The Thoroton family were small landowners in Nottinghamshire from medieval times, and took their name from the village of Thoroton in the south of the county. The branch represented in this collection descended from Robert Thoroton (1601-1673) and his wife Anne Chambers. Their eldest son, Dr Robert Thoroton of Car Colston (1623-1678), was the famous historian who published the 'Antiquities of Nottinghamshire' in 1677. His Car Colston property passed to his elder daughter Anne Sherard (1650-1729) and thence to the More-Molyneux family. Their younger son Thomas Thoroton (1636-1695) bought Kirketon Hall and the manor of Screveton from Peniston Whalley in 1685. Kirketon Hall - later known as Screveton Hall and demolished after 1823 - became home to the Thoroton family although Thomas and his son of the same name both lived mainly elsewhere. The elder Thomas was a London corn-chandler, described as a 'citizen and salter', who married Rebecca Harrington. In 1695 the Screveton estate passed to their son Thomas Thoroton (1663-1721), barrister of the Middle Temple and Recorder of Lincoln, who married Frances Wheeler.
In 1721 the Screveton estate was inherited by Thomas's son Robert Thoroton (1692-1751). In 1723 Robert married Mary Blackborne (1689-1764), widow of Abraham Blackborne, who already had two sons and two daughters. Mary was the daughter of Sir Richard Levett, a Lord Mayor of London and a merchant who mostly dealt in tobacco. Abraham Blackborne was his business partner. Mary inherited the 'Dutch House' (now Kew Palace) in Kew, Surrey, which had been bought by her father in 1697 along with other premises in Kew. The four Blackborne children of Mary's first marriage were close to the three surviving Thoroton children of her second, and as none of the Blackbornes had any children, most of the Levett and Blackborne fortunes ultimately came into the hands of the Thoroton family. Mary's eldest son Levett Blackborne (-1781) was a lawyer and trustee for the Thoroton family, and left the £20,000 proceeds of sale of the Kew estate (which he sold to the Crown in 1781) in his will for his half-brother Thomas Thoroton and his heirs. Mary's second son the Rev. Abraham Blackborne (1715-1797), vicar of Dagenham, also left bequests to the families of his half-siblings.
Robert Thoroton inherited a half-share of an estate at Alfreton and Swanwick, Derbyshire, on the death of his cousin Mrs Elizabeth Turner (1654-1744). Elizabeth was the younger daughter of Dr Robert Thoroton of Car Colston and married John Turner, a coal and lead mine owner from Swanwick near Alfreton, Derby. Her son Charles Turner (1677-1736) was a lawyer in London, and left the estate to Robert Thoroton subject to his mother's life interest. The Thorotons and Turners were involved in various coal and lead-mining pursuits in Derbyshire. The other half-share of the Alfreton and Swanwick estate had passed under the will of Charles Turner to the Sherard family, but was inherited by Robert's son Thomas in 1767 after the death of the last Sherard heir.
Thomas Thoroton (1723-1794) was Robert's only surviving son. In 1751, the year he inherited the Screveton estate, Thomas married Roosilia Drake, illegitimate daughter of the 3rd Duke of Rutland. They had six sons and five daughters. Thomas was M.P. for Boroughbridge from 1757 to 1761, Newark from 1761 to 1768, and Bramber from 1768-1780, through the patronage of the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Granby, son of the Duke of Rutland. Thomas also worked as agent and secretary to the 3rd Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle. Thomas's second daughter Mary (1755-1832) eloped in 1778 with Charles Manners-Sutton (1755-1828), a grandson of the 3rd Duke, who became rector of Screveton following his ordination in 1780, and later became Archbishop of Canterbury. The fortunes of Thomas and Roosilia's other children were also bound up with the family at Belvoir Castle. The second son John (1758-1820), a clergyman, was the chaplain at Belvoir Castle and rector of Bottesford, and married his cousin Elizabeth Manners (daughter of Roosilia Drake's brother Captain Edward Manners). The third son Robert (1761-) was private secretary to the 4th Duke of Rutland, and clerk of the Irish House of Commons. Two other sons became rectors of Screveton: Peter (1763-) and Charles (1770-).
