Townships: Thornton

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.

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'Townships: Thornton', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907), pp. 76-78. British History Online [accessed 12 June 2024].

. "Townships: Thornton", in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907) 76-78. British History Online, accessed June 12, 2024,

. "Townships: Thornton", A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, (London, 1907). 76-78. British History Online. Web. 12 June 2024,

In this section


Torentun, Dom. Bk.; Thorinton, 1212; Thorinton, Thornton, and Thorneton, 1292.

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.

The old oak chest, containing overseers' books and the parish mace, has on it the letters GC. TC. 17.

Dialect words in colloquial use which may be noticed here are 'neave' for fist, 'narky' for fractious, and 'coi ammered' or 'cain ammered' for testy or contentious.

One of the fields is named Mass Field; among others are Windpool, Crane Greave, Tush Hey, Bretlands, School Croft, and Little Eyes.

The township is governed by a parish council.


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)


  • 1. The Census of 1901 gives 774 acres, which include 2 of inland water.
  • 2. Lancs. and Ches. Antiq. Soc. xix, 184; also Trans. Hist. Soc. xi, 255.
  • 3. V.C.H. Lancs. i, 284a.
  • 4. Lancs. Inq. and Extents (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 7, 8, 13.
  • 5. Ibid. 7, 8.
  • 6. Ibid. 13.
  • 7. Richard son of Richard de Thornton was witness to a grant to Stanlaw Abbey made before 1250; Whalley Coucher. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 524. He had land in Aigburth; ibid. 561. Richard de Thornton and Simon his son attested another charter before 1242; ibid. 525. It appears to have been Alice, the widow of this Simon, who in 1295 released all her right in her husband's land in Aigburth to the monks of Stanlaw; ibid. 586. Henry de Thornton, witness to several Ince and Aigburth charters of the first half of the century, may have been of this family; ibid. ii, 496, 560.
  • 8. Assize R. 404, m. 9; a claim concerning land in Amounderness, held by Richard le Boteler as guardian of Amery, son of Simon de Thornton.
  • 9. Inq. and Extents, 8.
  • 10. Cockersand Chartul. (Chet. Soc.), ii, 554; a messuage with toft and croft between crofts of Randle the Rim and Simon son of Gilbert. Nicholas de Farington was tenant of Jordan, abbot of Cockersand, in 1327; he agreed to build a house and to pay half a mark at death; Blundell of Crosby D. K. 29.
  • 11. Adam de Molyneux and Robert son of Robert held the two Warrington plough-lands in that year; Inq. and Extents, 147. In 1246, Maud widow of Richard son of Gilbert brought a suit of dower against Robert son of Robert and others concerning lands which her husband had given her in Thornton, but withdrew before trial; Assize R. 404, m. 11.
  • 12. Croxteth D. Y. iii, 3. In this charter William le Boteler recites that Adam son of Robert the Priestsmock had surrendered his land in Thornton, and grants the same to Amery son of Simon together with the homage and service of Simon son of Adam for half an oxgang, but saving to the grantor the homage and service of Alan le Norreys, William Blundell, and of Thomas and John sons of the said Robert the Priestsmock; further he quitclaims to Amery and his heirs the suit of court at his barony of Warrington which Adam used to do for his land; a rent of a silver penny was payable. Adam son of Robert de Thornton was living in 1292, when he claimed debts from William son of Jordan de Hulton and from William de Lea; Assize R. 408, m. 95, 98, 99d. Of the undertenants who thus came to hold directly of the lords of Warrington, but little is known: (i) In a grant from Vivian son of Robert de Orsau, or Orshaw, to John son of Gerard de Hoton, it is stated that the land he held from the Hospital of St. John of Chester lay between the land of Alan le Norreys and that of Amery son of Simon; Blundell