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John Thornton of St Botolph Aldgate

John Thornton




St Botolph Aldgate

Researched by Clifford Godfrey

John Thornton was baptised, married and buried at St Botolph’s. He published, printed and sold navigation charts to mariners on trading voyages to Asia and North America. He also produced charts for the East India and the Hudson’s Bay Companies.

John’s father, a cutler and razor maker, apprenticed him to John Burton of Radcliffe Highway, where he learnt to make hand drawn charts on vellum. He followed a succession of chart makers, located near the river in East London and nowadays referred to as “The Thames School” of nautical chart makers. They were all members of the Drapers’ Company which had traditionally been involved in overseas trade.

John Thornton's "A New Mapp of the north part of America from Hudson Straights commanly call'd the Norwest Passage Including Newfoundland New Scotland New England Virginia Maryland & Carolena", 1673.

In 1664 after John completed his apprenticeship and married Ann Boult, he started trading from the Minories,“ at the Sign of England, Scotland, and Ireland”. He published printed maps as well as traditional hand drawn charts.

John joined a partnership which produced volumes of the first English printed maritime atlas and his charts were still used by sailors some 50 years after his death.

Three of his children survived him including his son Samuel who continued the business. More well known however was John Thornton’s apprentice Joel Gascoyne who moved into land cartography and surveying and became a pre-eminent mapmaker of the period.


Local churches were the focal point of sixteenth-century City life. Weekly worship and all the milestones of parishioners’ lives took place here: christenings, marriages and funerals. Many churches were lost in the Great Fire.

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