THORNTON, William (?1712-69), of Cattal, nr. York

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1747 - 1754
1 Dec. 1758 - 1761

Family and Education

b. ?1712, s. of Sir William Thornton.  educ. Mr. Jackson’s sch., York; St. John’s, Camb. 27 Mar. 1731, aged 18.  m. 11 July 1749, a da. of John Myster of Epsom, Surr., 1s. 1da.

Offices Held


In October 1753 Thornton was adopted at York as candidate for the forthcoming general election. But a few days afterwards he informed Lord Rockingham that he had decided not to stand, and would give his interest to any candidate favoured by Rockingham. His reasons for declining are not known. Certainly it was not that he did not wish to be in Parliament, for on 13 Apr. 1754 he wrote to the Duke of Bedford (to whom he was unknown) to ask his advice about standing for Westminster.1 Bedford advised Thornton against it, ‘upon account of the vast expense that must necessarily attend any contest’; and Thornton dropped the idea.

At the by-election at York in 1758 Thornton stood as Rockingham’s candidate. It was at first expected that he would be returned unopposed, but when it became clear that a contest was probable Thornton’s enthusiasm evaporated. ‘I dread an opposition’, wrote Thomas Place, Rockingham’s agent at York, 6 Nov. 1758,2 ‘for we shall have horrid work with Thornton.’ When Robert Lane announced his candidature Thornton tried to decline in favour of Sir George Armytage, but Rockingham thought it too late to change his candidate. It seems to have been understood between them that Thornton should not have to shoulder a heavy financial burden. His expenses came to over £12,000, of which Thornton paid £1,000 and Rockingham over £8,000.

Thornton did not stand in 1761, and died 10 July 1769.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Beford ms 30, f. 34.
  • 2. Fitzwilliam mss.