Thomas Butterworth Charles Bayley, son of Charles and Mary Anne Bayley, was educated at Charterhouse, a school in London, and joined the Bengal civil service in 1829. After a few years he fell ill and spent most of the period 1836 to 1843 on sick leave at the Cape. In the latter year he resigned his post and in 1844 bought the farm Hartebeestkraal in the Riviersonderend valley, renaming it The Oaks. Here he led an energetic life as a farmer and horse breeder for the next twelve years and became a wealthy man. He planted numerous species of exotic trees on his farm, including many eucalypts and four varieties of Mexican pines. One species that he grew successfully was Pinus insignis, later to become quite valuable to South Africa, of which he gave a seedling to the overseer of the Cape Flats drift sand reclamation works. He imported several kinds of farm animals and machinery, and his agricultural experiments benefitted other farmers who adopted his ideas. As an enthusiastic racing man he bred the best race horses at the Cape from imported English sires and local mares and these won most of the local horse races. At the annual agricultural shows in Caledon he won prizes for his Havana and Virginia tobacco (1846) and the best colt and filly (1848), and at the shows of the Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society again for the best filly (1850) and the best colt (1853). He wrote articles on agricultural subjects for the Cape Monthly Magazine and was the Cape correspondent for farming and sporting periodicals in England and India. For a number of years he was a member of the Road Board.
Bayley participated actively in organised agriculture. He served on the committee of the Caledon Agricultural Society by 1846, on a sub-committee to organise a plowing contest in 1847, and as honorary secretary in 1848. In 1849 he, like many others, undertook to subscribe one pound sterling per year for the support of the Cape Town Botanic Garden. By 1850 he had joined the Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society. That year the government asked the society to take responsibility for collecting material to be exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, and Bayley became both an exhibitor and a member of the committee that arranged the submissions from the Cape. He furthermore served on the society's management committee from about 1852 to 1860 or later. By 1860 he was also a committee member of the Cape of Good Hope Horticultural and Floricultural Society. In 1861 he was still considered one of the most prominent agriculturalists in the colony, when the press regretted that he had not attended the Worcester agricultural show. The next year, in an article on his life and work in the Cape Monthly Magazine (Vol. 11, pp. 378-383) he was described as "an enlightened agriculturalist and land owner". In 1867 he was still one of the judges at the show of the Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society.
Bayley lost many of his stud in an epidemic of horse sickness during 1854-1855. This led him to sell most of his remaining animals and retire to Wynberg, Cape Town, in 1856. That same year he published Notes on the horse-sickness at the Cape of Good Hope in 1854-55, compiled from official sources and the responses of various persons to a request for information. The next year he wrote an article in the Cape Monthly Magazine (Vol. 2, pp. 30-36) on "The Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society", supporting its aims and advocating its financial support by the government. In Cape Town he continued to experiment on a smaller scale with tobacco and other crops, but also became active in public life. He was a friendly and reliable person, but held strong opinions and became involved in disputes on various topics. He never married and when he died of a chronic bronchial disorder left his considerable fortune to various charities and individuals, and the South African Turf Club. Twenty landscapes from his collection of paintings plus £500 were bequeathed to the South African Fine Arts Association, which he had helped to found shortly before his death. The trustee for this bequest was Abraham de Smidt* and the paintings formed the nucleus of the South African Art Gallery, forerunner of the National Gallery. Most of his books were left to the South African Library.