John Thorpe

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John Thorpe or Thorp (c.1565–1655?; fl.1570–1618) was an English architect.


Little is known of his life, and his work is dubiously inferred, rather than accurately known, from a folio of drawings in the Sir John Soane's Museum,[1] to which Horace Walpole called attention, in 1780, in his Anecdotes of Painting; but how far these were his own is uncertain.

He was engaged on a number of important English houses of his time, and several, such as Longleat, have been attributed to him on grounds which cannot be sustained, because they were built before he was born. In 1570 when he was five years old, he laid the foundation stone[2] of Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire his father being the Master mason of the project. He was probably the designer of Charlton House, in Charlton, London; the original Longford Castle, Wiltshire; Condover Hall and the original Holland House, Kensington; and he is said to have been engaged on Rushton Hall, Northamptonshire, and Audley End, Essex (with Bernard Janssens).[1]

Thorpe's major-but-little-trumpeted contribution to world architecture is the humble and now-ubiquitous corridor "for a house[3] in Chelsea", London, England, in 1597,[4] allowing "independent access to individual rooms". Previously, the fashion was the so-called enfilade arrangement of rooms in a dwelling in which each room led to the next via connecting internal doors. The enfilade remained popular in continental Europe long after the corridor was widely adopted in England. Flanders believes Thorpe's inspiration was the one-sided covered walkway common in monastic cloisters. Given their similarities, this is a reasonable prima facie conjecture.

Thorpe joined the Office of Works as a clerk, then practised independently as a land surveyor. In August 1605 the Earl of Dorset wrote to "Mr Thorpe" to survey and make "plots" for the rebuilding of Ampthill for Anne of Denmark and Prince Henry.[5]

From 1611 he was assistant to Robert Tresswell, Surveyor-General of Woods South of the Trent. He retired in the 1630s but seems to have lived to an advanced age, dying around 1655.

Architectural works[edit]



  1. ^ a b Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ page 2:The Book of Architecture of John Thorpe in Sir John Soane's Museum, The 40th Volume of the Walpole Society, 1966, John Summerson
  3. ^ The identity of this residence does not survive.
  4. ^ The Making of Home (2014), p.75, by Judith Flanders
  5. ^ HMC Salisbury Hatfield, vol. 17 (London, 1938), pp. 349–50.


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Thorpe, John". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  • Airs, Malcolm. "Thorpe, John (1564/5–1655)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27378. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • H. M. Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600–1840 (1997) ISBN 0-300-07207-4