100 Years of Thorntons

100 Years of Thorntons

Did you know Thorntons has been making delicious chocolates for hundred years? In fact, our very first shop was opened in Sheffield by travelling confectioner Joseph William Thornton in October 1911, who handed the keys to his teenage sons Norman and Stanley and said:

"Make this the best sweet shop in town!" Well, they didn't do a bad job, did they?

The history of Thorntons


Norman and Joseph Thornton
  • Thorntons Chocolate Kabin served Kunzle cakes along with more unusual confectionery such as Cachous, Violet Cachous, Sweet Lips, Phul-Nanas and Curiously Strong Mints and of course trays of delicious Mackintons's Toffee Deluxe, broken by the assistants using toffee hammers.


Thorntons Shop
  • New products were always being created and circa 1920, Norman introduced Rose Creams, Fruit Creams, Chocolate Brazil Nuts and Coconut Ice.
  • Thorntons famous Easter eggs began in 1922 when the brothers started making and icing names on them. They would ice until midnight, and then deliver to one of the four shops. After taking learning's from competitor shopping, the brothers started writing the names in front of the customers and package in a white box. It was advertised as "Every Egg in a neat white box".
  • In 1924 Thorntons had been selling Mackintosh's Deluxe Toffee for a few years but the brothers knew that they could make something even better, so Stanley went on to produce ‘Thorntons Special Toffee'. It became so popular that it soon made up half of the total sales and became the company's most well know product for the next 50 years. This product was the engine that drove the business for many years and in many people's minds the words ‘Thorntons' and ‘Toffee' became synonymous. Stanley's same recipe is still used today.


Norman and Joseph Thornton
  • In 1931 Thorntons left the Penistone Road Factory and moved to premises on Stalker Lees Road Sheffield, where they purchased their first Enrober for £175. It was here that the brothers first made their Chocolate Truffles by hand, as well as candies, fudge and crystallised fondants.
  • In 1934 the brothers built a purpose built factory on Archer Road, Sheffield. By this time the company employed around 40 people in the factory, 40 in the shops and two in the office (Miss Cutts and Mrs Scott).
  • In 1938 Thorntons opened eight stores in one year, making a total of 35 shops in 18 towns.
  • The war put a hold on any further expansion in the next ten years. Some shops were lost either through expired leases or air-raids.


Production Line
  • In 1948 the brothers saw an advert in the local paper offering a factory in Belper, Derbyshire. They successfully acquired the building for £8400.


Thorntons Variety
  • Norman's son Peter joined the business in 1953 working at the Belper factory during breaks from studying Chocolate and Sugar Confectionary at London Borough Polytechnic. He completed and joined the business full time in 1954.
  • Thorntons first ever Master Chocolatier joined Thorntons in1954. Walter Willen was a young Swiss confectioner and created a new range of handmade confectionary called Swiss Assortment. This was soon renamed to Continental assortment after the Swiss Embassy complained. Stanley Thornton worked closely with Walter at this time so the recipes could be adapted more to the English taste and Continental today in Thorntons most popular box of chocolates. Walter stayed with the business for over 30 years.


  • In 1967 the business had nearly 90 shops making a profit of almost £250k on a turnover of £1.7m.


  • In 1975 Thorntons has become such a well loved brand that the company opened its first Franchise store in Barrow.


1980s Award Winners
  • In 1981 over one million Easter Eggs were sold in our stores!
  • In 1982 the decision was made to purchase a large piece of land near Alfreton, Derbyshire for construction of a new factory, which started in 1983.
  • In 1985 Thornton Park in Alfreton was opened by HM the Queen.
  • In late December 1986 the decision was taken by the Board to seek a public listing for the business to take place in October 1987.


  • In 1991 BBC TV's The Clothes Show was filmed at Thornton Park where staff featured in the spectacular finale.
  • In 1996 the first Café Thorntons opened in London.
  • Year end June 1997 Thorntons exceeds £100m Turnover for first time.
  • With the rapid growth of internet shopping, in 1998 Thorntons Direct, our ecommerce channel, commenced operations.


  • In September 2001, the Thorntons Brand was first sold into J.Sainsbury with five lines.
  • On 3rd April 2007, Thorntons set up what is thought to be the world first edible billboard. The 14.5ft by 9.5ft and 390kg sign was erected outside the Covent Garden store and devoured by eager passers-by within three hours.
  • In September 2008 world renowned chocolatier Keith Hurdman joined Thorntons as Master Chcolateir. Keith previously ran a boutique chocolate shop in London and has over 20 years experience as a pastry Chef and Chcolateir across Europe.
  • In April 2008 Thorntons launched its Moments Brand which generated £10million sales in its first year. To launch the brand, Thorntons unveiled the world largest box of chocolates.
  • Year end June 2008 Thorntons exceeds £200m Turnover for first time.


  • 2011 is Thorntons 100th birthday. Thorntons is now seen by the great British public as the ultimate chocolate treat on the high street. With over 600 stores across the UK, everyone has their favourite Thorntons chocolate.
  • Thorntons famous Continental chocolates and Special Toffee are still as popular as ever, and new brands such as Moments, Melts and Classics are also new customer favourites.
  • Everyone at Thorntons is excited to be celebrating 100 years of creating delicious chocolates but what the next 100 years holds is an even more exciting prospect.