Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thornton, Thomas (1786-1866)

THORNTON, THOMAS (1786–1866), journalist, born in London on 12 July 1786, was the son of Thomas Thornton, East India agent. His mother's maiden name was Sarah Kitchener. In early life he was employed in the custom-house, and published several works dealing with East Indian trade. The first of these, a ‘Compendium of the Laws recently passed for regulating the Trade with the East Indies,’ appeared in 1814. It was followed in 1818 by ‘The Duties of Customs and Excise on Goods … imported, and the Duties, Drawbacks, &c., on Goods exported, brought down to August 1818.’ This was supplemented in the succeeding year by an edition corrected to July 1819. In 1825 he published ‘Oriental Commerce, or the East Indian Trader's Complete Guide,’ a geographical and statistical work originally compiled by William Milburn, a servant of the East India Company, containing descriptions of all the countries with which the company carried on trade, and much statistical information. Thornton greatly reduced the historical part of the work, but added supplemental matter.

In 1825 he became connected with the ‘Times,’ and remained a member of its staff till the year before his death. Between 1841 and 1850 he published in monthly parts Notes of Cases in the Ecclesiastical and Maritime Courts.’ They appeared in seven volumes in 1850. Their object was ‘to supply in the interval between the decisions and the publication of the authorised reports more full and accurate notes of important cases than those found in the daily papers.’ Thornton subsequently supplied reports of the parliamentary debates, which were characterised by great terseness and grasp. He also published in two volumes in 1844 a ‘History of China to the Treaty in 1842’ (Von Möllendorf, Manual of Chinese Bibliography). In 1813 Thornton edited the ‘Complete Works of Thomas Otway’ in 3 vols. 8vo, and prefixed a short life of the dramatist.

He died on 25 March 1866 at 29 Gloucester Street, Belgrave Road, London. He married in 1823 Elizabeth, daughter of Habbakuk Robinson of Bagshot, Surrey, by whom he had three sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Robinson Thornton, D.D. (b. 1825), warden of Trinity College, Glenalmond, from 1870 to 1873, and Boyle lecturer in 1881–3, became archdeacon of Middlesex in 1893. The second son, Thomas Henry, D.C.L. Oxon. (b. 1832), was judge of the chief court of the Punjab and member of the legislative council of India in 1878–1881. The third son, Samuel, D.D. (b. 1836), was first bishop of Ballarat (1875–1900) and vicar of Blackburn from 1901.

[Times, 29 March 1866; Gent. Mag. 1866, i. 759, 760; Walford's County Families; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. Le G. N.