Thorpe Surname Meaning, History & Origin
where there was Danish settlement. Places with “-thorp” or “-thorpe” as
a suffix crop up in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Norfolk. The
word – of Old Norse and Old Danish origin – means a small hamlet or
village.Its first recording as a surname was William de Torp in the
Northumberland pipe rolls of 1158.
spellings, with Thorp more to be found in the north of England.
Thorp could become Tharp in America.
Thorpe Resources on
- Thorpe Family in America. Descendants of William
Thorpe of New Haven.
- Thorpe DNA Project. Thorpe DNA.
The main locations for Thorpes in the 19th century were, following the
Danish settlements, in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and
Lincolnshire, with smaller numbers further south along the coast in
Early Thorpes. One early recorded Thorpe family started with a Stephen de Thorpe who
lived in the late 12th century in Yorkshire and begat a line of
Another was to be found in East Anglia in the
late 13th century. This Thorpe family held Uphall manor in
Norfolk until 1522. John
of Ashwell-Thorpe in
Norfolk, born around 1270, did much to establish his family’s fortunes. But perhaps the best known member was
de Thorpe. As Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in the 1340’s he
amassed great wealth and estates through bribery and corruption.
assaulted on one occasion in 1318 when his enemies allegedly urinated
on him. In 1350 he was imprisoned and condemned to hanging and
confiscation of all his property. The next year, however, he was
pardoned and had his property restored.”
Thomas Thorpe from Essex was speaker of the House of Commons in 1453
who, unfortunately, was beheaded by a London mob eight years later (one
speakers to be beheaded in the fractious 15th century). A
descendant – via
churchmen and Conservative MP’s – was
the Liberal party leader of the 1970’s, Jeremy Thorpe.
a place-name was to be found near Chertsey in Surrey (from whence has
come Thorpe Park, the amusement center).
John Thorpe was a Surrey MP in the late 14th century and the Thorpe
ironmasters in Sussex in the
late 16th century may have been related.
There were the Thorps in Northumberland and Durham, starting
with the Rev. Thomas Thorp of Chillingham. His son Robert became
Archdeacon of Northumberland in 1792 and his son Charles, also a
clergyman, was a founder of Durham University in 1837.
One family history began with the birth of Ezekiel Thorpe in Aldeburgh,
Suffolk in 1709. These Thorpes were to remain there for the next
150 years before beginning to drift to London, with some emigrating to
Canada. Another started with Thomas Thorpe who was born in the
Staffordshire village of Elford in the 1750’s. And Francis Thorpe
of Pateley Bridge in Yorkshire was born in 1776.
America. Thomas Thorpe was in Ipswich, Massachusetts in
1631, married Rebecca Milward in Boston in 1656, and later settled in
Woodbridge, New Jersey. His descendants lived
and Perth Amboy for more than 200 years. Other Thorpes
had spread by that time into neighboring Monmouth and Union
Another early arrival was William Thorp from London on the Hector in 1637. He was one of
the first settlers of New Haven, Connecticut. Joel Thorpe
family headed west to Ohio in 1799 but was killed in a skirmish with
the British during the War of 1812. His son Lewis became a sailor
on Lake Erie and later settled in Missouri.
There were several
Tharps that immigrated to Virginia and Maryland in the colonial period. John Jacob Thorp, related to the Woodbridge
Thorpes, migrated west in the early 1800’s.
Interestingly, his name was Thorp in New York and Ohio and Tharp
Indiana. From a Quaker farming family in Portland, Indiana came
the dance choreographer Twyla Tharp.
Hiram Thorpe was born in Kansas in 1852, reportedly the son of
Irishman and a Native woman. A member of the Sac and Fox tribe in
Oklahoma, he was the father of Jim Thorpe – whom some have called “the
greatest athlete of all time.” Sadly, Jim Thorpe lost his amateur
Olympic medals that he won in 1912 because he had been a professional
and he lived out the latter part of his life in poverty and poor
Australia and New Zealand. Early Thorpe arrivals were
convicts. Charles Thorpe, convicted at York assizes, was one of
the 338 convicts transported on the Coromandel
and Experiment to Australia
left his native
Yorkshire for Australia in the 1820’s. He married Sarah Garratt
in 1827 and twelve years later they embarked on a new challenge in New
Zealand. Joshua wrote his memoirs of those early days in 1880 in Journey
of a Visit to New Zealand.
Three Thorpe brothers from London went to South
their families in the early years of settlement there. Robert and
Margaret Thorpe travelled on the Navarino
in 1837. Three years later came Charles and Mary Ann Thorpe and
their large family of seven on the Fairfield,
together with brother Thomas and his wife Amelia.
