Select Clayton Surname Genealogy

The Clayton name is locational, from various places now called Clayton in Lancashire, Yorkshire, 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.

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Select Clayton Ancestry

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

   The forebear of the Claytons in Lancashire is said to have been the Norman Robert de Clayton who was granted lands at 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 from 1765 until his death in 1770 and another Richard Clayton was created a Baronet in 1774.
  The Claytons of Fulwood near Preston were near-relatives.  They were sugar and tobacco merchants in Liverpool.  Their numbers also included Robert Clayton, the 18th century Irish Protestant bishop.

.  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 1600’s.

.  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 1677.   
  • 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 (money-lender).  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.  Robert's nephew William Clayton was made a Baronet in 1732 and this line has continued through ten iterations until the present time.

Clayton can also be a Romany (gypsy) name, found primarily in Warwickshire and its environs from the 1750’s onwards.  In 1808 Brington Clayton 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 and 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 1682. 

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 1740’s 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 President 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 with his brother William, serving as both its Republican Governor and Senator.  William Clayton, a judge, was later instrumental in bringing statehood to Oklahoma.

.  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 1866 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

Select Clayton Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Clayton Names

Robert de Clayton, granted lands at Clayton-le-Moors in Lancashire, was the forebear of the Claytons in Lancashire.
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 Claytons 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)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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