Joseph Clayton was born in 1820 in the Peak Forest, Derbyshire. We know nothing of his early life and precious little of his early career as a tanner. We know that he founded Joseph Clayton & Sons Ltd around 1840 in the vicinity of the existing tannery today and was engaged in producing high quality leather for shoes and boot soles & harness.
Vast quantities were required at this time, for the growing towns & cities of England were filling with horse drawn vehicles of every kind. The arrival of the railways swelled the demand for leather for window fasteners, upholstery etc., and new factories and mills required miles of leather belting to carry the power from term engines to the machines.