
years until they sold it in 1620 to London merchants.

It is reputed that the Royalist army were stationed at Clayton Hall
before its attack on Manchester and that Oliver Cromwell was said to
stayed there for three nights.  Clayton
Hall is rumored to have had three ghosts..

The Clayton Merchants of Liverpool.  Clayton Square
in the center of Liverpool was named after William Clayton, one of the
Liverpool merchants of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.   He was Mayor of Liverpool in 1689 and an
for Liverpool in six Parliaments between 1698 and 1715.

he died in 1715 his
daughter Sarah was just three years old.
She was 33 years old when her mother Elizabeth died in 1745.  Almost immediately afterwards, she assumed the
reins of the family business.  She merged
the family’s coal business with that of her brother-in-law’s and
emerged as one
of the most important coal dealers in Liverpool.

was quite unheard of for a
woman to assume the place of a captain of industry in the mid-18th
century. Sarah Clayton, who never married,
remains an extraordinary
figure.  Records of her business dealings
show her engaging with all the vigor of her exclusively male rivals in
partnerships, price wars and competitions for transport and emerging
considerable success.

Robert Clayton and John Evelyn.  On September
26, 1672, John Evelyn wrote in his Diary
that he went to dinner at Sir Robert Clayton’s with Lord Howard and
they had “a
great feast” there.  Clayton was at that
time Sheriff of London and had just built himself a new house at 8 Old
Evelyn remarked that the house was “built indeed for a great magistrate
excessive cost.”

A few years later
Clayton bought an estate at Marden near Godstone in Surrey from a
kinsman of
Evelyn. They travelled together to Clayton’s new home on October 12,
1677 where
Evelyn saw that Clayton had transformed “a despicable farmhouse into a
with extraordinary expense.”

description gives us a good idea of Clayton’s house and grounds:

gardens are large and well-walled.  The
barns and the stacks of corn, the stalls
for cattle, pigeon-house, all of the most laudable example.  Innumerable are the plantations of trees,
especially walnuts.  The orangery and
gardens are very curious. In the house are large and noble rooms.  He and his lady entertained me three or four
days very freely.  All
the ground is so
full of wild thyme, marjoram, and other sweet plants, that it cannot be
over-stocked with bees.  I think he had
near forty hives of the industrious insect.”

Claytons from Barbados to the Isle of Wight.  Samuel Clayton
was said to have been an Irish gentleman who emigrated to Barbados in
the early
1700’s. There he married an heiress
Thomasina Wittewronge in 1729, but he died five years later.  Both their son and grandson Thomas joined the
British Navy and both were captains during the Napoleonic wars.  The younger Thomas died at sea off Ireland in

widow Phoebe, from a
well-to-do naval family, afterwards moved with their son Samuel to Ryde
in the
Isle of Wight.  From a later family
journal it was written:

the time of Gilbert’s birth in 1875, the Clayton
family had risen by common sense, prudent management, devoted naval and
military service, and plain good luck from obscurity in early 18th
England to a respected position among the gentry of the Isle of Wight
in the

Bowell Clayton and Adaline McGraw.  Powell Clayton
was a Union general during the Civil War who commanded Federal troops
Pine Bluff in Arkansas.  He successfully
repulsing a three-pronged attack from Confederate forces.
His troops had piled
cotton bales around the Pine Bluff courthouse and surrounding streets
to make a
barricade for the Union defenders and it worked.

McGraw, by contrast, was the orphaned daughter
of a Confederate steamboat captain from Helena, Arkansas.
No matter.
They met and apparently fell in love.
After the war was over Powell stayed in Arkansas and they got
married in
December 1865.

later entered Arkansas politics and in 1868 became its
Republican Governor.  Adaline found
herself as her state’s First Lady, moving into a fine river house on
Row in Little Rock.

always referred to her husband as “General C” (he
was known in politics as Boss Clayton).
Adaline saw to the marrying off of their two daughters –
Charlotte to
the Belgian ambassador and Kathleen to an English diplomat.  And Adaline outlived her husband.
Three years after he died in 1914, she sailed
to England to visit her daughter.  But
she never made it back.


Clayton Names

  • Robert de Clayton,
    granted lands at
    Clayton-le-Moors in Lancashire, was the forebear of the Claytons in
  • Sir Robert Clayton was a prosperous merchant banker who became
    Lord Mayor of London in 1679. 
  • John Clayton was US Senator for Delaware between
    1829 and 1849 and subsequently
    served as US Secretary of State under Zachary Taylor.

Select Clayton Numbers Today

  • 29,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 20,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)


Select Clayton and Like Surnames

The Anglo-Saxon word tun meaning “settlement” gave rise to many place-names with the suffix “-ton.”  And the place-name could become a surname describing someone who came from that place.  Sometimes the name was specific to just one location; but often the place-name could be found in various places and the surname would also crop up in a number of locations.






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