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The Thornber family of Vivary Bridge in Colne is featured in Robert Neill’s novel "Song of the Sunrise" later released in paperback as "The Mills of Colne".  Thomas Thornber of Vivary Bridge was a cotton mill owner and his daughter, Ellen, married another local mill owner, Nicholas England.  Much of the information behind this historical novel was provided by Wilfred Spencer, who was the librarian at Colne Public Library in the 1950s.  During late 1999, I was contacted by Margaret Smith, nee Thornber, who was interested in tracing her Thornber roots. From searches in the 1881 census and initial findings from general registration, it soon became apparent that she was descended from the Thornbers of Vivary Bridge.  I now believe that Thomas Thornber, the founder of the cotton business, shown as No. 1 in the chart below, was the son of Henry Thornber, shown in one of the Gisburn family trees on this site.

Caleb Haworth, a conveyancer of Marsden near Colne, drew up a number of pedigrees which are now in Colne Public Library.  Some information has been taken from one of his charts on the family of William Smith and Fanny Thornber.

In Footnote 6, I record some information sent to me in 2002 by Shirleigh Rawson in New Zealand which pertains to Colne but which has not yet been fitted into an known family. Other notes from Shirleigh are incorporated into the tree with acknowledgement.


BC     Birth certificate
MC    Marriage certificate
DC     Death Certificate
MI      Monumental Inscriptions. No. 1 at Gisburn Parish Church on grave of Thomas (no. 1 below)
           his wife named as Fanny Croasdale, and his two sons, Henry and Thomas. No. 2 at Colne for Nicholas England.
C41    Census of Colne 1841, similarly C51, C61, C71, C81, C91
PC      Parish Church
W1     Will of Thomas Thornber, who died in 1841, made in 1834 naming his wife Fanny, his son Thomas and six daughters, Ellen, Fanny, Elizabeth, Mary, Margaret, Ann. (Footnote 5.)
W2     Will of Thomas Thornber who died in 1848 shows six sisters with their married names, together with his son Thomas and daughter Elizabeth Ann. (Footnote 5)
abt.     about 
SR    Information from Shirleigh Rawson

Footnote 1. Monumental Inscription at St. Mary's Gisburn

To the memory of Henry son of Thomas and Fanny Thornber of Vivary Bridge, Colne, born 7 July 1804, died 15 March 1810, also the above mentioned, Fanny Thornber, daughter of Henry and Ellen Croasdill, who departed this life 29 September 1837 in the 66th year of her age, age also her husband, Thomas Thornber, who departed this life 5 May 1841 aged 79, also their son Thomas (then illegible).

Footnote 2. Monumental Inscription at St. Bartholomew's Colne,

This was abstracted from the records by Beth Merryweather in New Zealand from Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society Fiche.

White marble with dove above, butterfly below with poppy and chrysalis.

Sacred to the memory of Nicholas England of Colne who died 11 July 1852 aged 56 years and is interred in the West End of this Church. Also of Ellen, wife of the above Nicholas England, and daughter of Thomas Thornber of Vivary Bridge. She died at Grange in this county, 11 January 1860 aged 62 years. Also of Ellen their daughter, who died at Colne, 31 October 1830 aged 10 months. Also of Elizabeth their daughter who died at Heirs House near Colne, 11 June 1848, aged 21 years. "I am the Resurrection and the Life."

Footnote 3.

At the Lancashire County Record Office there is a book listing the monumental inscriptions at Briercliffe St. James, near Burnley. The first is clearly relevant to the family tree above showing William Smith and his wife Fanny, formerly Thornber, and two of their grandchildren.

B20. In affectionate remembrance of William Smith of Hill End, Briercliffe, who died 25 April 1864 in this 64th year also Fanny his wife, who died 25 August 1872 in the 70th year of her age. Also Harold Smith, of Hill End, Briercliffe, younger son of Thomas Thornber (Smith) and Sarah Smith, who died 20 March 1891 aged 17. Also Fanny Thornber Smith of Hill End, Briercliffe, 4th daughter of Thomas Thornber (Smith) and Sarah Smith who died 11 November 1894 aged 19 years.

