Peter Thornton, businessman

Peter Thornton, who has died aged 85.
Peter Thornton, who has died aged 85.
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Peter Thornton, who has died at 85, was a Sheffield businessman who devoted much of his life to the famous chocolate firm that bore his family name.

The grandson of Joseph William Thornton, who had opened his first confectionary shop on Norfolk Street in the city centre in 1911, Peter occupied almost every management role during nearly 40 years with the firm, including that of company chairman.

His father, Norman, and uncle Stanley had inherited the business from Joseph in 1919.

He attended Birkdale School in Broomhill, Sheffield, before the family moved to Derbyshire at the outbreak of war.

He did his National Service in the Royal Signals and served in Malaya, translating messages with men from the Gurkha Signal Regiment.

He returned to the UK on the Empire Windrush and served in the Territorial Army, rising to Major.

Before joining Thornton’s, he studied chocolate and sugar confectionary at the Borough Polytechnic in London and was taken on to the staff in July 1953, with a wage of £5 a week.

A boardroom battle ended his involvement with the firm in the 1980s, and he pursued his own business interests – a medical stocking company among them.

A passionate supporter of opera, in 1986 he joined the board of Buxton Opera Festival and was made an honorary life patron in 1991.

He was also a keen sailor, and in the early 1990s qualified as a helicopter pilot.

He is survived by three children, Sarah, Sam and Miles, from his first marriage, and by Rebecca and William from his third marriage, to Julia.