Thoroton belonged to an old Nottinghamshire family, which took its name from Thoroton, near Newark. He resided mainly at another village in the same neighbourhood, Car Colston, where he practised as a physician, and lived the life of a country gentleman. He took little part in the Civil War, but his sympathies were with the royalists. However, as a magistrate he was very active in persecuting the Quakers. In return, the Quakers were active in recording the occasions on which he imposed heavy fines on poor members of their faith, often depriving them of the tools to make a living.
In 1667 Thoroton, aided by a band of helpers, began work on his great county history, The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire. This was published in London in 1677. It was dedicated to the eminent antiquarian William Dugdale, and illustrated by engravings by Wenceslaus Hollar. It was Dugdale who had urged Thoroton to complete the work of history begun by Thoroton's father-in-law.
Some six years before his death, Thoroton commissioned an elaborate coffin carved from red Mansfield stone, and incised with the coats of arms of his various ancestors. He was buried at Car Colston in the coffin; but in 1845, during restoration work on the chancel of St Mary's Church, it was unearthed and opened. Thoroton's skull was removed and placed in a shop in the village as a "curiosity". The vandalism was subsequently discovered, and the vicar ordered the remains to be collected, replaced within the coffin and reinterred.
In 1797 a new edition of the Antiquities was published by John Throsby (1740–1803), who added an additional volume.
The Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire was founded in 1897, and named in honour of the antiquarian, its object being to promote the study of the history and antiquities of Nottinghamshire. It publishes an annual volume of Transactions, and a separate Record Series of primary source materials.
A brass plaque to the memory of Thoroton is in Car Colston church.
Myles Hildyard Thoroton, a descendant of Robert Thoroton's brother and heir, who lived at Flintham Hall, Flintham, served as president of the Thoroton Society for many years until his death in 2005.
- Sewel, Willem (1834). The History of the Rise, Increase and Progress of the Quakers. 2 (6th ed.). London: Darton and Harvey. p. 242.
- The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire, Extracted out of Records, Original Evidences, Leiger-Books, Other Manuscripts, and Authentic Authorities, Robert Thoroton, Doctor of Physic, printed by Robert White, London, 1677
- Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire, Vol. 5, Thoroton Society, John Standish, George Fellows, W. B. Cooke, Nottingham, 1902
- Photo of Robert Thoroton's Coffin, Car Colston St Mary, SouthwellChurches, southwellchurches.nottingham.acuk
- Photo of Robert Thoroton's coffin, Car Colston St Mary, SouthwellChurches, southwellchurches.nottingham.ac.uk
- News for Spring 2005, The Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire, thorotonsociety.org.uk
- Illustration of brass tablet to Dr. Robert Thoroton, Car-Colston Church, Nottinghamshire History, nottshistory.org.uk
- From its beginnings at Car Colston, the Thoroton family later purchased Screveton Hall at nearby Screveton, where they lived until purchasing Flintham Hall at Flintham. They changed their name to Hildyard on marriage with an heiress of Hildyard of Winestead. Screveton Hall has since been demolished, and the heir of Myles Thoroton Hildyard lives today at Flintham Hall.
- Thoroton, Robert (1790). Throsby, John (ed.). Thoroton's History of Nottinghamshire: Republished With Large Additions By John Throsby. 1. Nottingham: J Throsby. — on the website British History Online
- Thoroton, Robert (1790). Throsby, John (ed.). Thoroton's History of Nottinghamshire: Republished With Large Additions By John Throsby. 2. Nottingham: J Throsby. — on the website British History Online
- Thoroton, Robert (1797). History of Nottinghamshire. 1. J. Throsby. – Google books
- Thoroton, Robert (1797). History of Nottinghamshire. 2. J. Throsby. – Google books
- Photograph of Tombstone of Robert Thoroton, Car Colston St Mary Church, southwellchurches.nottingham.ac.uk
- Photograph of Thoroton Tablet on Southeast Buttress of St Mary Church, Car Colston, Nottinghamshire, southwellchurches.nottingham.ac.uk
- Walter Evelyn Manners (1898). Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 56. London: Smith, Elder & Co. . In
- The Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire