Thornton MAI S NT289976 1 50m
Thornton 1827 Ainslie/West Fife [= OS Pathf. Spittal Farm; modern Thornton village is Red Houses]
Thornton 1828 SGF [= OS Pathf. Spittall Farm]
Thornton 1856 OS 6 inch 1st edn [a strip village along the road (B 9130)]
Thornton Farm 1856 OS 6 inch 1st edn [= OS Pathf. Spittal Farm]
? pn Thornton
This probably derives from the surname Thornton, which figured prominently in the family of the Leslie-Melvilles, earls of Leven, the feudal superiors of this area, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Alexander Leslie-Melville (later seventh earl of Leven) married Jane Thornton in 1784, and the full name of one of their descendants was John Thornton Leslie-Melville, ninth earl of Leven. The ninth earl himself married as his second wife Sophia Thornton, daughter of Henry Thornton MP. There was a tradition throughout Scotland at this period of naming coal-mines after lairdly family members: for example near Thornton there was a Harriet Pit, named after the ninth earl’s first wife, Harriet, and a William Pit, named after his brother. The name may thus have originally been applied to a pit: ‘Old Thornton Pit’ lay at the centre of modern Thornton village. At some time between 1775 and 1828 Thornton ousted the older farm-name of Spittal (see early forms, above). However, the old name for the farm (NT297976) has re-asserted itself, appearing on OS Pathf. and OS Explorer as Spittal Farm.
On both Ainslie/Fife (1775) and Ainslie/West Fife (1827) a scattering of houses on the site of Thornton village is called Red Houses. A ribbon-development is shown here on SGF (1828) but no name is attached to it. By the time of the first OS (1856) the village is called Thornton, while Spittal Farm is called Thornton Farm.
Thornton is a relatively common place-name in both southern Scotland and northern England. It is found elsewhere in Fife in ADN and BEA (both discussed in PNF 1); and in BMO (PNF 4). Not far west of the medieval Fife boundary there is also Thornton of Fossoway KNR, PER (Thornetoun de Fossoquhay 1634 RMS ix no. 209).
The NGR is of the Post Office in Thornton village.
This place-name appeared in printed volume 2