Thomas Thorp


Thorp, by Edward Charles Williams1797-1877. Vice-Master; Archdeacon and Chancellor of Bristol; President of the Cambridge Camden Society.

Thorp was educated at Richmond School, Yorkshire, and Trinity, where he was elected a scholar in 1817 and graduated BA in 1819 as eighth wrangler. In 1818 he was president of the Cambridge Union. He won the Chancellor's Classical Medal in 1819 and was elected a Fellow of Trinity in the following year. He held a number of College offices, including a tutorship and the vice-mastership (1843-4). He graduated BD in 1824. Thorp had been admitted to the Middle Temple in 1824, but in 1829 was ordained deacon and priest.

Thorp's name is closely associated with the Cambridge Camden Society, of which he was president for twenty years. The Society was Cambridge's answer to the Oxford Movement, and derived considerable support from William Whewell, Master of Trinity.  Many future members of the Society matriculated at Trinity between 1833 and 1841 while Thorp was a Tutor. The Society, formed by two Trinity men, J.M. Neale and Edward Jacob Boyce, began as a group of friends paying visits to churches. Thorp, recently appointed Archdeacon and Chancellor of Bristol (1836), was elected President in 1839. Many who joined the Society, especially those in senior positions in the church or the university, ‘thought that they were merely encouraging an antiquarian and artistic society with a practical interest in church building’. Thorp himself was strongly influenced by Romanticism and Wordsworth's appropriation of whatever was ‘pure and imaginative, whatever was not merely utilitarian, to the service of both Church and State’.

Thorp himself was a high-churchman, and together with H.J. Rose and W.H. Mill was regarded as a leading preserver of high-church tradition in Cambridge. Influenced by the Oxford Movement, he once said that Wordsworth might be considered among the founders of the society. However, he recognized that allying the society too closely with Tractarianism could be counter-productive. Theological debates were actively discouraged during his time as president. For him, the society's only theological position was ‘the recognition and extension of sound principles of Church membership’. He was a moderating influence on the radical voices in the society.

Thorp published A Few Words to Churchwardens on Churches and Church Ornaments in 1841. Neale was, in fact, the original author and Thorp toned down his text. He made recommendations about the care and reordering of churches. His arguments against box pews, galleries, and three-decker pulpits, and his support for singing and practices such as the use of candles, were taken up by Pugin, who recommended them to Roman Catholics. It being the year of Newman's Tract 90, Thorp was very sensitive to a charge of romanizing and felt that he should have censored the work more heavily before publication.

In 1841 the Camden Society took over restoration of the medieval Round Church in central Cambridge; Thorp was chair of the restoration committee. In 1843 a row broke out because a stone altar had been erected there, though this was declared legal by a consistory court. Thorp was very concerned by a pamphlet published in 1845 under the Society's auspices by S.N. Stokes, who was shortly to convert to Rome, which recommended auricular confession. Bishop Phillpotts of Exeter resigned from the society in disapproval. The committee, under Thorp's leadership, gave serious consideration to dissolving itself.

Memorial inscription Translation
In piam memoriam Thomae Thorp Sanctae Theologiae  Baccalaurei hujus Collegii Socii Senioris ac Tutoris deinde Archidiaconi Bristoliensis et Rectoris de Kemerton in Dioecesi Gloucestriensi necnon Societatis Camdenicae Cantabrigiensis (postea Societatis Ecclesiologicae nuncupatae) reficiendis ecclesiis constitutae anno salutis MDCCCXXXIX primi Praesidis qui decessit in Christo anno salutis MDCCCLXXVII et aetatis suae LXXX hanc tabulam amici Camdenici post plusquam quadraginta annos superstites in hac propria capella Societatis istius incunabulis posuerunt Alexander J B Beresford Hope LL D Benjamin Webb A M hujusce Collegii alumni et Johannes Fredericus France Ex Collegio Div Joannis anno Domini MDCCCLXXX In pious memory of Thomas Thorp, B.D., a Senior Fellow and Tutor of the College.  He was afterwards Archdeacon of Bristol and Rector of Kemerton in the diocese of Gloucester.  In 1839 he was made the first President of the Cambridge Camden Society (later called the Ecclesiological Society) founded for the restoration of churches.  In 1877 he died in Christ at the age of seventy-nine.  In 1880, more than forty [sic] years later, his surviving Camden friends erected this brass in his own chapel, the cradle of their Society.  They are: A.J.B. Beresford Hope, LL.D., and B. Webb, M.A., graduates of this College; and J.F. France of St John’s College.

Thomas Thorp

Brass located on the south wall of the Ante-Chapel.


Thorp brass









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J.J. Thomson


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