of Crosby D. K. 225. In 1331 Richard de Yorton, who had married the widow of Alan le Norreys, gave a three years' lease of his lands in Thornton to Thomas de Molyneux; Croxteth D. Y. i, 2. (ii) William son of William Blundell, in 1300, granted an oxgang in the vill of Thornton, held of William le Boteler, to Peter son of Richard de Molyneux, with remainders to Thomas and Joan, brother and sister of Peter; ibid. Y. i, 1. In 1331 Agnes widow of William Blundell of Ince sought dower from Peter de Molyneux in four messuages and an oxgang in Thornton; De Banc. R. 287, m. 178d. (iii) Thomas son of Robert de Thornton gave his brother John a messuage and croft at a rent of a pair of gloves, value ½d.; Croxteth D. Y. iii, 2. Thomas had a son Richard, who had sons Adam and William; Adam had a daughter and heir Margery, who married John son of Adam de Orshaw and had five daughters, who divided the inheritance among them. This appears from a grant in 1327 by the feoffee, Robert son of Adam de Molyneux, of Sefton, to John de Orshaw and Margery his wife, on their marriage, with remainder to Margery's uncle William; Blundell of Crosby D. K. 272. Also from a grant by Maud daughter of John de Orshaw to Robert son of John de Tarleton in 1356; this comprised her share, viz. a quarter of the inheritance of her mother Margery in Thornton, Ince, and Little Crosby; Croxteth D. Y. iii, 17. Maud's sisters, Agnes, Ellen, Emma, and Joan, are named in a suit in 1351; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 1, m. ij. Very soon afterwards, in 1359, Robert de Tarleton transferred his acquisition to Richard de Molyneux of Sefton; Croxteth D. Y. i, 6. John de Orshaw of Thornton contributed to the subsidy of 1332; Exch. Lay Subs. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 19.
  • 13. Amery de Thornton frequently occurs in the latter part of Edward I's reign as witness to charters; e.g. Whalley Coucher, ii, 431 (dated 1292), 503, &c. In 1292 he claimed a tenement in Thornton from Richard de Molyneux, but was non-suited; Assize R. 408, m. 58d. At the same time he was defendant in another suit; ibid. m. 68d.; while three years later he was once more a plaintiff; Assize R. 1306, m. 19d. Some grants by him have been preserved. By one, dated 1296, he gave part of his plough-land, viz. an acre near his mill in Thornton, to Richard son of Thomas of Little Crosby; to be held of the chief lord, Richard de Molyneux, by a rent of ½d.; Blundell of Crosby D. K. 18. He gave Richard son of Robert de Riding a house and croft in Thornton, adding an oxgang of land, to wit, the eighth part of a plough-land, in 1295; in the following year he granted an acre in the Meadowbutts to John del Lunt; the oxgang and the acre were also to be held of Richard de Molyneux as chief lord; Croxteth D. Y. iii, 4–6.
  • 14. Amery probably died before 1300, for in 1302 his son Simon had lands called Witesike and Swartmoor from Richard de Molyneux, and himself made a grant in the Aldfield to Robert de Riding. In 1311 he gave to Hugh Drury land in the Masefield next to the Little Holgate, with the headland in the Little Blakefield; ibid. Ee. 11; Y. iii, 7 8. Hugh Drury had several grants in Sefton and Thornton from 1307 onwards; ibid. Ee. 13, 14, 16; while Robert son of Hugh Drury appears in 1311, and in 1328 Hugh Drury made a grant to his son John; ibid. Y. iii, 10, 11. In 1368 Isabel widow of Richard de Molyneux claimed the custody of certain land in Thornton held by Simon Baron, as next of kin and heir of Margery daughter of Simon de Thornton; De Banc. R. 432, m. 251d.; 434, m. 220. 'Daughter' may be an error for sister.
