Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thorpe, John (1682-1750)

THORPE, JOHN (1682–1750), antiquary, eldest son of John Thorpe and his wife Ann, sister and coheiress of Oliver Combridge of Newhouse, Kent, was born at his father's house of Newhouse in the parish of Penshurst, Kent, on 12 March 1681–2. His family was a branch of the Thorpes of Chertsey, Surrey, and his father had a good estate in the parishes of Penshurst, Lamberhurst, Tonbridge, and Chiddingstone. He was sent to the grammar school at Westerham, of which the master was Thomas Manningham [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Chichester, and on 14 April 1698 matriculated from University College, Oxford, whence he graduated B.A. at Michaelmas 1701, M.A. on 27 June 1704, M.B. on 16 May 1707, and M.D. in July 1710. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 30 Nov. 1705, and at that time lived in Ormond Street, London, near his friend, Richard Mead [q. v.], the physician. He assisted Sir Hans Sloane [q. v.] in the publication of the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ and published in them on 24 July 1704 a letter to Sloane on worms in the heads of sheep. In 1715 he settled as a physician in Rochester, where he lived within the precincts of the cathedral, and attained considerable practice, at the same time devoting himself to the study of the architecture, antiquities, and history of the county of Kent. His collections were published in 1769 by his son, in folio, under the title of ‘Registrum Roffense.’ The book contains numerous charters, all given in full, monumental inscriptions, and other historical materials. An index to the monumental inscriptions appeared in 1885 (ed. F. A. Crisp).

Thorpe was generous in his historical assistance to Thomas Hearne (1678–1735) [q. v.], Browne Willis [q. v.], and other scholars, and gave medical aid to many poor in his district. He edited the ‘Itinera Alpina Tria’ of Scheuchzer, and published a sheet containing a list of lands contributory to Rochester bridge, and in 1733 at Rochester a collection of statutes of Richard II, Henry V, Elizabeth, and Anne, concerning the same bridge. Several of his letters are preserved in the Sloane collection. He died on 30 Nov. 1750 at Rochester. He was buried in the church of Stockbury, Kent, a parish in which he had purchased a house and land called Nettlested, once owned by the family of Robert Plot [q. v.], the antiquary. Thorpe married Elizabeth, daughter of John Woodhouse of Shobdon, Herefordshire, and had one son, John [q. v.], who is separately noticed.

A portrait of Thorpe, engraved by J. Bayly from a painting by Wollaston, is prefixed to ‘Registrum Roffense.’

[Preface by his son to Registrum Roffense; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 509–14; Thomson's History of Royal Society; Sloane MS. 4063, in British Museum; Works.]

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