Dr Robert Thoroton

Portrait of Dr Robert ThorotonDr. Robert Thoroton, author of The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire published in 1677, was born on 4th October 1623 and died probably on 21st November 1678, aged 55. He was the eldest child of the six children of Robert Thoroton, senior, of Car Colston and his wife Anne (Chambers), who were married by licence at St. Mary's Church, Nottingham on 30th November 1622.

Thoroton married Anne Boun on 27th October 1645, probably at Newark, when he was 22, and the couple had three children: Anne, born in 1650, Mary in 1652, and Elizabeth, born in 1654.

Thoroton became the first member of his family to enter a university when he matriculated as a sizar at Cambridge on 13th December 1639, aged 16. Sizars were working undergraduates who received allowances for work undertaken in the college. He graduated as a B.A. in 1642/3 and took his M.A. in 1646, being recorded as 72nd out of 120 in the ordo senioritatis and in the same year was granted a university licence to practice medicine.

In the preface to his Antiquities Thoroton offers his readers the explanation that, despite being a doctor, he had "not being able for any long time to continue the people living in it" and had therefore decided "to practise upon the dead, intending thereby to keep, all of which is, or can be left of them, to wit, the shadow of their Names ... to preserve their memory, as long as may be in the World".

It was Dugdale and Gervase Pigot who first encouraged Thoroton to extend his researches and attempt to record them in a book. Thoroton appears to have carried out the research for his book together with the writing of the text between 1662 and 1675. Most of the fieldwork, visiting churches to copy inscriptions and sketch arms, seems to have been done on the early part of the period. His notes contain 13 dated rough sketches made in churches, and 11 of them are in 1662 and 1663; seven churches were visited in September 1662. Travelling to churches in various parts of the county must have been a very time-consuming operation, and his problems are shown in a brief note he made on a sketch of a quartered coat-of-arms from Holme Pierrepont church "which I had not time then to trick out it being night, & I have not beene at Holme since".

It is obvious that he hardly visited the north of the county because he recorded very few details from churches there, completely unlike the wealth of such information collected nearer to home.

Source: Adrian Henstock & Keith Train, Robert Thoroton: Nottinghamshire antiquarian, 1623-1678. Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire, LXXXI, 1977, 13-33.

See the Nottinghamshire Heritage Gateway website for further information on Dr Robert Thoroton.