The first record of the family owning the property was in 1309, when King Robert the Bruce granted the lands of Thornton to Valentine of Thornton.
During the reign of King David II, Agneta, the heiress of Thornton, married into the Strachan family and Thornton was to become one of the principal seats of Clan Strachan for a further 300 years. Under the Strachans, significant developments were carried out on the Castle. The four storey tower dates from 1531, added by the 12th Strachan laird, Alexander Strachan. A window lintel above the present front door bears the date 1662 but a stone inscription below this, over the present day front door, was added by Sir Alexander Strachan soon after his appointment as a Baronet of Nova Scotia in 1625.
Thornton Castle from the garden c. 1895
The last Strachan of Thornton was James 3rd Baronet, born in 1644. During the next 200 years changed hands many times. By 1799 Thornton was described as an “..old Castle surrounded with trees…” with a “…great abundance of materials in Old Castle buildings…”. It however survived, rather than being demolished and replaced with a contemporary building as was the fashion at the time. The present garden front was probably built by the Crombies in about 1845.
Family history has it that John Thornton, from nearby Forfar, took his grandson to Thornton in 1841 to show him the home of his ancestors. Later that grandson, Sir Thomas Thornton, who became one of the foremost lawyers of his time and Town Clerk of Dundee, purchased the Estate in 1893. Since then, the property has remained in his family. The Estate is currently in the hands of the fifth generation of the Thornton family.
Over the years Thornton has undergone considerable alteration to meet the requirements of various generations; only by doing so has it managed to survive.
Further information about Clan Strachan and its connection with Thornton can be found through these links: