John Thornton, of Clapham

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John Thornton

Birthplace: Clapham, London, England (United Kingdom)
Death: November 07, 1790 (70)
Clapham, Surrey or Bath, Somerset, United Kingdom
Place of Burial: Holy Trinity Church Defunct, Greater London, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Thornton and Hannah Thornton
Husband of Lucy Thornton
Father of Jane Leslie-Melville, Countess of Leven and Melville; Samuel Thornton, MP; Henry Thornton; Robert Thornton; Lucy Thornton and 1 other

Managed by: Terry Jackson (Switzer)
Last Updated:

About John Thornton, of Clapham

John Thornton (1720–1790) was a merchant and Christian philanthropist, the son of Robert Thornton of Clapham, Surrey, a merchant who became a director of the Bank of England.

He invested heavily in the Russian and Baltic trade and acquired wealth that he donated to Christian ministry causes. A devout Anglican, he espoused evangelical causes, regardless of denomination, and his extensive giving included evangelical ministries in various parts of the world. He is best known as having partly sponsored John Newton, the ex-slave ship trader who became an Anglican priest at Olney, Buckinghamshire from 1764 to 1780, giving him £200 a year. In 1780, he offered Newton the living of St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard Street – the fashionable London church where Newton became established as a noted preacher for over twenty years, and where he ended his days. He also aided Lady Huntingdon in setting up her training college with an interest-free loan.

Thornton was the treasurer of a fund raised in England from 1766 to 1768 by American colonial preachers Samson Occom and Nathaniel Whitaker for Moor's School, an Indian charity school founded by Eleazar Wheelock in Lebanon Crank, Connecticut. Wheelock applied the fund to establish Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and in 1829 the school named one of its main buildings Thornton Hall. Thornton donated his own money so that Wheelock could build a mansion for the college president in 1771. It still stands at 4 West Wheelock Street.

Thornton travelled extensively and contributed to churches in different parts of the country, including Holy Trinity, Clapham, which was to become the centre for the so-called Clapham Sect of Christian social reformers. On 28 November 1753 Thornton married Lucy Watson (1722–1785), daughter of Samuel Watson of Hull. They had four children, including Samuel Thornton (1754–1838) a Member of Parliament), and Henry Thornton (1760–1815), banker, economist and Member of Parliament.

John Thornton sustained a fatal injury as a result of an accident at Bath and died on 7 November 1790.

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John Thornton, of Clapham's Timeline

April 4, 1720
Clapham, London, England
November 6, 1754
London, Greater London, UK
February 11, 1757
London, UK
March 10, 1760
London, Greater London, UK
November 7, 1790
Age 70
United Kingdom
Holy Trinity Church Defunct, Greater London, England