The second could be related to this family but there is insufficient information at the moment. William Thornber Smith must have been born about 1843 and could be the William Smith mentioned in the tree, identified from the notes of Caleb Howarth.

B 17. William Thornber Smith of Langlands, Cheadle Cheshire, who died 25 March 1895, aged 52 and his wife Alice who died 1 September 1896 aged 51.

Footnote 4.

In the 1841 Census at Haverholt, Colne, there was Thomas Thornber, aged 30, manufacturer, Ruth Thornber aged 20 and Thomas Thornber, son of head of household, aged 9 months, all born in Colne. In the adjacent property at Vivary there was Ann Thornber, aged 40, of Independent Means, not born in Lancashire.

In 1873 there was a survey of land ownership in England, published in 1875. It showed by county, each owner with the number of acres of land and the gross rental value. Thomas Thornber of Colne features in the returns for both Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire

Name and County Residence Acreage Gross Rental
Thomas Thornber for Lancs. Colne
Thomas Thornber for West Riding of Yorks. Colne
Footnote 5. The Will of Thomas Thornber, 1834 and Will of Thomas Thornber of 1848

Caleb Haworth the conveyancer noted the following:

21 June 1834. By his will, Thos: Thornber of Vivary Bridge, Colne, Gent bequeathed all his messuages, farms and tenements called "The Great Hague" in the township of Thornton, now or lately in the occupation of William Bolton to his son Thos: and called "Middle Hague" in Thornton, now or late in the occupation of James Berry as farmer, to his daughter Mary, and called "Little Hague" in Thornton to now or late in the occupation of Thomas Whittaker, to his daughter Margaret. Also his messuage, farm and tenement called Moor Gates in Thornton in the occupation of John Watson to his daughter Margaret.

1 January 1848. By his will of Thos: Thornber (son of the above) bequeathed his estate to his trustees. Concerning all that parcel of his freehold estate at Great Hague, Kelbrook in the parish of Thornton, now in the occupation of William Bolton, which he has contracted for sale to the Leeds and Bradford Extension Ry Co. (Railway Company) in trust to carry out the contract for sale.

All that parcel of ground from Stone Trough to Kelbrook and all those two cottages and other buildings erected thereon and now or late in the occuption of Tillotson Watson, Joseph Elder and Ambrose Walton, on trust to sell.

All his messuage, farm and tenement called "Great Hague" now in the occupation of Wm. Bolton and all his ditto called Mere Clough in the township of Kelbrook in the occupation of Matthew Cragg, for his son Thos.

These observations are of particular interest to me as William Bolton and Matthew Cragg are part of my own family tree.

Note: Pilgrim and Badgery was a firm of solicitors in Colne. In records at the County Archive in Preson formerly labelled DDBd, under a section labelled Miscellaneous, there is reference to papers relating to Thomas Thornber of Vivary Bridge, 1848.

Footnote 6. Annie Thornber daughter of a Thomas Thornber of Colne

The following information was sent to me in 2002 by Shirleigh Rawson in New Zealand. "My g-g-g grandmother was Annie Thornber, who according to family legend was daughter of Thos. Thornber of Colne, Lancashire. We understand he was in the lace or cotton industry. Annie married William Rawson (1787 - 1857). He was born in Nottinghamshire and died in Lancashire. They had eight children: Henry (1819-1879) a stockbroker; Robert, who died young; Mary Ann (Mollady); Isabella; Eliza (Bremner); Robert (1837-1899) from whom I am descended."

I do not have a marriage record that fits this couple or the baptism in Colne of an Ann or Annie daughter of Thomas Thornber. A search on Ancestry for marriages of William Rawson between 1800 and 1820 to an Annie or Ann failed to find a record.

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