THORNTON, John (by 1529-1601), of Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. by 1529, prob. s. of John Thornton (d.1540) of Kingston-upon-Hull by Margaret. m. Joan, da. and coh. of Ralph Constable of St. Sepulchre’s in Holderness, at least 1s.1

Offices Held

Alderman, Hull by 1550, mayor 1555-6, 1566-7, 1577-8; commr. sewers, Hull 1565, musters 1569, eccles. causes, province of York c.1568, 1573, concealed lands, Hull 1584; gov. Hull fellowship of merchants 1577.2


John Thornton was probably the son of a Hull merchant; he is not to be confused with a namesake of Birdforth near Thirsk who came of the family at York which had supplied that city with a Member of Parliament in 1504. Already an alderman of Hull by 1550, and then resident in the city’s north ward, Thornton profited from the revival of Hull’s trade at this period and by 1555 was sufficiently known and respected as a merchant to receive a power of attorney from Denmark to settle a dispute with the Hull authorities over a ship seized in the Humber. Early in 1556, in partnership with James Clerkson (his fellow-Member in the Parliament of 1571), he leased the cloth hall in the High Street; throughout his life he was to add to his property in and near the town. It was probably at about the same time that he married into a cadet branch of the Constables of Burton Constable, for in 1562 he was to be entrusted by Thomas Aldred, whose wife was Joan Constable’s sister, with the upbringing of Aldred’s elder son John: guardian and ward were to be returned together to the Parliament of 1584. Thornton’s first election 30 years earlier had registered his standing in a town which preserved a large measure of electoral independence. Nothing is known of his role in that Parliament save that unlike his fellow Walter Jobson he was not among those who absented themselves without leave before its dissolution.3

Thornton was to be re-elected to three Elizabethan Parliaments and on several occasions he acted for Hull on other business in the capital and in negotiations with York. He died in 1601.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xi. 178, 238; Glover’s Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 57-58, 144, 146.
  • 2. J. M. Lambert, Two Thousand Years of Gild Life, 173, 236; T. Gent, Kingston-upon-Hull (1735), 120, 122, 125; CPR, 1566-9, pp. 172-3; 1569-72, p. 216; 1572-5, p. 169; L. M. Stanewell, Cal. Anct. Deeds, Kingston-upon-Hull, 105, 318.
  • 3. E122/65/11, ff. iv, 9v; 179/203/233; VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), i. 123, 142; Stanewell, 90-92, 96, 98, 101, 112, 164; Yorks wills 17, f. 142.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 130; Stanewell, 158-60; Surtees Soc. cxxix. 194, 212-15; Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xxiv. 194; cxix. 162-3.