Thorton History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the name Thorton date back to the days of the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. The name is derived from their residence in the parish of Thornton in the county of Yorkshire. Thorton is a topographic surname, which was given to a person who resided near a physical feature such as a hill, stream, church, or type of tree. During the Middle Ages, as society became more complex, individuals needed a way to be distinguishable from others. Toponymic surnames were developed as a result of this need. Various features in the landscape or area were used to distinguish people from one another. In this case the surname Thorton was originally derived from the Old English terms thorn meaning thorn bushes and tun meaning enclosure or town. Therefore the original bearers of the surname Thorton were named due to their close proximity to the village where the thorn bushes were plentiful. [1] [2]

Early Origins of the Thorton family

The surname Thorton was first found in Cheshire where the founder of the family was Peter Thornton, Secretary to the Blundells. Thornton in Lancashire is home to another branch of the family.

"In the Testa de Nevill is mentioned Matilda de Thorenton, who was at the king's donation, but unmarried. In the 17th of Edward II., half the town of Thornton was held by William Banastre, and the other moiety by Laurence de Thorneton, a descendant probably of the above-named Matilda." [3] [4]

Another branch of the family was found in Arrow(e) in Cheshire from ancient times. "A moiety of the manor was in the Thornton family in the reign of Edward II., and passed by successive female heirs to the Duttons and Gerards." [3]

Nether Witton in Northumberland was also an ancient family seat. "In the 14th century, [the manor of Nether Witton] became the property of Roger de Thornton, who built the ancient baronial tower, and, dying in 1429, was succeeded by his son, whose daughter and heiress conveyed it by marriage to George, Lord Lumley, of Lumley Castle. The estate subsequently became again the property of the Thornton family, of whom James left two daughters, who, as co-heiresses, conveyed it by marriage to the Trevelyans and the Withams, whose descendants are at present its proprietors. The manorhouse, a handsome mansion of white freestone, erected in the 17th century, is beautifully situated in tastefully embellished grounds; it is said to have been visited by Cromwell in the summer of 1651, and to have been the hiding-place of Lord Lovat, after his flight from the field of Culloden." [3]

Gilbert de Thornton (d. 1295), was an English judge and was engaged as a crown advocate in 1291. On 2 Oct. 1284, he was sent to Ireland on the king's service and later became Chief Justice of the King's Bench. [5]

Yorkshire was a county of significance. "The explanation of so many Thorntons in the Yorkshire directories lies in the fact that there are at least three Thorntons in that county including Thornton-in-Craven, and Thornton-in-Lonsdale. " [6]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 confirmed the Yorkshire existence of the family there at that time (Hugh de Thorneton and Richard de Thorneton but also included a lone Cambridgeshire listing: Roger de Thoratone. [6]

Another source confirms the Yorkshire significance: "Yorkshire abounds with places so called. Thorne appears to have been an old Anglo-Saxon personal name; and hence Thornton may mean the homestead of Thorne." [7]

Early History of the Thorton family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Thorton research. Another 117 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1204, 1425, 1469, 1615, 1669, 1660, 1440, 1623, 1678 and are included under the topic Early Thorton History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Thorton Spelling Variations

Thorton has been spelled many different ways. Before English spelling became standardized over the last few hundred years, spelling variations in names were a common occurrence. As the English language changed in the Middle Ages, absorbing pieces of Latin and French, as well as other languages, the spelling of people's names also changed considerably, even over a single lifetime. Many variations of the name Thorton have been found, including Thornton, Thornten and others.

Early Notables of the Thorton family (pre 1700)

Notables of this surname at this time include: Sir Roger Thornton of Soane, Cambridgeshire; and Sir Isaac Thornton (1615-1669), an English lawyer and politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1660. Robert Thornton (fl. 1440), was the transcriber of the 'Thornton Romances.' Thornton spent much of his life in transcribing, and perhaps translating into English, romances and other works popular in his day. [5] Robert Thoroton (1623-1678), was an English antiquary, the son of Robert and Anne Thoroton. "His ancestors had long held considerable property in...
Another 86 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Thorton Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Thorton Ranking

In the United States, the name Thorton is the 3,728th most popular surname with an estimated 7,461 people with that name. [8]

Ireland Migration of the Thorton family to Ireland

Some of the Thorton family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 88 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


Canada Thorton migration to Canada +

In an attempt to escape the chaos experienced in England, many English families boarded overcrowded and diseased ships sailing for the shores of North America and other British colonies. Those families hardy enough, and lucky enough, to make the passage intact were rewarded with land and a social environment less prone to religious and political persecution. Many of these families became important contributors to the young colonies in which they settled. Early immigration and passenger lists have documented some of the first Thortons to arrive on North American shores:

Thorton Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Mr. John Thorton U.E. who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1784 [9]

New Zealand Thorton migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Thorton Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • James Thorton, aged 21, a labourer, who arrived in Hawkes Bay aboard the ship "Renfrewshire" in 1878

Contemporary Notables of the name Thorton (post 1700) +

  • William Thorton Mustard OC MBE (1914-1987), Canadian physician and cardiac surgeon who developed the "Mustard operation" used in orthopedics and the "Mustard cardiovascular procedure"


The Thorton Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Fideli tuta merces
Motto Translation: To the faithful go rewards


  1. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  2. ^ Smith, Eldson Coles, New Dictionary of American Family Names New York: Harper & Row, 1956. Print
  3. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  4. ^ Testa de Nevill or "Liber Feodorum" or "Book of Fees," thought to have been written by Ralph de Nevill, for King John (1199–1216)
  5. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  6. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  7. ^ Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  8. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  9. ^ Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X


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