"THORNE, is a small but busy market town in the parish of its name, It is a river port, in the north division of Strafforth and Tickhill, being situated in the extensive level of Hatfield Chase, on the Stainforth and Keadby canal, and only about half a mile from the south-east bank of the river Don, where it has a commodious quay, a ship yard, and other accommodations for sailing vessels, and the Hull steam packets. It is distant 29 miles S by E of York, 163 miles N by W of London, 10 m N E by N of Doncaster, 7.1/2 miles S S E of Snaith, and 14 miles N of Bawtry. Its parish contains 7819A. 1R 22 p. of land, of which about 5000 acres form a watery turf moor, but the rest is well drained, and affords luxuriant crops. Its population amounted in 1801, to 2655; in 1811, to 2713; in 1821, to 3463; and in 1831, to 3770 souls, who have since increased to upwards of 4000, mostly residing in the town, there being only a few houses at the Quay and about twenty scattered farm houses and cottages in other parts of the parish. The cutting of the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, and the enclosure of the commons, contribute largely to the prosperity of Thorne. The canal passes close to the south side of the town, and opens a direct communication across the level, from the Don at Stainforth, to the Trent at Keadby. It was completed in 1797, under an act of parliament passed in 1793, with power to make a collateral cut from Thorne to the river Don, near the Quay, which is a mile N of the town; but this branch has not yet been formed. The proprietors of the Don Navigation are about to purchase the canal, and it is in contemplation to extend from it a branch to the Knottingley and Goole canal, and thus to afford an easy route for the conveyance of corn, wool, &c. to the populous clothing district of Yorkshire, without the risk and loss of time occasioned by the dangerous and often tedious passage round Trent Fall and Goole. Formerly, the River Don divided at Stainforth into several channels, the largest of which joined the Aire at Turnbridge, between Snaith at Rawcliffe, (then a port town) another flowed by Seadike bank, to Tudworth; and a third passed close to the town of Thorne. The two last branches united, and formed the old river Don, which flowed by Crowle, Eastoft, Haldenby, and Fockerby, to the Trent at Addlingfleet, near all of which places its bed may still be traced. All the smaller branches were dried up, on the drainage of the great level of Hatfield chase, by Sir Cornelius Vermuyden, and his Dutch and Flemish followers, who, about the year 1630, cut the broad and high embanked canal, which is commonly called the Dutch River, and carries all the waters of the Don from New Bridge, in a straight line, eastward, to the Ouse at Goole, a distance of five miles. This new river is also the grand outfall of most of the drain water of the level of Hatfield Chase, which extends into the three counties of York, Lincoln, and Nottingham, and comprises about 180,000 acres of fen land, nearly half of which was under water during a great part of the year, as will be seen in a general survey of its drainage, warpage, and enclosure, in the second volume of this work, (vide Hatfield). To prevent inundations, strong and high banks inclose the new river, and sluice gates protect the outfalls of the drains; the country being in many parts eight or ten feet lower than high water mark.
A considerable Trade is carried on at Thorne, in corn, timber, coal, &c. On the sides of the canal, are several yards for building and repairing vessels, of from 40 to 60 tons burthen; and at the Quay, or, as it is commonly called, the Water side, 1 mile N of the town, is a ship yard, with wharfs, and every convenience for steam packets, and large sailing vessels. Here were also two roperies, a sacking manufactory, two breweries, and several malt kilns. Formerly, there were about 30, but now there are only 7 or 8 boats employed in carrying turf to York, Hull, and other markets, from the Turbary, or Turf moor, on the east side of the parish, containing about 6800 acres , and allotted in slips to the proprietors of the adjoining lands, under an act passed in 1811, for the enclosure of the commons, in Thorne, Hatfield, Stainforth, Fishlake, and Sykehouse. Of the Turf moor, about 5000A. are in Thorne parish; and the whole of it is insulated by the canal and the drains, the latter of which are navigable for the turf boats and other small craft. Under this extensive morass, lie buried, oak, ash, fir, beech, yew, and willow trees, - the fossil remains of an immense forest, which appears to have covered a large portion of the level in this and the adjoining counties. Oaks have been found from 20 to 40 yards long, and sold for from £4 to £15 each; the timber being very durable, and as black as ebony. So great is the antiseptic quality of the peat, that animal, as well as vegetable substances, may remain in it for years, without undergoing putrefaction; indeed, the timber which is found imbedded in it is supposed to have been thrown down by the Romans, in their attempts to subdue the aborigines. The Market, held Thorne every Wednesday, was established in 1659, soon after the drainage of the surrounding country; but it was not opened for the sale of corn till the first Wednesday in March, 1818, pursuant to a requisition signed by about 200 farmers. It is now extensively supplied with corn and provisions of every description. Two annual Fairs are held here, on the first Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, after the 11th of June, and 11th of October, for general merchandize; but on the Tuesday, large quantities of horned cattle, horses, and sheep, are exposed for sale.
