Clayton and Morris Papers

Scope and Content

The business and political papers of Sir Robert Clayton and his partner John Morris. English MS 899 comprises original business correspondence to Clayton and Sir Jeremy Whitchcott. English MSS 906, 959 and 986 contain primarily miscellaneous business correspondence from the 17th century, including some political papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Robert Clayton (1629-1707) was a banker and politician. He trained in London under his uncle Robert Abbott in his scrivener's shop in Cornhill. Abbott, Clayton, and another apprentice, John Morris, established a profitable business as money brokers, in connection with their primary business writing legal documents. When Abbott died in 1658, Clayton and Morris became partners. They lent money to private landowners, driven by civil wars and interregnum to seek credit in London, and soon dominated the market. No contract was ever registered for the company, which was known variously as Robert Clayton and Partner, John Morris and Partner, and Morris and Clayton and Company. The unique contribution of the company to banking history was to integrate the mortgage as a form of long-term security for banking loans, a practice which required the control of all the component parts of the process. Morris never married but lived with the Claytons at the bank until his death in 1682. Clayton's early and continued success as a banker was recognised when he was made a director of the Bank of England in 1702.

By 1670 Clayton had made a fortune and began to pursue a political career. He served as alderman in the City of London from 1670 to 1683, and was elected as member of parliament for London in 1679. He was re-elected in 1681, and the same year also became the Lord Mayor of London. With defeat in the 1685 elections Clayton's parliamentary career was temporarily halted. It resumed after the Revolution, and from 1689 until his death he was elected as a whig to every parliament. Clayton also had philanthropic commitments, holding honorary positions at Thomas Firmin's workhouse school, Christ's Hospital, Brideswell Hospital, and St Thomas's Hospital. Clayton died at Marden, Surrey, on 16 July 1707.

Source: Frank Melton, 'Clayton, Sir Robert (1629-1707)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

  • English MSS 899 and 986 were purchased by the John Rylands Library from the bookseller G.H. Last of Bromley, Kent (Catalogue 223, Nos 476 and 480, March 1937), along with Rylands Charters 3632-3671.
  • English MS 906 was purchased by the JRL at auction at Sotheby's on 16 November 1937 (Lot 435) along with Rylands Charters 3672-3698.
  • English MS 943 was purchased by the JRL from Colbeck Radford & Co. Ltd in July 1939 (Catalogue 82, No. 35).
  • English MS 959 was purchased by the JRL at auction at Sotheby's on 20 March 1940 (Lots 694-715), along with Rylands Charters 3699-3849.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Klett, project archivists, with reference to:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Robert Clayton;
  • J.A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922-54).

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Supplementary Hand-List of Western Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937 (English MSS 899, 906, 943, 959, 986).

Separated Material

The JRUL also holds papers of Robert Clayton in the Rylands Charters sequence. These are described in M. Tyson, Hand-list of charters, deeds and similar documents in the possession of the John Rylands Library II, which is available via Access to Archives. These comprise the following series: estate records for properties in Lincolnshire (Ry. Ch. 2478-2808, acquired from B. Halliday in July 1929); business and legal records of Clayton and Morris 1563-1707 (Ry. Ch. 3632-3671, acquired from G.H. Last along with Eng MSS 899 and 986); business and legal records of Clayton and Morris 1597-1707 (Ry. Ch. 3672-3698, acquired from Sotheby's on 16 November 1937, along with Eng MS 906); business and legal records of Clayton and Morris 1596-1778 (Ry. Ch. 3699-3849, acquired from Sotheby's on 20 March 1940, along with Eng MS 959).

Business records of Clayton, Morris & Co. and personal papers Robert Clayton are dispersed among a number of repositories. A substantial proportion of the records are held at the Guildhall Library, London (ref.: GB 076 Acc 2004/003, 004, 017, 020, 038, 053, 054). London School of Economics Library, Archives Division, also holds correspondence and papers of Clayton, Morris & Co. (ref.: GB 097 CLAYTON).

Custodial History

The custodial history of these papers prior to their purchase by the John Rylands Library is unknown. After accessioning, the material was divided between the English Manuscripts and Rylands Charters sequences. This catalogue describes the material in the English Manuscripts sequence. Details on the material in the Rylands Charters sequence is given in 'Separated material' below.


See Frank T. Melton, Sir Robert Clayton and the origins of English deposit banking, 1658-1685, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

Corporate Names