Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


William Thorp II (1785–1869)

Mayor of Oxford 1833/4, 1844/5, and 1848/9

William Thorp II

William Thorp was born in Oxford on 6 June 1785 and baptised on 30 June at St Mary Magdalen Church. He was the eldest son of John Wise Thorp (mercer of 44 Broad Street who was Mayor in 1805 and 1822) and Dorothy Lawrence.

His paternal grandfather William Thorp I had also been Mayor (1775 and 1789), as had his maternal grandfather Isaac Lawrence (1759, 1768, and 1784) and great-grandfather Thomas Lawrence (1737 and 1745). His younger brother John Thorp was also to serve as Mayor (1845).


William'd mother Dorothy Thorp died in June 1796 when he was eleven years old.

On 6 March 1806 William Thorp was made Ensign in the Corps of the Oxford Loyal Volunteers, and on 31 October that year he was admitted free.

On 12 April 1810 at Burford Church, William Thorp married Lydia Phillips, daughter of John Phillips Esq. of Burford, and the marriage was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 14 April 1810. They do not appear to have had any children.

William Thorp was a hosier, and afterwards a mercer, in partnership with his younger brother John, and their business was listed as Thorp & Sons in Pigot’s Directory for 1823. In August 1828 William entirely relinquished the business to his brother, and it was henceforth listed in directories as John Thorp & Son (in the singular).

Thorp was a Conservative, and entered the old Corporation in 1817. He was elected Senior Chamberlain in 1827 and Senior Bailiff in 1829.

His wife Lydia Thorp died on 3 December 1829 at the age of 42 and was described as being of Holywell when she was buried at St Mary Magdalen Church on 10 December 1829.

In 1832 Thorp joined forces with Vaughan Thomas to combat cholera, and also produced with him on 1 September a poster headed: St Giles’ Fair. Caution and Remonstrance. To all drunkards and revellers and to the thoughtless and imprudent of both sexes.

In 1833 Thorp was elected Mayor of Oxford for the first time (for 1833/4).

In 1834, when he was aged 49, he went to live at 10 Holywell Street with his orphaned nieces Elizabeth, Sarah, Mary, and Susan Joy and his nephew Francis William Joy. He is shown there in the 1841 census, where he is described as being of independent means. Later that year he was made an Alderman, and in 1844 started his second term as Mayor (for 1844/5).

In 1848 Thorp agreed reluctantly to undertake a third term as Mayor (for 1848/9). (The custom at this time was for the mayoralty to be offered in the first instance to aldermen, but the other seven aldermen had all refused.)

The 1851 census shows William Thorp as a widower of 65 and described as a Magistrate and Alderman, living with his widowed sister Mrs Susannah Folker and his niece Mary Joy, plus two servants.

Ten years later in 1861 Thorp still lived with his sister, and they were joined by his 28-year-old niece, Miss Emma Folker. They were now living across the road at 92 Holywell Street, a small house demolished to make way for the new buildings of New College.

Gravestone of William Thorp II


Thorp became known as “The Father of the Corporation”. He died on 17 August 1869 at the age of 84.

He was buried in Holywell Cemetery, and his gravestone (right) reads:

WHO DIED AUG 17 1869 [?]

[AGED 19]



There is also a memorial to Thorp and his wife (below) on the wall of St Mary Magdalen Church.

Memorial to William & Lydia Thorp

See also:

  • William Thorp I, Mayor 1775, 1789 (his grandfather)
  • John Wise Thorp, Mayor 1805, 1822 (his father)
  • John Thorp, Mayor 1845 (his younger brother)
  • Thomas Lawrence, Mayor 1737, 1735 (his maternal great-grandfather)
  • Isaac Lawrence, Mayor 1737, 1745 (his maternal grandfather)
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 9 May 1857: “Testimonial to Mr. Alderman Thorp”
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 21 August 1865, p. 5f
  • Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 28 August 1869, p. 5f (obituary)
  • 1841 Census: Oxford (Holywell), 891/07/4
  • 1851 Census: Oxford (Holywell), 1728/45
  • 1861 Census: Oxford (Holywell), 893/116

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 13 October, 2018

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