William Thorn was baptised at Chagford on 28 May 1767, the son of Richard and Mary Thorn.
There are several references to Thorn in Chronological Occurrences in Moretonhampstead, the manuscript journal of Silvester Treleaven of Moretonhampstead, which principally covers the years 1799-1816. It would appear from this that William Thorn kept the Bell Inn in the centre of Moretonhampstead: Treleaven's journal first refers to 'Mr. Thorn, Bell Inn' in July 1801.
In 1805, Treleaven's journal notes on 28 November the death of 'Mr Richd. Thorn of Chagford, Father to Mr Thorn of the Bell Inn in this Town', and on 26 December, 'Died aged 34, Mrs Thorn wife of Mr William Thorn at the Bell Inn in this town. Mr Thorn is left a widower with six young children.'
In 1815, when Six Anthems in Score, the first published psalmody collection by Samuel Chapple of Ashburton, was published, William Thorn was among the subscribers: he appears in the subscription list as 'Thorn Mr W: Singing Master Moreton'. Another subscriber, 'Thorn Mr R: Chegford', may have been William Thorn's brother, although this is not certain.
In 1822, he subscribed to Twenty Five Original Melodies by Bennett Mintern Swaffield of St. Austell, appearing in the list of subscribers as 'Mr. William Thorne, Singing Master, Moreton-Hampstead, Devon'
In 1836, William Thorn's Twenty Original Sacred Melodies was published: as far as is known, this was his only published work. The book was published by George and Manby, of 85, Fleet-Street, London, and by W. Roberts of Exeter. In the previous year, W. Roberts had been listed in the imprint of Richard Partridge's Sacred Music as an Exeter seller of that book, and there is some overlap in subscribers between the two collections.
The register of burials for Moretonhampstead records that William Thorn, of Moretonhampstead 'Town', aged 85, was buried on 7 June 1852 (Devon Record Office: 2916A/PR13). Trewman's Exeter Flying Post of 10 June 1852 included the following obituary: 'June 3, at Moretonhampstead, at the advanced age of 85, Mr William Thorn. He had been for many years a teacher of music and was well known to the choirs of various parishes in the vicinity of Moreton and other districts of this county.'
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- Twenty Original Sacred Melodies. London: George and Manby; and W. Roberts, Exeter. 1836.