Peter Thornton died on 14th June in the RD&E hospital following a short illness with cancer.
Peter and his siblings, Tony, John and sister Gill, were born in Sheffield. In 1939, at the outbreak of war, Peter’s uncle Stanley had moved his young family to the small village of Winster, in a quiet part of Derbyshire, between Matlock and Bakewell. For a short time, Peter’s parents, Norman and Muriel, joined that side of the family in Winster Manor where it was hoped to have protection from the impending bombing raids. Peter had watched Sheffield being bombed from the top of Whirlow Lane which made a lasting impression on him. Norman and Stanley worked in the family confectionary business started by their father Joseph William Thornton in 1911.
As a youngster, Peter went to a Birkdale school in Sheffield, where he received frequent praise as being a particularly bright boy. He then went on to Repton which he enjoyed. In those days university was not the norm for most young people. But in a way, two years National Service for young men was a reasonable substitute. Peter was called up into the Royal Signals in about 1952 and was called back, after being demobbed, in connection with the crisis in Malaya where he served with men from the Gurkha Signal Regiment translating messages. On one memorable occasion he was posted in the jungle and was positioned in a trench. Absolutely terrified, he heard a rustling in the bushes and thinking he was going to be attacked, he fired a shot. There was a loud squealing noise and a pig ran out and shot off past him. He returned home on the Empire Windrush. On his return he served in the Territorial Army for many years following his two years National Service, gaining his majority in the TA, being promoted from Captain Thornton to Major Peter Thornton.
Prior to entering Thorntons, Peter studied ‘Chocolate and Sugar Confectionary’ at the Borough Polytechnic in London and was formally taken on to the staff in July 1953 for the grand sum of £5 per week. Peter had a long and distinguished career with Thorntons, which lasted nearly forty years, until JW Thornton Ltd became Thorntons PLC, on flotation, in 1988. At this point Peter decided to pursue his own business interests. His entrepreneurial spirit never waned, and almost up to the time of his death Peter was working on his business, Dermatuff, producing special medical stockings to prevent skin tears from which he himself suffered. Whilst at Thorntons, in 1985, Peter was invited to be President of the Confectioners Benevolent Fund; affectionately known as the 'Sweet Charity,' the fund was established in 1918 to help those in, or formerly in, the confectionery industry requiring financial support or advice.
One of Peter’s great passions was opera and in 1986 he joined the Board of Directors of Buxton Opera Festival. In 1991 he made a significant personal contribution to the festival and was made an Honorary Life Patron the following year.
Peter was throughout his life a keen sailor. He and his siblings enjoyed summers in Abersoch, where their parents had a holiday home. This was very much designed to support the family’s enthusiasm for sailing. This culminated in Peter graduating from basic dinghies to 505s, in which Peter and his brothers became expert. In the early 1990s, Peter fulfilled a passion and qualified as a helicopter pilot flying a Robinson R22 and later a Jet Ranger. Many exciting trips were had flying around both the UK and Europe.
He leaves behind three children from his first wife – Sarah, Sam and Miles and two children from his third marriage to Julia – Rebecca and William. He will be much missed.