Joseph THORNTON (1808–1891)
His second wife Mrs Clara Sophia THORNTON, née Lambert (1824/5–1890)
His daughter Miss Lydia THORNTON (1853–1934)
St Michael section: Row 7, Grave C47

Thornton grave

Loving Memory of

Also of

[Two more lines:
probably a biblical text]


Around the kerbs:



Joseph Thornton founded the well-known Oxford bookshop that was at 11 Broad Street until 2002 and is now at The Old Barn, Walnut Court, Faringdon

See also the grave of his son
John Henry Thornton
(whose son was the founder of the business that eventually merged to form Grant Thornton)

Joseph Thornton

Joseph Thornton was born at Great Burstead, near Billericay in Essex on 28 September 1808 and baptised at the Independent Meeting House there on 5 March 1809. He was the son of John Thornton and his wife Mary (possibly the Revd John Thornton and Mary Mabbs, who were married at Great Burstead on 26 June 1804).

In 1834, when he was a single man of about 25, he set up in business as a bookseller in Oxford. His first shop was in Magdalen Street, but by 1839 he had moved his premises to 51 High Street, in the parish of St Peter-in-the-East. (This was in a group of six shops near Longwall Street demolished in 1901 and rebuilt as four shops: Thornton’s shop was on the site of the present No. 50.)

In the second quarter of 1840 in Buckingham, Joseph Thornton married his first wife Emma Walker (born in Little Horwood, Buckinghamshire in 1815/16, the daughter of John Walker). They had the following children:

  • Mary Thornton (born at 51 High Street, Oxford in late 1840)
  • Emma Thornton (born at 51 High Street, Oxford in 1842, reg. third quarter)
  • Elizabeth Thornton (born at 51 High Street, Oxford in 1843/4, reg. first quarter of 1844)
  • John Henry Thornton (born at 51 High Street, Oxford on 29 July 1845)
  • James Thornton (born at 51 High Street, Oxford in 1847/8)
  • Jane Thornton (born in Oxford in 1850, reg. third quarter)
  • Lydia Thornton (born in Oxford in 1853, reg. fourth quarter).

They were probably entered into the roll of the New Road Baptist Church.

At the time of the 1841 census Joseph and Emma were living over the bookshop at 51 High Street with their first daughter, and an older woman called Mary Thornton (who was probably Joseph’s mother) and their servants.

Joseph and Emma were still here in 1851, with their children Mary (10), Emma (8), Elizabeth (7), John (5), and James (3), and two servants. In 1853 they moved their shop back to Magdalen Street.

Emma died at some point between 1853 and 1860. As she originated from Buckingham, she may be the Emma Thornton whose death was registered there in the third quarter of 1857.

Joseph’s second wife, Clara Sophia Lambert was born in London in 1824/5 and at the time of the 1851 census was aged 35 and working as a governess in Gloucester. On 18 June 1860 the partnership between Clara Sophia and Ann Maunder Lambert, schoolmistresses of Bellevue House, Stroud was dissolved by mutual consent, and in the third quarter of 1860 in the Clifton district, Clara Sophia Lambert married Joseph Thornton. They had no children.

At the time of the 1861 census Joseph and Clara Thornton were living over the shop at 18 Magdalen Street, Oxford with Joseph’s son John Henry Thornton (15) and his Cambridge-born nephew John Thornton (18), who both worked in the shop, and one servant. Three of Joseph Thornton’s daughters were in Cambridge: Mary (20) was a teacher at a school and Emma (18) was one of the pupils at that school, while Elizabeth (17) was a governess, living with a family in Cambridge. The two youngest children, Jane (10) and Lydia (7), were paying a visit to their maternal grandfather and their two unmarried aunts at Lenborough, Buckingham: their grandfather, John Walker (76), a widower, was a farmer of 230 acres employing four men and two boys.

In 1863 Joseph Thornton moved his shop to 10 Broad Street in St Michael’s parish, and by 1867 had also opened a branch at 33 High Street: the latter remained open until 1907.

His daughter Emma was married in 1866:

  • In the second quarter of 1866 in Oxford, Emma Thornton married the butcher Thomas Alden,
    son of John & Caroline Alden.

Thornton's old shop at 11 The Broad

In 1870 Joseph Thornton moved his business from 10 Broad Street to No. 11 next door (right), and Thornton’s Bookshop survived here until 2002.

By the time of the 1871 census Joseph and Clara were living over the shop at 11 Broad Street with two of Joseph’s sons, who were now assistant booksellers: John Henry (25) and James (23). Their daughters Mary (30) and Elizabeth (27) were now joint heads of the school in Cambridge, and Lydia (17) was a pupil there.

Three more of their children were married in the 1870s:

  • In the second quarter of 1872 in Oxford, John Henry Thornton married Clara Stanbury;
  • In the third quarter of 1875 in Hackney, James Thornton married Ann Rogers;
  • In the first quarter of 1877 in Cambridge, Elizabeth Thornton married George Shippey.

