Written by Franklin Browns on 17th October 2017.
Every now and again an object turns up at auction which is remarkable not for its value but for the story that it tells and its ability to bridge the gap between the past and the present.
Our forthcoming sale features a 19th century hardback exercise book entitled 'Trust of the late John Thornton Esq' together with a carte de visite album. Both items have been consigned by a Norfolk vendor in the hope that the amazing history associated with Mr Thornton can be returned to what he feels is its rightful place.
This local tale starts in 1807, when aged only eighteen, John Thornton a young man living in Haddington, joined the Army to embark upon an impressive military career, rising to position of Lieutenant. From here he was to take part in at least 14 battles throughout the Peninsular Wars until 1817 for at least 7 of which he was to be awarded campaign medals.
Of particular interest is his presence at the Battle of Waterloo where Napoleon's forces were famously defeated by the allied forces led by the Duke of Wellington
Here, Lieutenant Thornton lived for the remainder of his life with his manservant, Thomas White, and housekeeper, Isabella Anderson. He rose to become a prominent and well-respected member of the Liberton community and upon his death in 1870 a commemorative plaque was created in his honour and remains in Liberton cemetry today. That Lieutenant Thornton chose to spend his life in Liberton indicates a strong connection to the place and it is fitting that he has been remembered in such a permanent way.
The pages of his Trust contain evidence of his generosity and are there for all to see; in his will he left £150 to both Thomas and Isabella alongside all furniture and linen and both remained living in Nivelle Cottage and kept it running. The Trust goes on to list a full inventory of his possessions, legacies and a record of his full financial affairs. Offered alongside the trust is a carte de visite which contains a photographic collection of Thornton's extended family and friends from Liberton. Together, they make for a fascinating lot of local interest which offers a unique insight into the life of a significant figure of Liberton's history.