John Bayley (antiquary)

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John Whitcomb Bayley (died 1869), was an English antiquary.


Bayley, the second son of John Bayley, a farmer, of Hempsted, Gloucestershire, became at an early age a junior clerk in the Tower Record Office. In or about 1819 he was appointed chief clerk, and afterwards a sub-commissioner on the Public Records. In the latter capacity he edited Calendars of the Proceedings in Chancery in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth in 3 volumes for the Record Commission (1827–32), for which he is said not only to have received the sum of £2,739, but to have claimed further remuneration. His exorbitant charges and mode of editing were vigorously assailed by Charles Purton Cooper, then secretary to the Commission, Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas, and others.

A committee was appointed to inquire into the circumstances, and, after meeting no fewer than seventeen times, issued a report, of which twenty-five copies were printed for the private use of the board. His demands upon the corporation of Liverpool, to whom he charged between £3,000 and £4,000 for searches, formed the subject of a separate inquiry. Owing to his long absence, Bayley's office at the Tower was declared vacant in May 1834. He had been admitted to the Inner Temple in August 1815, but was never called to the bar.

During the rest of his life he resided mostly at Cheltenham, but latterly at Paris, where he died 25 March 1869. Bayley was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Society; to the former he was elected in 1819, to the latter in 1823.


His History and Antiquities of the Tower of London, appeared in 2 parts, 1821–5, with an abridgment in 1830. Bayley announced, but did not publish, a history of London. He had also made considerable progress in a complete parliamentary history of England, and for this he obtained copious abstracts of the returns to parliament, 1702–10, from the original records in the Rolls Chapel. This manuscript, together with a collection of charters, letters patent, and other documents illustrative of local history, in three folio volumes, was deposited in the British Museum.


His wife, Sophia Anne, daughter of the right hon. Colonel Robert Ward, whom he married in September 1824, died before him, on 17 June 1854. By her he left a daughter.

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 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Bayley, John (d.1869)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.