It was the day after his birthday, June 11, 1792. John jumped out of the carriage and hit the ground running. The four hour drive from Newcastle down to the recently-acquired country home in Humshaugh was a pleasant escape for his parents, but for a freshly-anointed four year old boy, it was an eternity. He wasn’t seen again all day until his father, Nathaniel, came to fetch him for dinner. He found him beneath a stone wall near the river.
“Well, what do you think, son?”
“Oh, I love it, father,” the boy replied with a contented smile.
“I’m glad you approve,” Nathaniel said and tossled the boy’s hair. “Come on now; let’s get you washed up for dinner.”
The pair walked together up the long hill that spread before the house. Several times they had to catch their balance, tripping over scattered rocks and bits of old refuse. Nathaniel stopped and looked back down towards the Tyne.
“The sooner we get this filled in, the better, too. Especially those old stone works you’ve been playing about. One lush big park with...”
“Filled in? But this is what I love about it, father, not the house!”
Over the next several years, John’s father moved hundreds of tons of earth to fill in and smooth out the hill. It became unrecognizable from the first images that John kept wondrously stored in his mind.
Years later, when John Clayton’s father passed away, he inherited his position as Town Clerk, and he inherited the Chesters. He immediately began digging up the front lawn. And when he was done with that, he followed the old stone wall and bought up the properties it ran through.
When he was finally finished, he had reclaimed for England a priceless gift – the quickly-disappearing Hadrian’s Wall.