Thornton Village: History

At about the time of the Domesday Book, Thornton, then a very small hamlet to the west of Bradford , was registered with the name "Torenton" under the manor of Bolton, but was soon after aquired by a family of "considerable consequence" who took their name from the place. The last surviving member of this family, Roger de Thornton, died without an heir and "levied a fine" with the manor passing into the hands of the Bollings of Bolling Hall and others later.

At the time of the Brontes' residence (from 1815 to 1820), Thornton was still a very small hamlet. Even by the standards of the day, Thornton was a very Puritanical community, and an unusual number of the names of nearby hamlets are of biblical origin (e.g. "Jericho", "Jerusalem", "Egypt", and the apocalytically named "World's End" - to list but a few). The Puritan influence is also reflected in the recorded Christian names of many of the inhabitants of the time: "Meshach", "Ezra" and "Cain" being popular recorded names for boys; "Kezia", "Tabitha" and "Abigail" being popular popular recorded names for girls. Indeed, the founder of the old church, a Reverend Caleb Kemp boasted that he had "sowed an amount of Puritan seed, the fruit of which was seen for many days..." (whatever that means !)

The first half of the nineteenth century saw unprecendented growth in West Yorkshire, with the population of Bradford increasing fourfold. Despite its relatively isolated location, Thornton saw a considerable rise in its fortunes, due principally to the industrial revolution and an increased demand for sandstone hewn from local quarries. The subsequent rise in the population of Thornton led to the building of a new church This replaced the old Bell Chapel (where Patrick Bronte served during the family's stay in the village).

Soon after this Thornton was connected to the Great Northern Railway by a line which ran from Bradford through Clayton to Denholme, and although the line was later dismantled, an impressive arched viaduct still remains which spans the valley of the Bradford beck just below the village, and which now forms part of the Great Northern Railway Trail.


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