Thornton is part of the City of Maitland and while it is a reasonably large suburb, it has a low population density. It sits between Beresfield and East Maitland on the Hunter train line, making it easy to travel into Newcastle and Sydney or further out into the Hunter Valley.
Thornton train station opened in 1871, encouraging residents into the area. It was relocated to its current site in 1913. As industrial estates were developed in the area, more residents and business moved into the suburb.