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Welcome!

This site is dedicated to the history of all families named:

Thorn*cr*ft

If you have any interest in this surname, I encourage you to browse around in our site and get in touch with us.

Included in this name are:

  • Thornicroft
  • Thornycroft
  • Thorneycroft
  • Thorndycraft
  • Thorncroft
  • Thornicraft
  • Thornycraft
  • Thorneycraft
  • or anything else like that!

There are other surnames that may appear to be part of this group (such as Thorncroft), but they may also be separate, independent surnames and are not the subject of this web site.  Feel free to browse here anyway in case you're not sure if your surname is really part of this group.


General Family History
by Peter P. Thorneycroft

Early History - pre 1500's

The earliest known record of the name is found in the Macclesfield area of Cheshire, where there is record of one Hamo de Thornicrofte living in the parish of Siddington circa 1240AD. The name recorded there is Norman in form, which is appropriate for the time, although it may have earlier origins. Its most obvious etymology would appear to relate its meaning to the state of the owner's farm (ie. a 'thorny' croft)!. The words themselves, if not the name, indicate a possible Saxon or Nordic origin rather than Norman.

J.P.Earwaker's 'East Cheshire, Past & Present, or a History of the Macclesfield Hundred' (published 1877, 2 volumes) also gives early evidence of the name, specifically those of Richard de Thornicroft (1361) and Hugh Thornicroft of Thornicroft (1436).

1500 - 1750s

The keeping of parish records in Britain commenced during the mid 1500's, and by that time records show the name occurring in a number of counties - Cheshire / Lancashire / Warwickshire / Northamptonshire / Oxfordshire / Buckinghamshire / Gloucestershire / Sussex. The counties of Wiltshire / Shropshire / Staffordshire / Worcestershire / Bedfordshire / Kent / Surrey , and metropolitan London show occurrences by the 1600's, a number of which can demonstrate links with the original family in Cheshire. Unfortunately, though probably linked, some of the family connections are lost in the mists of time!

The family has already well demonstrated its migratory nature. This was also evidenced in settlement in the 'New World', when William Thornicraft settled at Long Island, New York in the 1640's and raised a family there; others are found settling in Scotland, Ireland, Jamaica, and elsewhere.

The Industrial Revolution & Victorian period

Migration continues! With the urbanisation of areas of Britain, notably the Midlands and Lancashire, whole families who have been settled for several generations in a particular area now uproot and move across Britain. This can cause much confusion to the unwary genealogist. Just because families bearing the same name exist in one location is no proof of connection.

A prime example of this is Wolverhampton, Staffs, where in the mid-to-late 1800's several 'Thorneycroft' families exist in the same locality, yet actually originate from five distinct Thorneycroft 'groupings' from Cheshire / Shropshire / Staffordshire / Worcestershire & Northamptonshire! There are also similar cases in Manchester and elsewhere.

Migration also increased overseas, the 1800's seeing many families depart for foreign shores. There are at least 7 distinct family groupings in Canada alone, with many of these joining others in the USA to form a real 'melting-pot'! During this period the family can be found established on almost every continent.

Name Variations

It should be noted that it is in this latter period that the various forms of the name appear to consolidate - probably because of the rise in educational standards. Prior to this time spelling varies considerably even within entries of the same family!

The family in Cheshire took the 'y' spelling in the main, as also did those in London, while the 'ey' form occurs in Shropshire / Staffordshire / Worcestershire / Warwickshire / Northamptonshire / Sussex & Kent. The 'i' spelling finds greater use in Warwickshire & Worcestershire, whereas 'Thornicraft' appears in Wiltshire and Sussex. The variant 'Thorndycraft' occurs almost exclusively in the Kent & Surrey area, with the earliest known occurrence being in Sussex.

Famous Thornicrofts

The spread of the family was not only global, but also in social standing. Whilst the early family in Cheshire were untitled landholders, amongst their descendants are the Milcombe branch who were granted knighthoods. There are also soldiers who have served king and country in every war and in every rank from private to general. To the Thornicroft name there have been artists, explorers, yeomen, sculptors, torpedo manufacturers, car makers, ship-builders, lawyers, politicians, architects, clergymen, and many more. But there are also the less conspicuous who have served their years as day labourers, railway workers, farmhands, carpenters, undertakers, puddlers, film makers, sailors, gardeners - some of whom ended their lives in obscurity in the workhouses of the day. They have been convicts transported to Australia; explorers in Africa; civil servants in India, all of which make up a very colourful family background!

Some of those who have distinguished themselves are as follows:

  • Capt. Edward Thornycroft of Thornicroft, (born about 1614) a captain of horse in the service of Charles I
  • Lt. Col. Edward Thornycroft (born 23 April 1664) of Sir Charles Hotham's regiment who was blown up in the defense of the castle of Alicante in Spain, and buried under the high altar there
  • Thomas Thornycroft, (1815-1885) sculptor, of Cheshire, who married Mary (Francis) Thornycroft, (1814-1895) artist & sculptor (daughter of John Francis, scuptor). Their two children were:
    • Sir John Isaac Thornycroft, (1843-1928) naval architect, founder of J.I.Thornycroft & Co.Ltd, knighted 1902, and
    • Sir William Hamo Thornycroft, R.A. (1850-1925) sculptor, knighted 1917
  • Mrs Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler, (Mrs.Felkin) (1860-1929) novelist & hymn writer, the wife of Henry Hartley Fowler, 1st Viscount of Wolverhampton
  • Maj. Gen. Alexander Whitelaw Thorneycroft (1879 - 1931), of Tettenhall Towers, Wolverhampton, who became famous in the battle of Spion Kop in the Boer War; founder of the Thorneycroft Light Horse Regiment
  • Harry Thorneycroft, (1892-1956) Labour MP for Clayton, Manchester, 1942-1955
  • George Edward Peter Thorneycroft, (1909-1994?) Conservative MP for Stafford 1938-1945, Monmouth 1945-1966, created Baron Thorneycroft of Dunston (Staffs) in 1967. Sometime Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Chairman of the Conservative Party.

 Thornicroft Hall

Thornicroft Hall at Siddington, Cheshire, was the seat of the family from earliest times until the death of Edward Thornycroft in 1815, who died without issue. The estate passed to Rev. Charles Mytton who assumed the surname and the estate in 1835. The [Mytton] Thornycrofts sold Thornycroft Hall in 1910 on their emigration to Rhodesia in 1910. The Hall was renamed Palliotti for a short period when it was a Children's Home & School. After World War2 it was resold and renamed Siddington Manor. It has been sold again in recent years when the name 'Thornycroft Hall' has been resurrected.

There is also a nearby farm which bears the name Thornycroft, together with stretch of water in the vicinity which apparently has an excellent reputation amongst those who enjoy coarse fishing.


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