Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


John Wise Thorp (1757–1825)

Mayor of Oxford 1805/6 and 1822/3

John Wise Thorp

John Wise Thorp was was born in Oxford on 9 November 1757 and baptised at St Cross Church four days later. He was the eldest son of the hosier William Thorp of Holywell parish (who himself held office as Mayor of Oxford in 1775 and 1789) and his second wife, Elizabeth Wise of St Martin’s parish.

His parents were married at St Cross (Holywell) Church on 23 August 1756 and his three younger siblings were also baptised at that church: Frances (1760), William (1762), and James (died as a baby, 1764). He also had an older half-sister, Sarah.

John's Elizabeth Thorp mother died on 5  September 1765 when he was eight years old, and his father married this third wife shortly afterwards.


Right: Detail from a miniature of John Wise Thorp
in the possession of his descendant, Arthur Parsons

Thorp became a mercer, and his shop was at 44 Broad Street.

On 27 January 1784 at at St Michael-at-the-Northgate Church, Oxford, John Wise Thorp married Dorothy Lawrence (born on 22 March 1760): she was the daughter of Isaac Lawrence, who had himself been three times Mayor of Oxford. They had six children

  • William Wise Thorp (born on 6 June 1785 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 30 June 1785)
  • John Thorp (born on 25 April 1787 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 16 May 1787)
  • Charles Thorp (born on 28 August 1788 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 12 September 1788:
    died aged 1 year 3 months on 28 November 1789, buried in St Mary Magdalen Church on 4 December 1789)
  • Mary Elizabeth Thorp (born on 19 September 1790 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 8 October 1790,
    died aged two on 8 September 1792, buried at St Mary Magdalen Church on 12 September 1792)
  • Susannah Thorp (born on 11 September,and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 18 September 1793)
  • Maria Thorp (born on 24 March 1796 (no baptism found).

On his marriage, John's father took him into partnership and they moved their business to 44 Broad Street in St Mary Magdalen parish. He was admitted free on 12 November 1784.

Thorp was admitted as Mayor’s Child by Nicholas Halse on 30 September 1785. He took up his place as Chamberlain on 30 September 1788. The following year he became a Keykeeper, in 1792 an Assistant; and in 1793 Bailiff. He was also a magistrate for 22 years.

The family business was listed as “John & William Thorp, hosiers” in the Universal Directory of Britain in 1794. As John’s brother William was a Vicar and John's son of that name was only nine, the William is presumably his father.

John Wise Thorp’s wife Dorothy died at the age of 36 on 27 June 1796, just three months after the birth of her youngest child, and was buried at St Mary Magdalen Church four days later.

John Wise Thorp took over his father William's business following his death in September 1800.

In 1805 Thorp was elected Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1805/6)

John Wise Thorp’s eldest son William Wise Thorp was admitted free on 31 October 1806. When his second son John Thorp was admitted free on 6 October 1812, John Wise Thorp was described as a “gentleman”.

Both his daughters were married in 1821, and the church suggests that the family now lived in Holywell parish. It is possible they lived at the east side of Broad Street, just to the north of the Hertford College bridge, as in 1823 Thorp held his father’s lease on the building in Holywell parish just to the north of the “Gateway to the Rackett Court” that was there:

  • On 13 January 1821 at St Cross Church, his elder daughter Susannah Thorp married Samuel Shepherd Folker of North-street, Brighton;
  • On 5 April 1821 at St Cross Church, his younger daughter Maria Thorp became the second wife of Thomas Joy.

In September 1822 Thorp was elected Mayor a second time (for 1822/3), seventeen years after his first election to that office.

Thorp died on 8 October 1825 at the age of 68, and was buried at St Mary Magdalen Church on 15 October 1825.

Memorial to John Wise Thorp

A marble monument on the south wall of St Mary Magdalen Church (left) reads:

Sacred to the memory of John Wise Thorp, who died October 8th 1825, aged 68 years.

Also Dorothy, his wife, who died June 27th 1796, aged 36 years.

And two of their children who died in their infancy.

A memorial on the floor of the south aisle of St Mary Magdalen Church expands on this information:

“In memory of Charles, son of John Wise Thorp & Dorothy, his wife, who departed this life November 28th 1789, aged one year & three months. Also of Mary Elizabeth, their daughter, who died September 8th 1792, aged two years. Also John Wise Thorp, died October 8th 1825, aged 68 years. Also Dorothy, his wife, died June 27th 1796, aged 36 years. Also Lydia, wife of William Thorp, who died December 3rd 1829, aged 42 years.”

John Wise Thorp's two surviving sons were both themselves to become Mayors of Oxford (see below). His younger daughter Mrs Maria Joy died on 19 July 1832 aged 36, while his elder daughter Mrs Susannah Folker died on 11 February 1875, aged 83.

See also:

  • William Thorp I, Mayor 1795, 1789 (his father)
  • William Thorp II, Mayor 1833, 1844, 1848 (his eldest son)
  • John Thorp, Mayor 1845 (his second son)
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 15 October 1825, p. 4b (obituary)
  • PCC Will PROB 11/1709/85 (Will of John Wise Thorp, Mayor of Oxford, proved 10 February 1826)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 3 January, 2021

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