  • 15. To Margery his daughter Amery granted land in the territory of Thornton called Soraniscroft, as well as an acre in the Newfield towards Sefton, a rent of ½d. being payable to the chief lord; Croxteth D. Y. iii, 1. William de Hokelaw and Margery his wife and Margaret widow of Simon de Thornton were in 1325 convicted of having disseised Robert son of Thomas Burgeys of his free tenement in Thornton; Assize R. 426, m. 6. William de Hokelaw in 1331 procured land in Thornton, abutting on the green, from William son of Simon de Lund; and in 1338 he made an exchange of lands with Robert son of Richard de Riding; Croxteth D. Y. iii, 13, 14. In the following year Margery, as his widow, gave to Geoffrey son of Henry de Thornton the acre in the Newfield, and the other in Soraniscroft above mentioned; ibid. Y. iii, 15. She made a grant to John de Molyneux in 1346; ibid. Y. i, 4.
  • 16. Ibid. Y. i, 4; iii, 16. In the same year, however, Richard de Molyneux of Sefton and the heirs of Margery de Hokelaw were returned as holding the Warrington part of Thornton which Adam de Molyneux and Robert son of Robert had formerly held; Feud. Aids, iii, 90. Who these heirs were does not clearly appear, but the following deeds may relate to this portion of the manor:— Thomas de Betres in 1370 granted all the Thornton lands, lordships, reliefs, &c., which he had had from Simon son of Robert Waron, to Robert son of Robert de Ince, with remainder to Emmota daughter of Robert Waron, and to the right heirs of Margery Hokelaw; Croxteth D. Y. iii, 18. At Pentecost, 1398, John de Mytton, as feoffee of William son of Walter de Thornton, granted to the said William and Emmota his wife all their lands in Thornton, with remainder to Emmota daughter of William and to Robert son of Robert de Ince; ibid. Y. iii, 21. Robert son of Robert de Ince in 1409 granted to his brother Simon all the messuages and lands formerly held by William Geoffreyson; ibid. Y. iii, 22. Robert de Ince occurs as a witness to charters from 1382 to 1409, and Simon de Ince from 1414 to 1427; Amery and Nicholas occur in 1418. Blundell of Crosby D. K. 223, K. 40, K. 35, K. 34, K. 37. Then in 1489 Richard Tarleton gave certain selions in fields called Crooks and Derlogs in Thornton to Robert Ince in exchange for the lands there; Croxteth D. Y. iii, 29. At the beginning of 1515 Richard de Ince did homage and service at Bewsey for his lands in Thornton held of Thomas Butler by knight's service; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 30. In 1505 Richard Tarleton had done similar homage; ibid. i, 16. There is, however, nothing to show the origin or descent of Tarleton's share of the manor. Gilbert de Tarleton was a contributor to the subsidy here in 1332; Exch. Lay Subs. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), 19. John de Tarleton of Thornton occurs in the poll-tax list of 1381; Lay Subs. Lancs. 130–24. William de Tarleton attested a Thornton charter in 1427–8; Cecily widow of William de Tarleton had in 1440 lands in Litherland, Scarisbrick, Lydiate, Ormskirk, and Thornton; and Richard Tarleton of Thornton was witness in 1421–2 and 1456–7. Blundell of Crosby D. K. 34, K. 36, K. 27, K. 33. The following were the services due to the Butlers from Thornton in 1548: From Richard Molyneux of Sefton, 2½d. and a pound of pepper, and 6d.; from John Molyneux, 20d.; from William Tarleton, 1½d.; from Robert Bootle and Elizabeth his wife, in her right, 13½d.; from Bryan Lunt, ½d. Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 13, m. 142.
  • 17. What is known of these is stated in the previous note.
  • 18. The Lunt family or families long had a holding here, and that part at least was held of the barony of Warrington is proved by the homage roll cited in a previous note; for in 1505 John Lunt of Thornton did homage for lands in Thornton; Misc. i, 18. The earliest grant is one dated 1305, when Robert de Molyneux of Thornton and Simon son of Amery de Thornton together granted a small piece of land to Henry son of Alan del Lunt, at a rent of a rose to the chief lord; Croxteth D. Ee. 12. At the beginning of 1342 William son of Simon del Lunt granted lands in the new approvement to Richard de Molyneux; ibid. Y. i, 3. Henry son of William made a settlement of his lands in 1354; he had had some from his uncle Henry son of Simon del Lunt; ibid, Y. i, 5; Ee. 23; Y. i, 8. Joan daughter of Robert del Lunt appears in 1384, making a feoffment of the lands in Thornton she had received from Robert son of Richard del Riding; ibid, Y. iii, 19, 20; she made a further one in 1388; ibid. Y. i, 9; Ee. 27.
