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Thornton Family: Letters and Papers

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.7674

Scope and Contents

Letters, diaries, legal documents, formal recollections, and odd scraps of personal information, chronicling the life of the Thornton family and reflecting the social life of the times. The bulk of the material covers the lifetime of E.M. Forster's great aunt Marianne Thornton. In addition to such letters of her own which have survived, she and other members of the family transcribed much of the family correspondence in several volumes of handwritten copies of letters. These include letters to, from, or dealing with, members of the Clapham Sect and a detailed report of Robert Thornton's bankruptcy.

1/A. Letters from John Thornton to John Newton, 1772-1778, 62 items. 1/B. Letters to John Thornton from John Newton, 1773-1778, 25 items. 1/C. Letters from John Thornton to William Richardson, 1774-1790, 21 items. 1/D. Letters from John Thornton to Robert Sandwich, 1772-1777, 6 items. 1/E. Letters to the Thornton family from Hannah More, 1814-1817 and some undated, 11 items. 1/F. Letters from Mrs. Henry (Marianne) Thornton and Marianne Thornton to Hannah More, 1814-1835 and some undated, 13 items. 1/G. Letters to Mrs. Henry (Marianne) Thornton from Charemile Phillipps, 1803-1815 and some undated, 35 items. 1/H. Letters to Marianne Thornton and to Charles Forster from William Wilberforce, 1812-1832 and some undated, 12 items. 1/I. Letters to and from the Thornton family, most pre-1815, 87 items. 1/J. Letters to and from the Thornton family, most written after the deaths of Mr and Mrs Henry Thornton in 1815. Much intra-family correspondence. 102 items. 1/K. Letters to, from, and concerning Robert Thornton, mainly 1814-1816, 173 items. 1/L. Ten bound volumes of family letters, 1775-1855. 1/M. Notebook containing family letters copied by Marianne Thornton. There is correspondence between Mr. and Mrs. Henry Thornton and Zachary Macaulay, 1794-1815, and to Maria Thornton, 1796-1812. 1/N. Notebook containing family letters copied by Marianne Thornton and Laura Mary Forster. 1/O. Notebook containing family letters. 1/P. Religious meditations of Lucy Thornton, 1742-1763, 15 items. 1/Q. Printed discourse on the death of John Thornton by Thomas Scott, 1791, and abridged version, 1793, 2 items. 1/R. Diary of Henry Thornton, 1795-1814. 1/S. Draft of address by Henry Thornton to the Women's Bible Study Club. 1/T. Marianne Thornton's account of the deaths of her parents. 1/U. 1816 journal of Isabella Sykes. 1/V. Seating arrangements of guests at Battersea Rise, 1826-1828. 1/W. Notes on the Decalogue, 1875-1876. 1 item. 1/X. Typed copies of the correspondence between John Thornton and John Newton (1/A and 1/B), 88 items. 1/Y. Typed copies of letters from the Robert Thornton correspondence (1/K), principally his letters to John Benbow, 56 items. 1/Z. Typed copies of miscellaneous material, 22 items. 2/A. Sketch book of the Thornton family at Battersea Rise before 1833, with added notes by Laura M. Forster. 2/B. 'Battersea Rise', typescript reminiscences with photographs, by Mildred Pym (née Thornton), Jan. 1938. 2/C. 'Henry Thornton of Clapham, 1760-1815' by Standish Meacham Jr, typescript dissertation, Cambridge, Mass., 1960. 3/A. Letters from Marianne Thornton, c. 1816-1884, but mostly undated. 3/B. Letters from Miss M.F. Smith to Marianne Thornton, c. 1817-1830, but many undated, 27 items. 3/C. Letters from Chanoine Barras, Guest Master at a Hospice of St. Bernard, Switzerland, to Marianne Thornton, 1821-1827, 5 items. 3/D. Letters from Sir Robert Harry Inglis, chiefly to members of the Thornton family, 1818-1853, 18 items. 3/E. Miscellaneous/family letters, c. 1823-1881, but many undated. 3/F. Diary of Marianne Thornton, written in shorthand, April 1815. 3/G. Diary of Laura Forster (née) Thornton, Jan. - Dec. 1833. 3/H. Notebook containing geography lesson and a dialogue (possible fictional) of Marianne Thornton, undated. 3/I. Diary, in different hands, including two of children, of a visit to France and Italy, 1851, possibly written in part by Marianne Thornton. 3/J. Copy of Marianne Thornton's funeral wishes, undated. 3/K. Handwritten copies of letters written by Marianne Thornton, 1815-1825, 1874, and some undated. 3/L. Typescript copies of letters from Marianne Thornton to her family and friends, 1815 - c. 1865 and some undated. 3/M. Typescript abstract of documents, c. 1766 - c. 1774, relating to John Thornton and the Dartmouth College Trust, undated. 3/N. Envelope marked in E.M. Forster's hand '19th cent. War letters. Napoleonic Sebastopol', containing 7 letters, 1813-1870. 4/A. A brief article, 'Henry Thornton's Brighton Verses 1814' by P.E.H. Hair, offprint, Notes and Queries, October 1970, presented by the author to the Library in November 1970.


  • Creation: 1742-1881 (Circa)


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (


8 archive box(es) (8 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

MS.Add.7674/1 was presented by E.M. Forster, King's College, Cambridge, May 1966; MS.Add.7674/2 and 3 were deposited by Forster's executor, Prof. W.H. Sprott, Sept. and Oct. 1970.

Existence and Location of Copies

Some available on microfilm: 7674/1/C,D,Q,Q*; 7674/3/M

Related Materials

Cambridge University Library also holds correspondence of John Newton with John Thornton, MS.Add.7826.


Section 1 and particularly section 3 were used extensively by E.M. Forster for his book Marianne Thornton 1797-1887: A Domestic Biography (London, 1956). Forster's own copy of this work, with annotations and corrections, was deposited in the Library in Sept. 1970, Adv.c.106.2.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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