At the time of the 1881 census Joseph and Clara were still at 11 Broad Street with their daughter Lydia (27), who was a governess. Joseph (72) was still working as a bookseller, employing one man and three boys, and they had one servant. His son James (33) was living in much grander style in The Terrace, Park Town, with his wife Ann and their two children: he was now working separately as a bookseller & publisher, and employed, two assistants, one clerk, two apprentices, and a shopboy.

By 1890 Joseph Thornton had retired. His son John Henry Thornton took over the premises at 11 Broad Street, and Joseph and his wife moved to 71 Southmoor Road.

In 1890 Joseph Thornton's second wife Clara died:

† Mrs Clara Sophia Thornton, née Lambert died at 71 Southmoor Road at the age of 66 on 30 September 1890 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 4 October (burial recorded in the parish register of St Michael’s Church).

At the time of the 1891 census Joseph (82) was living at 71 Southmoor Road with his unmarried daughter Lydia (38), who kept house for him together with one servant. He died later that year:

† Joseph Thornton died at 71 Southmoor Road at the age of 82 on 2 June 1891 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 5 June (burial recorded in the parish register of St Michael’s Church).

His death notice in Jackson's Oxford Journal read simply: “June 2, Joseph Thornton, at 71, Southmoor-road, formerly of 11, Broad-street, Oxford, aged 82.”

His personal estate came to £4,528 2s. 11d., and his executors were his son John and his daughter Jane at Bateman House, Cambridge.

His son John Henry Thornton and his family moved into 11 Broad Street following his father’s death.

His daughter Lydia Thornton, who had looked after her parents until their deaths in 1890 and 1891, never married. At the time of the 1901 census she was living with her sister Emma and brother-in-law Thomas Alden at Ingleside, Headington, and in 1911 she was still with Emma, who was now a widow, at 48 Lonsdale Road in north Oxford.

Lydia died in 1934:

† Miss Lydia Thornton died at Northern House, South Parade at the age of 80 on 5 January 1934, and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 10 January (burial recorded in the parish register of St Michael’s Church).

Her effects came to £2,275 18s. 4d.,

Other surviving children of Joseph Thornton and his first wife Emma
  • Mary Thornton (born 1840) was still a schoolmistress in Cambridge in 1881, together with her sister Jane. In 1901, when she was aged 60 and described herself as a retired schoolmistress, she was in Leamington, paying a visit to John Thornton, an author and schoolmaster born in Cambridge in 1842/3) and his wife Martha.
  • Mrs Emma Alden, née Thornton (born 1842) was living with her husband, the butcher Thomas Alden, and one servant at 228 Essex Road, Islington in 1871. They were still there in 1881, when their niece Kate Alden (19), a student at Bedford College, was living with them. By 1901 Thomas (63) had retired, and he and Emma, with Emma’s sister Lydia, were living at Ingleside, Headington with one servant. Emma’s husband died at The Farm, Old Headington on 1 March 1906 and in 1911 she was living at 48 Lonsdale Road in Summertown with her sister Lydia. She died at Northern House Summertown at the age of 82 on 28 February 1925. Her effects came to £926 12s. 9d.
  • Mrs Elizabeth Shippey née Thornton (born 1844) was living at 52 Sidney Street, Cambridge in 1881 with her husband George (an ironmonger employing four men and three boys) and their children George (8), Mabel (3), and Allan (1), plus two servants. They were living at 4 Warkworth Street, Cambridge in 1891 and had another son: Maurice (9). They were still there in 1901, with none of the children at home. Elizabeth died at 18 Warkworth Street, Cambridge on 21 May 1904. Her effects came to £2,623 15s. 2d.
  • John Henry Thornton (born 1845): see separate grave
  • James Thornton (born 1848) was living at 7 The Terrace (now 59 Park Town) in 1881 with his wife Ann (born in Hackney in 1849) and their children Erastus J. Thornton (3) and Ann K. Thornton (1). He was away from home at the time of the 1891 census, when his wife Ann was home at Warnborough Road with Erastus (13), Arthur (9), Hilda (5), Kenneth (3), and Elsie (eight months), plus two servants. James Thornton died on 10 July 1894 at 26 Warnborough Road, and as well as that address he was also recorded at probate as being at 33 High Street, where he ran a bookshop from 1872 to 1907. His effects came to £1,775 11s., and his executors were his widow and his father-in-law, the provision merchant Erastus Rogers.
  • Jane Thornton (born 1850) was still a schoolmistress in Cambridge in 1881, together with her sister Mary. In 1901, following Mary’s retirement, she was running the school at 62 Bateman Street, Cambridge on her own. By 1911 she too had retired, and was living with her niece Elsie Janet Thornton (20), who was a kindergarten teacher, at Bexhill. She died at the age of 65 in 1915 (reg. Battle fourth quarter).



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