  • 19. In the Croxteth D. are a few referring to Hulmore in Thornton; it appears that Richard Fowler sold to Dame Anne Molyneux in 1488 a messuage and land he had in 1476 received from Ralph Bette and Ellen his wife; N. 1–4; see also N. 6.
  • 20. This is clear from the references to the Croxteth D. in previous notes.
  • 21. Ibid. Y. i, 12.
  • 22. It has been mentioned once or twice in preceding notes. Richard de Molyneux of Sefton held it in 1324 by the eighth part of a knight's fee; Dods. MSS. cxxxi, fol. 34. In 1368 it was found that Richard de Molyneux of Sefton had held the manor of Thornton of Sir William le Boteler by the service of 2s. and performing suit at the court of Warrington; Inq. p.m. 42 Edw. III, n. 40 (1st Nos.). In 1623 the jurors could not learn what the tenure was; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), iii, 389.
  • 23. Lancs. Inq. and Extents, 7. The name Robert de Molyneux appears frequently among the witnesses to local charters, but the succession of a number of Roberts makes it almost impossible to distinguish the different bearers of the name.
  • 24. Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 104; Assize R. 404, m. 3d.
  • 25. Final Conc. i, 109.
  • 26. Possibly another generation should be inserted. Robert son of Robert de Molyneux appears in suits relating to Melling in 1292 and 1305, his mother Margery being alive; Assize R. 408, m. 32d. 34d. 68, 36; R. 420, m. 4d. Margery widow of Robert de Molyneux was still living in 1316. Robert son of Robert de Molyneux of Thornton in 1310–11 granted to Robert the Tasker land in the southern part of the vill, next to land of Hugh Drury's; Blundell of Crosby D. K. 23.
  • 27. Assize R. 438, m. 6d. William le Boteler claimed as capital lord of Robert's land; but it will be seen by the statement in the text that Richard de Molyneux of Sefton was the mesne tenant. Hence William le Boteler was defeated. His statement was that Robert's manor of Thornton was held by homage and fealty, payment of 10s. to a scutage of 40s., doing suit from three weeks to three weeks, and a yearly service of 21d. He claimed £20 damages.
  • 28. Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 5, m. 15. Norreys seems to have replied with a claim for trespass; ibid. m. 22d. Joan, as widow of Simon de Molyneux, was a plaintiff in 1346; De Banc. R. 347, m. 226. Robert came of age early in 1356, for at Easter he brought a suit against Richard de Molyneux for waste, sale, and destruction of lands, &c., in Thornton during his guardianship; Duchy of Lanc. Assize R. 5, m. 26.
  • 29. Visit. of 1567 (Chet. Soc.), 99.
  • 30. Thus Alice, widow of Robert de Molyneux of Thornton, granted land in this place to Robert her son; while Robert de Molyneux of Melling in 1399 gave John Page of Thornton a portion of the lands here he had had from Alice his mother in exchange for another piece on the Broadlake; Blundell of Crosby D. K. 25, K. 28. It was probably the younger Robert's grandson Robert who in 1456–7 enfeoffed Thomas Stanley and Thomas Molyneux, son of Sir Richard Molyneux, late of Sefton, of his manor of Thornton and all his lands in Thornton and Sefton; ibid. K. 33.
  • 31. Croxteth D. Y. ii—deeds of 2 March, 1756, and 8–9 June, 1773.
  • 32. Kuerden MSS. v, fol. 84.
  • 33. Croxteth D. O. ii, 14.
  • 34. Raines, Chantries (Chet. Soc.), 111.
  • 35. Norris D. (B.M.). Robert's father, William Bootle, described as 'gentleman,' died in 1595, holding five messuages and lands in Thornton of Sir Richard Molyneux; but the inquest was not taken till 1628, when Robert was thirty-five years of age; his mother Anne Stephenson was still living; Towneley MS. C. 8, 13 (Chet. Lib.), 56. Robert's son William was of another mind; see the introduction to the parish, and Royalist Comp. P. (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i, 210.
  • 36. Trans. Hist. Soc. (New Ser.), xiv, 236.
  • 37. Engl. Cath. Non-jurors, 147.