Dr Christopher Thornton

County Editor, Victoria County History of Essex

Chris joined the staff of the Victoria County History of Essex in 1992 and has been County Editor of the Victoria History of the County of Essex since 2003. For more information about the activities of VCH Essex visit the VCH Essex website (www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/Essex)

Research and publications

He has published articles and parish histories in Volume IX (1994) and X (2001), and is currently completing and editing Volume XI (forthcoming, 2011) and XII (forthcoming, 2014). His recent research has investigated the development of the modern seaside resorts of Clacton, Walton and Frinton in north-east Essex, and the earlier history of settlement and economic activity along that same coastline. Earlier in his career Chris studied medieval farming, agricultural productivity and settlement; he has maintained this interest and currently serves on the committee of the Medieval Settlement Research Group. He has also undertaken a series of research projects for heritage organisations such as The National Trust and English Heritage, to assist with the interpretation of historic landscapes and buildings in public or charitable ownership, and made contributions to the television programmes ‘The Lost Centuries of St Osyth’ (Time Team, Channel 4, 2005) and ‘Christina. A Medieval Life (Michael Wood, BBC4, 2008). Chris has strong connections with many historical societies and projects in Essex. He is both a former President and former Hon. Secretary of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History, and still serves as a Trustee and Publications and Research Fund Secretary. He is also a committee member of the Friends of Historic Essex, and as their representative was recently successful, with Dr Andrew Wareham (University of Roehampton), in obtaining an AHRC Collaborative PhD studentship award. The student appointed is studying poverty in Restoration Essex using material from the Hearth Tax returns, exemption certificates and parish records preserved in the Essex Record Office and The National Archives.


  • ‘The determinants of land productivity on the Bishop of Winchester’s demesne of Rimpton, 1208 to 1403’, in B.M.S. Campbell and M. Overton, eds, Land, Labour and Livestock: Historical Studies in European Agricultural Productivity (Manchester University Press, 1991), pp.183–210
  • ‘Efficiency in medieval livestock farming: the fertility and mortality of herds and flocks at Rimpton, Somerset, 1208–1349’, in S.D. Lloyd and P.R. Coss, eds, Thirteenth-Century England IV (Boydell and Brewer), pp.25–46
  • ‘Tudor and Stuart Colchester: Religious Life’ and ‘Common Lands’, in J. Cooper, ed., A History of the County of Essex, IX, The Borough of Colchester (Oxford, 1994), pp.121–32, 255–9.
  • D.V. Stern, A Hertfordshire Demesne of Westminster Abbey: Profits, Productivity and Weather, ed. and with an introduction (pp.xxiii–lii) by C.C. Thornton (Hertfordshire University Press, 1999).
  • ‘West Bergholt’, ‘Boxted’, ‘Dedham’, ‘Great Horksley’, ‘Little Horkesley’, ‘Langahm’, in J. Cooper, ed., A History of the County of Essex, X, Lexden Hundred (Part) (OUP, 2001), pp.23–38, 54–68, 154–86, 210–33, 233–41, 242-49.
  • ‘The level of arable productivity on the Bishopric of Winchester’s Manor of Taunton, 1283–1348’, in R.H. Britnell, ed., The Winchester Pipe Rolls: Studies in Medieval English Economy and Society (Woodbridge, 2003), pp.109–37.

Research reports

I have also produced a series of research reports commissioned by, among others, Essex County Council, English Heritage, and The National Trust:

  • ‘Documentary Sources’ in 32 separate Historic Town Assessment Reports (Essex County Council, 1999). These are used by District Councils as part of evidence for the Supplementary Planning Guidance on Historic Towns.
  • ‘Essex Towns: Analysis of Medieval Taxation Returns’ and ‘Essex Towns: The Hearth Tax of 1671’ (Essex County Council, Heritage Conservation Group, internal research reports, 1996–7).
  • Bourne Mill, Colchester (National Trust, 2007)
  • Northey Island and South-House Farm, Maldon (National Trust, 2008)
  • Lyddington Bede House, Rutland (English Heritage, 2009)
  • A. Gascoyne, M. Medlycott and C. Thornton, Ray Island, Essex. Archaeological & Historic Landscape Survey (Essex County Council for The National Trust, 2010)

Teaching and supervision

His supervision interests are: Medieval and early modern economic and social history; manorial account rolls; farming and field systems; landscape, settlement and built environment; the impact of the Second World War on local communities; local and regional history, especially but not exclusively in Essex. Current supervision topics include 'The development of elite landscapes in Tudor Essex' (PhD, University of London) and 'Poverty and the hearth tax in Restoration Essex' (member of supervisory board, PhD, Roehampton University). Examples of previous topics supervised are: 'The client network, connections and patronage of Sir John Howard' (Lord Howard, first Duke of Norfolk) in north-east Essex and south Suffolk (PhD, University of Essex, 2008) and 'Mersea Island in the Second World War' (MA by Dissertation, University of Essex, 2006).