In 1789 Thomas Thoroton sold his Alfreton estate to George Morewood of Alfreton Hall for £16,100. The sale was probably arranged in order to fund his purchase of Flintham House from Lewis Disney Ffytche in the same year. Flintham, only a few miles from Screveton, was a more open location and offered the possibility of landscaping.
Thomas's heir was his eldest son, Colonel Thomas Thoroton (1753-1813). Born at Belvoir Castle, he was a page of honour to King George III in 1764. He served in the Coldstream Guards in the American War of Independence. In 1784 he married Anne Bowes (-1827), eldest daughter and co-heir of George Wanley Bowes of Thornton Hall, county Durham. They had three sons and three daughters. Anne Bowes' inheritance partly funded the demolition and rebuilding of Flintham Hall between 1798 and 1800. Flintham succeeded Screveton as the main family residence at this time.
Screveton and Flintham were inherited by Thomas's son, Colonel Thomas Blackborne Thoroton (1788-1830), of the Coldstream Guards. He also inherited some Lincolnshire estates from Mary Hutton, a cousin of the Bowes family. These estates were sold in the 1830s and 1840s. In 1815 Thomas married Anne Catherine Whyte (1784-1853), niece and heiress of Sir Robert D'Arcy Hildyard, 4th Baronet (1744-1814), of Winestead and Sedbury, Yorkshire. Thomas took the surname Hildyard under the terms of the 4th Baronet's will. An extension to Flintham Hall by Lewis Wyatt was completed in 1829, and Thomas was also responsible for rebuilding Flintham Church. The Screveton and Flintham estates were already mortgaged, and Thomas's purchase of further land at Winestead just before his premature death led to financial problems for his descendants.
The next owner of the estate was Thomas Blackborne Thoroton Hildyard (1821-1888), J.P. and D.L. for Nottinghamshire, and High Sheriff in 1862. The estates were administered by his mother and uncles during his minority, who managed to secure Flintham Hall against Colonel Hildyard's creditors by selling the Lincolnshire estates. On coming of age in 1842 Thomas married Anne Margaret, daughter of Colonel John Staunton Rochfort of Cloghrenane, county Carlow. He was M.P. for the Southern division of Nottinghamshire from 1846 to 1852 and 1860 to 1885. He was responsible for the Italianate extension of Flintham Hall by the Nottingham architect T.C. Hine between 1853-1857. His rash spending forced him to live abroad for a time, to let Flintham Hall, and in 1884 to sell the remaining Winestead estates in Yorkshire. Flintham itself was put up for sale in 1885 but no buyer was found.
Thomas's eldest son, of the same name, was Thomas Blackborne Thoroton Hildyard (1843-1928) of Flintham Hall, a J.P. for Nottinghamshire. He married Eleanor (-1907), daughter of the Rt Hon. Henry Herbert, of Muckruss, county Kerry, but they had no children. He moved back into Flintham Hall in 1895 and spent much of his life paying off mortgages on the estate. He sold the bulk of the Screveton estate for £36,833 in 1918. On Thomas's death the remaining estate passed to his nephew (the second son of his younger brother) Gerald Moresby Thoroton Hildyard K.C. (1874-1956). Gerald was a barrister and judge, J.P. and D.L. for Nottinghamshire, and married Sybil Hamilton in 1911.
Gerald and his family moved into Flintham Hall in 1928. The elder son, Myles Thoroton Hildyard (1914-2005) was educated at Eton and at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He entered Lincoln's Inn as a barrister but never practised. In 1939 he joined the Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Rangers) Yeomanry, and he served with distinction throughout the Second World War. He was twice mentioned in despatches and was appointed MBE. His diary and letters home chronicle his wartime experiences, including his daring escape from Crete in 1941, and have been published as 'It is bliss here: letters home, 1939-1945' (London: Bloomsbury, 2005).
After the war, Myles Thoroton Hildyard took on the task of restoring Flintham Hall and its garden. Interested in conservation and heritage, he was a founder member of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and worked actively for the National Trust and the Historic Buildings Trust. In his own backyard, he ensured that the village of Flintham was protected from unsightly development. He was President of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire for more than 40 years, and an author of the historical volume 'The Thorotons' (privately printed, 1991), and various articles on the history of his family. He was elected FSA in 1975.