A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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This township has an area of 773½ acres; (fn. 1) the population in 1901 was 265. It is situated in flat country consisting of pastures and cultivated fields. The soil is loamy, producing crops of potatoes, turnips, and corn. The pastures near the Alt lie very low and are often flooded in winter-time and wet seasons. Trees are not a prominent feature of the open landscape. The geological formation is the same as in Sefton. In the summer the village is much resorted to by pleasure parties. The road from Sefton to Great Crosby passes through it. To the north-east is a hamlet now called Homer Green, formerly Hulmore.
There is the pedestal of a cross called Broom's Cross. An ancient sundial on a stone pillar stands on Thornton Green; close to it are the stocks. (fn. 2)
The wakes are held a fortnight after the Great Crosby wakes. It was formerly the custom for a painter to be brought from Liverpool on this day to paint the sundial pillar white with a black diaper pattern over it.
In 1066 THORNTON was held by Ascha, its half-hide being worth beyond the customary rent the normal 8s. (fn. 3) After the Conquest it was divided, two plough-lands being annexed, with Ince Blundell, to the barony of Warrington and the third to the Sefton fee. (fn. 4) Subsequently Pain de Vilers, lord of Warrington, granted one of these plough-lands to Robert de Molyneux of Sefton and the other to Eawin. (fn. 5) There were thus three manors there.
The portion held by the lord of Sefton in chief was granted by Robert de Molyneux, father of the Richard living in 1212, to his brother Gilbert to be held by knight's service; Richard son of Gilbert held it at the date named. (fn. 6) This tenant appears to have assumed the local surname, and both Richard son of Richard de Thornton and Simon son of Richard de Thornton occur during the first half of the thirteenth century. (fn. 7) Simon died before 1246, leaving a son Amery, a minor, whose story will follow. (fn. 8)
In the Warrington fee the plough-land granted to Eawin was held by his son Gilbert in 1212. (fn. 9) This family also assumed Thornton as a surname. Gilbert was succeeded by his son Robert, who made a grant to Cockersand, (fn. 10) and Robert by his son, another Robert, who was in possession in 1243. (fn. 11) The younger Robert, known as the 'Priestsmock,' had several sons, but the eldest, Adam, surrendered all his right in Thornton to the chief lord, William le Boteler, who thereupon granted it to the abovenamed Amery de Thornton in exchange for the latter's possessions in Great Marton. (fn. 12) Thus Amery came to hold two of the three plough-lands, one from the lord of Sefton and the other from the lord of Warrington. (fn. 13)
He had a son Simon, who seems to have died without issue, (fn. 14) and a daughter Margery, (fn. 15) who married William de Hokelaw, and in June, 1355, as a widow, enfeoffed Richard de Lunt of one-third of the manor of Thornton. (fn. 16)
Afterwards this portion seems to have been divided, and at the beginning of the sixteenth century portions were held by the families of Ince, Tarleton, (fn. 17) Lunt, (fn. 18) and others. (fn. 19) Portions appear to have been purchased from time to time by the lords of Sefton. (fn. 20) In 1597 the lord of Warrington sold his right in the manor to Sir Richard Molyneux. (fn. 21)
The third plough-land, held of the lords of Warrington by Molyneux of Sefton, (fn. 22) was by Richard de Molyneux granted to his son Robert, who held it in 1212, and was the ancestor of the long line of Molyneux of Thornton, Melling, and finally of Mossborough in Rainford. (fn. 23) In 1246 Robert de Molyneux called upon Adam de Molyneux of Sefton as mesne tenant to acquit him of the service which William le Boteler claimed in respect of the ploughland in Thornton, Robert complaining that he was distrained to do suit to the court of Warrington every three weeks. (fn. 24) Adam agreed to discharge the service, but his son William, on succeeding, neglected the obligation, and three years later Robert had again to complain that he was summoned to do 'bode and witness' at the Warrington court, and to entertain William le Boteler's beadles whenever they came to Thornton. (fn. 25)
In this trial Robert was represented by his son Robert, who appears to have succeeded him, and was about 1290 followed by his son, also named Robert, (fn. 26) who died perhaps about 1336, when his eldest son Robert succeeded. This Robert died without issue, his heir being a nephew, Robert, son of Simon de Molyneux, then a minor. In 1358 Richard de Molyneux of Sefton had a contest with William le Boteler of Warrington as to the profits of the wardship. (fn. 27) In 1356 he had complained that Robert le Norreys of Melling, and Joan his wife, with John de Lancaster and Mabel his wife, had abducted the heir, who was by right his ward. (fn. 28) Robert Molyneux's wife, Alice, is said to have been a daughter of Robert le Norreys. (fn. 29) Their son Robert settled in Melling, (fn. 30) and the story of his descendants will be found in the account of that township. Their manor of Thornton regularly descended to Dame Frances Blount, from whose trustees it was purchased in 1773 by the first earl of Sefton, (fn. 31) who thus became possessed of all the manors in this place, either by descent or purchase. This complete lordship has descended to the present earl.
The Hospitallers had land here, which about 1540 was held by Henry Blundell at a rent of 5½d. (fn. 32)
The windmill of Thornton was in 1368 in the possession of Richard de Aughton; (fn. 33) it was afterwards assigned by Margaret Bulkeley to the sustentation of her chantry in Sefton church, and the chantry priest was tenant in 1548. (fn. 34)
There do not appear to have been any resident freeholders here in 1600. To the subsidy of 1628 Robert Bootle, as a convicted recusant, paid double; (fn. 35) he and his wife Jane, with a number of others, appear in the recusant roll of 1641. (fn. 36) Sarah Sumner, widow, as a 'Papist,' registered an estate here and in Little Crosby in 1717. (fn. 37)