Literary papers and correspondence of Cecil Lay, with related materials.

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 206 Brotherton Collection MS 20c Lay
  • Dates of Creation
      ca. 1870-1981
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      25 boxes, 9 vols, and 8 pamphlets; manuscript, typescript, photographs, postcards, press cuttings, and printed material (some photocopy). Includes several sketches, a few Christmas cards, personal documents, certificates, and a badge.

Scope and Content

Comprises: (1) 10 boxes of correspondence, including 6 boxes of Lay's letters to his wife Joan dated 1926-1956, 2 boxes of letters to Lay from many other correspondents, 1 box of letters from Lay to Elfrida Thornycroft dated 1928-1955, and 1 box of letters from various other correspondents, including Sir Frank Brangwyn, to Lay; (2) 7 boxes of Lay's autograph manuscript and typescript drafts of his poems, probably dating from ca. 1925 until his death, totalling at least 1000, including some galley proofs and printers' copies; (3) 3 boxes of similar drafts of his prose works, consisting largely of literary essays, stories, and architectural and artistic articles, with some journalism and humorous writing, of uncertain date, but probably starting in the early decades of the twentieth century; (4) 3 boxes of press cuttings, including reviews of his books, reviews of exhibitions to which he contributed paintings, and his many letters to the press, dating from about 1927 until his death, together with an old newspaper scrapbook of such cuttings; (5) 1 box of miscellaneous other items, including Brangwyn's sketches and Christmas cards, the Parkin Gallery Exhibition papers, and articles on Lay by R.L. Mgroz and Christopher Ravilious; (6) 1 box of personalia and biographical items, including juvenilia, Lay's school reports, his war documents and badge, family photographs, including one of his father aged about 14 years of age (i.e. ca. 1870), his parents' marriage certificate, his own birth, marriage, and death certificates, sketches drawn by him, photographs of some of his paintings, and correspondence concerning a Clodd Memorial plaque which he advocated; (7) Steven Tuohy's 1980 thesis devoted to Lay, which has further details of the contents of the collection; (8) 1 volume, now empty, which, according to a typed list on the outside front cover, once held certain letters to Lay from various well-known correspondents; (9) 7 vols of his published poems, including, Sparrows (1927), Grotesques and Arabesques (1928), In and out (1930), April's Foal (1932), To Suffolk (2nd edition, [1937]), The collected poems of Cecil Lay (1962), and An Adder in June (1978); and (10) 8 pamphlets published by Lay, including, 3 copies of 'Love's Ethic' (1922), 'Seven poems' (1932), 'Ha and He' (1933), 'Samples' (1934), 'To Suffolk' (3rd edition, n.d.), and 'Eight poems' (n.d.).

Administrative / Biographical History

Cecil Howard Lay, the Suffolk poet, painter, and architect, was born in the village of Aldringham on 3 April 1885. His father, who came from an Essex sea-faring family, was the village schoolmaster for forty years. C.H. Lay was educated at the Queen Elizabeth School at Ipswich and the Architectural Association, London. He was elected an Associate of the R.I.B.A. in 1912 and a Fellow in 1925. After visits to Belgium and Holland to study paintings, he returned to live in Aldringham until his death on 6 February 1956. He married his wife Joan (ne Chadburn) in 1932, but they had no children. Apart from his poetry, painting, and architecture, his chief interests were the local countryside and his friends there. He was also an antiquarian. His first collection of poems, Sparrows, was published in 1927, and was followed by several other collections, but his Collected poems was not published until 1962, posthumously. He is buried in Aldringham village churchyard.

Conditions Governing Access

Access is unrestricted.

Acquisition Information

The gift of Mrs Joan Lay, Cecil Lay's widow, via Mr Steven Tuohy, in two stages: first, the literary papers in January 1980; secondly, the letters from Cecil Lay to Mrs Joan Lay during 1981.


In English.

Other Finding Aids

The letters are listed in the Library's Letters database. For a detailed catalogue of the major part of the collection see the following unpublished thesis by Steven Tuohy which is kept with the collection, namely, "A catalogue of the papers of Cecil Howard Lay (1885-1956), Suffolk painter, poet and architect, with a bibliography of his published books of verse and a brief introduction to his life and work", submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of M.A. in Bibliography and Textual Criticism, Institute of Bibliography and Textual Criticism, School of English, University of Leeds, August 1980