THOROTON, Thomas (?1723-94), of Screveton Hall, Notts.
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Family and Education
b. ?1723, 1st s. of Robert Thoroton by Mary, da. of Sir Richard Levett, 1d. mayor of London, wid. of Abraham Blackborne, London mercer. educ. Westminster 1736; Trinity Hall, Camb. 1742; L. Inn 1745. m. Oct. 1751, Roosita (or Roosilia) Drake, illegit. da. of John, 3rd Duke of Rutland, 8s. 5da.
Sec. to Board of Ordnance 1763-70.
Thoroton belonged to one of the oldest gentry families in Nottinghamshire, distantly related to the Dukes of Rutland. Having married the daughter of the 3rd Duke, he was treated as one of the family, and was the faithful friend and trusted ‘man of business’ to three generations.
Newcastle, after Granby had defended him in Parliament, wrote to Rutland on 2 Jan. 1757, that he wanted to show his gratitude for such marks of friendship and support by choosing Thoroton at Boroughbridge: ‘the election will not be one farthing of expense to him’; and to Andrew Wilkinson, his agent at Boroughbridge, he recommended Thoroton as ‘an extreme good Whig’ (Thoroton’s father had been reckoned a Tory). In 1761 Thoroton was again returned on Newcastle’s interest, this time at Newark—‘The Duke of Rutland has been so good as to allow me to choose Thoroton there’, he wrote to Granby, 17 Mar. And to Thoroton, 21 Mar.: ‘If there should be any unforeseen expense, we must take care that it shall not fall upon you.’1 In the end the return was unopposed. In 1768 Thoroton was first considered for the Rutland seat at Grantham, ‘having made himself rather agreeable to the people’,2 but finished by contesting Bramber on Granby’s interest; was seated on petition; and returned unopposed in 1774 and 1780.
There is no record of his having spoken in debate during his 24 years in Parliament. He voted with Granby: supported the Grenville Administration; opposed the repeal of the Stamp Act; supported the Chatham Administration, and that of Grafton till Granby went into opposition in January 1770. After Granby’s death Thoroton voted against the Spanish convention, 13 Feb. 1771; over the royal marriage bill, March 1772 was classed by Robinson as ‘doubtful, absent’; and although he voted against the Government on the Middlesex motion, 26 Apr. 1773, was classed by Robinson at the end of this Parliament as a Government supporter. But when young Granby, who entered the House in 1774, joined the Opposition, Thoroton followed him. His reasons for withdrawing from Parliament in January 1782 are not known, but it certainly was not because of differences with the young Duke: their relations remained close and cordial.
At various times office for Thoroton was talked of, but the only one he held was of secretary to Granby as master of the Ordnance, 1763-70; part of his lifelong service to the Rutland family. He looked after their interests, public and private, big and small. From the time of his marriage till the death of the 3rd Duke in 1779, ‘he and his wife resided permanently at Belvoir, and Rutland House, where he conducted the whole of the Duke’s correspondence’.3 Newcastle no doubt ascribed political influence to him when he twice complimented him with a seat in Parliament. Hardwicke, having to settle with him the accounts for the 1761 Cambridgeshire election of Royston and Granby, found him a ‘very reasonable man’.4 Shelburne wrote to Bute, 2 Nov. 1762:5
The most unlucky thing in the world has happened as to the Rutland family, which is that Mr. Thoroton, of whom you have heard, is not come with them, nor is not expected this week. The Duke’s nerves are so weak of an evening that they cannot stand five minutes.
It was through Thoroton that Rutland sent on 18 Nov. confidential advice to Newcastle how to try to forestall Calcraft with Granby. Still, it is difficult to say how much influence he had with a man so unstable as Granby, although he was the man Granby relied upon in most varied business, and who served him most faithfully. When Granby resigned, Thoroton, wrote his half-brother Levett Blackborne, another Rutland agent, became ‘a private gentleman’, and attended Granby ‘to Shakespeare and the play every night’.6 And again on 12 Feb. 1771: since Granby’s death Thoroton ‘has indeed ... been one of the most miserable, and most harassed creatures in the world. His table (at Belvoir) covered with letters from those who have either legal or compassionate claims on our unhappy deceased friend; and no possibility of answering them to any effect’.7 Thoroton continued to look after Granby’s sons: acted as parliamentary whip for the Rutland group;8 and after having left Parliament, still attended to the Duke’s private affairs. ‘I am here’, he wrote on 13 Oct. 1785 from Belvoir to Rutland, then lord lieutenant of Ireland, ‘to obey your commands relative to the prints and the wine, which will set off for Dublin immediately’; and he goes on to discuss the advantages to be expected from a navigable canal to Leicester for the Duke’s estates and collieries.
Thoroton died 9 May 1794.