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John Clayton (1792-1890) was Town Clerk of Newcastle for 45 years, his family law firm was the largest law firm in the North East of England, and his influence in the region was extensive. He grew up with the fort of Chesters in the front garden of the family country home and was a keen student of Latin and Greek at school.
He bought stretches of Hadrian’s Wall whenever a farm or plot of land which contained the monument came up for sale. By the time he died in 1890, Clayton owned 5 forts along Hadrian’s Wall; Chesters, Carrawburgh, Housesteads, Vindolanda and Carvoran, as well as around 20 miles of the Wall itself. From 1840, Clayton excavated at one of his sites amassing a very large collection of Roman artefacts.
After Clayton’s death in 1890, the collection, and estate was inherited by his nephew, and successive family members. In 1928 the estate was broken up and the collection was put at risk. Fortunately the Clayton Trustees was formed and saved the collection and museum. The museum you see today at Chesters Roman Fort very much reflects the history of this collection and tells the story of Claytons efforts to save, excavate and research the Wall throughout his long life.
This is a Classical Association Lecture.
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