Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bayley, John (d.1869)

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BAYLEY, JOHN [WHITCOMB] (d. 1869), antiquary, second son of John Bayley, a farmer, of Hempstead, 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,’ 3 vols. fol. 1827–32, and for these labours he is said not only to have received the sum of 2,739l., but to have actually claimed further remuneration. His exorbitant charges and mode of editing were vigorously assailed by Mr. C. P. Cooper, then secretary to the commission, Sir. N. H. Nicolas, and others. A committee was appointed to inquire into the circumstances, and, after meeting no less 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 3,000l. and 4,000l. 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 of 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. 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. As an antiquary Bayley's attainments were of a high order. His ‘History and Antiquities of the Tower of London,’ 2 parts, 4to, 1821–5, ranks among the very best works of its kind for excellence of style, acuteness of judgment, and unfailing accuracy of statement. An abridgment appeared in 1830, 8vo. 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 valuable collection of charters, letters patent, and other documents illustrative of local history, in three folio volumes, is now deposited in the British Museum. 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.

[Register of Admissions to Inner Temple; Cooper's Observations on the Calendar of the Proceedings in Chancery (1832), pp. 73–82, and Appendix; Nicolas's Letter to Lord Brougham (1832), pp. 27–28, 45–47; Letters of Administration, P. C. C., granted 8 Feb. 1870; Gent. Mag. lxxxi. i. 192, xciv. ii. 272, xcv. ii. 256, (1854) xlii. 202; Burke's Peerage (1884), p. 84; Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on Record Commission, 1836, and Appendix; Addit. MSS. 15661–4.]

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