Baron John de Thorpe of Norfolk. John de
Thorpe of Ashwell-Thorpe in Norfolk, born around 1270, did much to
his family’s fortunes. He was a knight
of the shire for Norfolk in the parliament of 1305 and was also a
assessor of aid for Norfolk and Suffolk.
Four years later he received a special summons to parliament and
a baron during the remainder of his life.
In 1316 he was certified as lord of nineteen manors in Norfolk and of
two, Combs and Helmingham, in Suffolk.
One of these manors, Uphall in Norfolk, remained in his family
1522. He died in 1324.
John Thorpe, Sussex Ironmaster. John Thorpe
was by profession an ironmaster. From 1567
he was operating the Warren furnace at Hedgecourt in Worth and the
hammer forge at Felbridge in Surrey.
John and his son Thomas lived in some splendor at Hedgecourt
manor. They were recorded in the 1580’s as
fined for cutting down mature trees for charcoal.
The Thorpes were later to be found at Worth
and Ifield on the Sussex/Surrey border.
Giles Thorpe, born there in 1577, was described as a gentleman. However, the family had become indebted
the 1650’s and their fortunes declined.
Thorp and Thorpe in England. The following
were the numbers of Thorps and Thorpes in England in the 1891 census:
Joel and Sarah Thorpe in the Ohio Wilderness. Joel and
Sarah Thorpe were some of the earliest settlers in Ashtabula county. Their only neighbors for twenty miles were
the Indians. They cleared the land and
lived in a log cabin that Joel built himself. They were so isolated
their supplies ran low, Joel would embark on a journey of weeks to
them. Without roads, Joel relied upon a
pocket compass to find his way to the nearest settlement in
In 1801, while one of his trips, heavy rains
swelled the many streams that Joel had to cross and made the return
impossible. Back home, Sarah and the
children ran out of food. She feared
that they would all starve before Joel could return.
Then, unexpectedly, while looking out the
doorway of the cabin, Sarah spotted a wild turkey flying nearby. She got down her husband’s rifle and
discovered that there was just enough powder left for a small charge. She carefully cleaned the barrel and loaded
the gun and set off in pursuit of the turkey.
In her excitement, she came close to failure by frightening the
so that it flew a short distance and landed in a potato patch. On her second approach she acted with
caution, creeping on her hands and knees, from log to log, until she
the last obstruction between herself and the turkey.
She lifted the rifle to eye level, aimed and
fired, and with that one shot ensured her family’s survival.
Thorpes of Woodbridge and Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The Woodbridge
branch seems to have been Presbyterians and the Perth Amboy ones
St. Peter’s Church.
Robert Thorp was a
grocer in Perth Amboy in the 1840’s. It was said that above his
was painted the following legend: ‘Since man to man is so unjust, I
what man to trust.”
Joshua Thorp in New Zealand. Why did
an educated surveyor and engineer leave his family in Yorkshire in the 1820’s
and travel first to Australia, then New Zealand? Writing
in his memoirs Joshua recalled
studying a globe with a liberal master at his Quaker school and
dreaming of far-away
New Zealand. He grew to dislike the
English climate and conditions. Soon his
desire for adventure was turned into a reality.
He sailed for Australia in the early 1820’s where he designed and
engineered the construction of prison buildings in Sydney, while
large farm there and performing magistrate’s duties.
He married Sarah Garratt of Hobart in 1827
and in 1839 they sought a brighter future in New Zealand.
Joshua’s first land purchase in New Zealand
was at Te Kouma, near Coromandel. His
wife convinced him this was unsuitable and they bought land at Puke
Taraia of the Ngati Tamatera tribe.
Taraia, who held his last cannibal feast in 1842 when he took revenge
Matakana tribe for their insults, treated Joshua as friend at first and
land agreements with him. He ensured
that “Ehoa Tapa, Rangatira pakeha” was treated with respect. But he caused considerable trouble later.
During those early days the Thorp family
faced the challenge of the winds and tides when taking the sea route to
Auckland in their cutter, of taming the land by plough, and of the
living amongst warring tribes in the isolated interior.
- Thomas Thorpe was an English publisher, best known for publishing Shakespeare’s sonnets in 1609.
- Jim Thorpe was an American
athlete of mixed ancestry (Caucasian and American Indian) who won Olympic gold medals in 1912 for the pentathlon and decathlon and also played
professional football, baseball, and basketball.
- Jeremy Thorpe was leader of
the British Liberal party from 1967 to 1976.
- Ian Thorpe, nicknamed “Thorpedo,” was the Australian swimming sensation in the early 2000’s.
Select Thorpe Numbers Today
- 20,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 7,000 in America (most numerous in California)
- 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
Click here for return to front page
Leave a Reply