Alexander William Thorold Grant-Thorold was a leap year baby, born on 29th February 1820 in Clapham, Surrey. His father was Alexander Grant, a Scot, and his mother was Helen Thorold, of a well to do Lincolnshire family based at Weelsby. The Thorold family already had links to Cosgrove through the marriage of Rear Admiral Robert Mansel to Frances Charlotta Thorold, daughter of the Rev William Thorold, of Weelsby House, co Lincoln, in 1803.
Alexander’s parents married on 27 April 1819 at the Church of St George the Martyr, Queen Square, London.
from Alexander William Thorold Grant of One Tree Hill [Playford Library Service Heritage Collections] we learn:
His father was described as a “boon companion” of King William IV of England and was said to have played an active part in his sovereign’s coronation. Alexander senior also resided for a time in France with his family who became proficient in several languages.
Alexander was keen to make his own way in life, however, and at the tender age of seventeen set out to make his mark in South Australia. He was influenced in this decision because his godfather, Lord Glenelg, was Secretary of State for the Colonies when South Australia was first settled in 1836. Before venturing to South Australia, however, he spent time in the Scottish highlands, gaining experience working with sheep.
He set sail from England on the “Hartley” in 1837 and arrived in South Australia that same year. He is reported to have come with a sum of £1,000.
By January 1840 Grant was squatting near the Little Para River. Assisted by F.W. Stokes, he acquired a Pastoral Lease which extended from the Little Para River to Gawler.
Alexander built up an extensive pastoral holding over the ensuing years, and to assist in running his most recently acquired northern properties James Thorold Grant, Alexander’s brother, who had served in the Royal Navy, set sail from England to join the company. He appears to have arrived in the early 1850’s. In early 1853 accompanied by a companion from his navy days, he set out for Kanyaka Station, but the two were never to arrive. James Grant and his friend became lost at some stage during their journey and both perished and it was a long time until their remains were discovered. Adelaide Times Saturday 29 January 1853
Helen Grant, mother of Alexander and James, with another son Frederick and his new bride Arabella, had also arrived in South Australia about this time. Helen is reputed to have brought cuttings from a willow tree on Napoleon’s grave at St Helena. Some of these cuttings were planted on James grave at Tyeka.
In 1854, Alexander’s father Alexander Grant, died, apparently at sea in Somerset, leaving Alexander heir to his immediate family’s estates.
By 1858, Alexander was also his mother’s wealthy family’s eldest surviving male heir. His grandfather Thorold of the wealthy Thorold family of Weelsby, Lincolnshire, had no surviving male issue and although his mother was a younger daughter of her family, she had produced the only male heirs. Through the marriage of Rear Admiral Robert Mansel and Frances Charlotta Thorold, in the late 18th century, Alexander thus became heir to family estates worth at least £300,000. He journeyed back to England to prepare for his inheritance, leaving his brother Frederick and F. W. Stokes to manage the family’s South Australian interests.
After his return to England in 1858 Alexander married Anna Hamilton Stirling, daughter of Sir James Stirling 1st Governor of Western Australia. The marriage took place at St John’s, Paddington, on 23rd July 1863.
A daughter, Hilda Grant Thorold, was born in 1865, in the same year that Alexander’s grandfather died, leaving him head of the Thorold estates. She was followed by daughter Constance Mary in 1867 and a son, Richard Stirling Grant-Thorold, in 1868. These three children were all born in London.
On Alexander Grant’s grandfather’s death in 1865 Alexander became successor to the Thorold estates and assumed the name of Grant-Thorold. He became owner of all the Cosgrove manorial rights and the two estates at the Priory and Cosgrove Hall.
Two further sons, Harry Grant Thorold, born in 1870, and Francis Hamilton Grant Thorold, born in 1871, were both born at the family seat in Weelsby, Lincolnshire.
Alexander only returned to South Australia in 1883 after his brother Frederick's business interests collapsed for a short time, before returning to his responsibilities in England. In 1886 he sold the Priory in Cosgrove to J J Atkinson, along with some land.
In 1891 Alexander conveyed Cosgrove Hall to his second son, Harry Grant Thorold, although Alexander can be identified as living, with his wife Anna, at Cosgrove Hall, for the remainder of his life.
In 1899 Anna died, aged 59, and Alexander commissioned a turret clock in her memory, for the tower of Cosgrove Church. Alexander William Grant-Thorold passed away in February 1908 at Cosgrove Hall, Cosgrove, Northamptonshire, England. He was buried next to Anna in the middle churchyard at Cosgrove.
In 1919 Harry Grant Thorold sold off the Cosgrove estates entirely.