The manor of Thorne is noticed in Domesday survey under the name of Torne, and was then held by Wm. de Warren, who had here "four carucates of land to be taxed, five soemen, and eleven villanes, with four ploughs, besides two carucates to be taxed, held by Drago de Beurerc. After the male line of the Warrens had become extinct their manors north of the Trent, passed to the crown in 1347. Charles 1 granted Thorne to Cornelius Vermuyden, the great drainer of the levels; but the manorial rights and royalty of the whole of Hatfield chase, were subsequently purchased by Sir Arthur Ingram, whose descendant, the ninth and last Viscount Irwin, bequeathed them to Lady Beauchamp, afterwards Marchioness of Hertford, from whom they passed to Lady Wm. Gordon. At the enclosure, all the copyholds, in the manor of Hatfield, were enfranchised, except in Dunscroft, which is a manor within the chase, belonging to the Countess of Coventry, and in which the copyholds are subject to arbitrary fines. Leland, who wrote in the 16th century, alludes to Thorne, as follows;- "By the church garth of Thurne, is a praty pile or castlet, well dikid, now used for a prison, for offenders in the forestes. The ground al about Thurne is ather playn, more, or fenne. From Thurne, by water, to the great lake caullid the Mere, almost a mile over, a mile or more. This mere is fulle of good fish and foule." The castlet here noticed, stood on a small elevation, called Peel Hill, where its foundations may still be traced, by digging the earth. This little eminence, raised only a few feet above the level, was surrounded by a moat, and is the property of the Marchioness of Hertford, but occupied by a market gardener, who found in the earth a few years ago several arrow heads, and small brass coins. Thorne Hall is a modern mansion, belonging to Richard Ellison, Esq., but occupied as a boarding school. Among the other principal owners of land and buildings in the parish, are Messrs. W. Makin, J Whitaker, T Brown, C Darley, W Standring, and many other residents. The Hamlets, or districts of scattered farms in the parish, with their distanced from the town, are Bradholme, 1.1/2 m S; Ditch marsh, 3 miles N, belonging to the Hon. J. Simpson, Miss Elmhurst, and Messrs. Gibson and Dyson; Hangman Hill, and the Waterside or Quay, 1 mile N; the Levels, a large district of fertile farms, from 3 to 4 miles E; and Moor Ends and Johnny moor Long, 3 miles N. belonging to John Perfect, Esq., and several smaller owners.
Thorne Church, dedicated to St Nicholas, is a neat edifice, supposed to have been erected in the reign of Edward III, upon the site of a chapel, which was founded soon after the Norman Conquest, and was considered as a chapel of ease to Hatfield, until Edward II made it parochial. The present church has a nave, aisles, chancel, and a south chapel and porch, with an embattled tower at the west end. The interior is neatly fitted up, and in the western gallery is a small organ. The benefice is a perpetual curacy, and has been augment by the following lots of Queen Anne's Bounty, Viz.; £800 in 1812; and £200 each time in 1820 and 1823; so that it is now worth £117 per annum, including fifteen small rent charges, bequeathed from 1648 to 1727, and amounting to £9 per annum. The Countess of Coventry as the heiress of the late Sire Henry Etherington, is impropriator of the tithes and patroness of the vicarage, which is now enjoyed by the Rev. Eric Rudd. In the town are six DISSENTING CHAPELS; viz. The Wesleyanchapel, built in 1826, the Independent, built in 1800, the New Connexion Methodist, built in 1817; the Primitive Methodist, built in 1822, the Unitarian, built in 1816;and the Friends' Meeting House, erected about 1750. Five Sunday schools are attached to the church and chapels, and there are in the town two endowed day schools. BROOKE'S CHARITY SCHOOL was founded in 1705, by Wm. Brooke, who endowed it with four cottages and 66 acres of land, now let for £148 per annum, for which the master teaches ten poor children, appointed by the trustees; viz. Rd. Ellison, Wm. Gossip, H. Ellison, John Benson, Thos. Brown, and Thos. Maples, gentlemen. The curate is the master and teaches school in a room attached to the parsonage house. Travis's Charity Schools, at Thorne, Hatfield and Wroot, were founded by a person named Travis and endowed with 379 acres of land. The school at Thorne receives about £70 a year, for which fifty poor children are instructed. THE BENEFACTIONS to the poor of Thorne comprise eighteen small rent charges, producing £12. 17s. 8d a year; besides 10s. a year, charged on the tolls of the markets and fairs, by Benj. Darling, in 1726; and the interest of about £200 arising from £60 left by Mordecai Cutts, in 1786, and the arrears of interest thereon, from the date of the bequest, to 1835, when the legacy was paid. The Thorne Subscription and Free Lending library was established in 1828, and now possesses 2000 volumes, to which 60 folios of the Public Records have lately been added by parliament. Each subscriber of 10s. per annum, is entitled to four tickets, which give to poor people the privilege of reading a portion of the books. Mr George Mason is the librarian. Here is also a Literary Society, formed in 1836, and a News Room, established in 1829. Wike Well was enclosed as a public bath, in 1763; and the Long Room, adjoining the Red Lion Inn, was purchased in 1818, for public meetings, and the use of the magistrates, who hold petty sessions here occasionally. The town prison consists of two cells, formed in 1756, with the materials from the old Stone bridge, which crossed the Boating Dyke, and was rebuilt in that year. The School house Bridge was built in 1813; the Temperance Bridge, in 1817; and the Poor House, in 1763. The GAS WORKS were finished in December, 1836, at the cost of £1500, raised in £5 shares. They were constructed by Mr John Malam, on an improved principle, by which the gas is purified by passing through quick lime. The gasometer will hold 7000 cubic feet. In excavating under the floor of a shop, on the Green, for the purpose of laying a gas pipe, 2 crowns, 19 half crowns, and 20 shillings of the reigns of Charles II, James II and William III were found in a brown earthen jar."