The name Thorogood is of Norse origin. The first part refers to the Norse god, Thor. The full name probably means “Thor the Goths”. The Goths occupied the southern half of modern Sweden. (The Swedes occupied the north.) Famous Goths include Eric the Red, who settled Greenland, and his son Leif, who discovered America.

In the Norse tradition, there was no surname. People were known by their given name plus either their father’s given name with “son” added or a descriptive name. Thus, Leif’s son Eric is sometimes called Leif Eriksson and sometime Leif the Brave; Eric the Red is also known as Eric Thorvaldson. Norse women did not change their name when they married.

The name Thorogood is first recorded in England shortly after the Norman Conquest. Thorogoods have lived in Hertfordshire, just north of London, since at least the 1100s. It was from Hertfordshire that Arthur Thorogood migrated to Australia. (There is a map of Hertfordshire here.)

The spelling of Thorogood evolved from Thorgodt or Thorgeat in the 1400s. One of the earliest occurrences of that spelling was John Thorogood of Hertfordshire who was the great-grandfather of Adam Thorogood, one of the founding fathers of the colony in Virginia. see note.) The name was sometimes spelled Thorowgood and occasionally Thurgood.

The mis-spelling (and apparent misinterpretation) as “Thoroughgood” is modern.


In about 885, the Dane Vikings, led by Guthrum, King of Denmark, sailed up the Lee River and established a base near Ware in what is now Hertfordsire. They were stopped there by the Saxon King Alfred the Great (supposedly by partly diverting the river with weirs, from which the town derives its name, so as to make it too shallow for the Viking boats). The Saxons established a rival fortifications across the river at Hertford. For the next 200 years, the Lee formed the boundary between Saxon England in the West and Dane territory (the “Danelaw”) in the east. Several of our Thorogood ancestors came from Ware.

From about 1400, pilgrimages from London to the Shrine of the Virgin Mary at Walsingham in Norfolk became popular. These passed through Ware and a great many inns were built to cater for the pilgrims. Ware is mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1400) and one of its tourist attractions, The Great Bed of Ware, is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1600). (The Great Bed, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is 10 ft 10 in long and 10 ft 7 in wide and could sleep a dozen people. Between 1870 and 1928, it was located at Rye House, where Arthur Thorogood was born in 1887. )

Ware High Stret (2e009)
Ware High Street (2009)

As the pilgrim business diminished in the 17th century, Ware became famous as a centre for the malting of barley to make porter which was the most popular drink in London at the time. The last malthouse closed in 1994. Ware now has a population of about 17,500.

Some of out ancestors came from the nearby town of Hoddesdon.

Hoddeston 1879 (Queen Victoria's Jubilee)
Hoddeston 1879 (Queen Victoria’s Jubilee)

One of the famous buildings in Hoddesdon in Rawdon House, which was built by Sir Marmaduke Rawdon in 1622 after having married Elizabeth Thorowgood in 1610. (There is a portrait of Elizabeth in the British National Portrait Gallery). Marmaduke Rawdon was a wealthy merchant who later became famous as a commander of a regiment which he raised, at his own expense, to defend King Charles 1 in the Civil War. The property on which Rawdon House was built had been occupied by three houses and gardens belonging to various members of the Thorowgood family. Rawdon House is now offices housing computer companies.

Rawdon House (in 2009)
Rawdon House (in 2009)

A nearby house, known as “The Grange”, was built in about 1500 as an inn, called “The Cock”. It was bought in 1591 by William Thurgood, Elizabeth’s grandfather, and formed part of her dowry. Next to the Grange is a recent cottage. The house on this site has been known as the “Thurgood House” since the 1500s.

Thurgood House
Thurgood House

Another inn, “The Maidenhead”, was sold to Marmaduke Rawdon by Thomas Thorogood in 1622 for 350 pounds. It was demolished in 1964.

Maidenhead Inn
Maidenhead Inn


Hoddesdon High Street 1890s

Hoddesdon High Street 1908

“The Rawdons” by Stan Rawdon (see Elizabeth p.25)


John Thorogood, who was born about 1440 and lived at “Chelston Temple”* in Hertfordshire was described as being of an “old and honourable family”. He was the great-grandfather of Adam Thorogood who played an important role in the settlement of Virginia.

(John Thorogood had two sons, Nicholas and John who was born about 1530. The younger John Thorogood, described as “a Gentleman”, had six children: John, Isabel, William (born in 1579), Thomas, Joan and Lawrence.

William, a vicar, married three times, being widowed twice. He had one son, Robert, by his first wife, Mary, and six sons and one daughter by his third wife, Anne. William and Anne’s children were Sir Edward, Sir John, Thomas, Edmund, William, Adam (born about 1603) and Frances. Thus, Adam was a seventh son which is supposed to bring good fortune. A book about his life, written by Meyer and Dorman in 1987, was called “Purse and Person”, reflecting that he did actually have the good fortune, as well as the position, of a seventh son.)

Adam became a merchant and ship’s captain trading with, and bringing colonists to, the new settlements in Virginia (established in 1608) and North Carolina. He so dominated this trade that all of the merchant ships trading between England and its American colonies came to be referred to as “Thorowgood ships”. Adam and his wife, Sarah, settled in Virginia and they, and their descendants, played an important part in Virginian society for many generations. For example, both Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate army in the Civil War, and Ulysses S. Grant, the commander of the Union army and later President of the United States, were married to descendants of Adam Thorogood.

* Chelston Temple:
Probably Temple Chelsin in Begeo near Ware. This was owned by the Knights Templar but was leased in 1524 to be farmed by Nicholas Thurgood (Thorogood) for 40 years. However, at the Dissolution of the Monastries between 1536 and 1541, Henry VIII took possession and granted the manor to his Chief Secretary, Sir Ralph Sadleir of Standon.

The Knights Templar were an order of monks set up to protect pilgrims. They were the elite troops during the Crusades and also acted as bankers to pilgrims, managing the money of rich pilgrims and Crusaders while they were away. This made them extremely wealthy.

Early in the 14th century, they were suppressed, and their property confiscated, by Edward 11. Their lands in Hertfordshire were assigned to a moneylender named Geoffrey de la Lee (i.e. of the Lee River). Despite a Royal Commission “to inquire touching concealed goods of the Templars in the County of Hertfordshire” in 1309, their supposed treasure has never been found.