Thorp, James Ernest (1880-1965)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1924
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1931
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1931

Early years

James was born in 1880 at Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, to parents Robert and Sarah. Robert was a woollen spinner. James was educated at Leeds Private Commercial School.

James served as a hired local preacher in the Leeds I circuit under Rev M.P. Davison before entering directly into circuit ministry.


Whilst at Coventry, four of six chapels were either rebuilt or extended, three sites were purchased and a second minister ‘called out’.

James was appointed to Whitechapel as the colleague and designated successor to Rev Thomas Jackson. He founded and superintended hostels at Whitechapel and Tulse Hill, and a farm colony in Essex for delinquent youths, and also served as an honorary Probation Officer.

James was a member of the Candidates Examination Committee for fifteen years and the Home Mission Committee for twenty years.

His preaching was outspoken and challenging as he applied the truth of the Gosepl to the problem of the day. He was a wise and efficient administrator, sound in judgement, and energetic in carrying out his work. He had the courage of his convictions, but was always courteous and respectful of the convictions of others.

After twenty-five years at Whitechapel, James and his wife were given a reception at the House of Commons in recognition of their service rendered to the East End Poor and to First Offenders.

James had artistic gifts which were manifested in oils and water-colours, and many of his friends treasured examples of his work.

When he retired from the active ministry, James served as active supernumerary for two years at the Windyridge Farm Training Colony, which he had founded in 1938 and then for two years at Devonport. In 1952 James retired to Dover.


James authored the following.

With lads in Whitechapel through fifty years, 1935


James married Annie Heywood (abt1880-1956) in the summer of 1906 at Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire. Census returns identify two children.

  • James Eric (1907-1988) – a PM Minister
  • Annie Muriel (1910-1956) – married Thomas Joseph Pritlove, a police officer; died in Nigeria

James died on 11 January 1965 at Dover, Kent.


  • 1902 Plymouth
  • 1904 Dartmouth
  • 1906 Plymouth
  • 1908 Coventry II
  • 1912 Torquay
  • 1915 S Wales Mission
  • 1920 Whitechapel
  • 1933 Whitechapel Mission
  • 1947 Devonport (Sup) – see note below
  • 1952 Dover (Sup)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1924/96; 1930/27; 1931/438

Methodist Minutes 1965/194

R Newman Wycherley, The Pageantry of Methodist Union, 1932,p395

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

Note: This information supplied by Martin Thorp


Comments about this page

  • I wondered if many examples of J E Thorp’s paintings remain?
    I recently bought three small watercolour examples of his work. All dated in the 1950s and all of places in the Westcountry.
    I would be interested to compare them with other works.

    By Gary Johnston (04/10/2020)
  • Hi – I am J.E. Thorp’s grandson and was fascinated to read this bio. However, it is my recollection that his last full time ministry was back in Plymouth/Devonport (Crownhill) during the late 40’s/ early 50’s and up until his retirement to a village outside Dover. His son, Eric Thorp, was the Minister in Dover, which is one reason he chose to retire near there.

    My parents were often overseas so I spent most of my childhood with my Grandparents, living where he had his ministry.

    By Peter Pritlove (05/03/2016)
  • This page was modified on 12 January 2016 to add a sketch published in the Christian Messenger 1917.

    By Geoff Dickinson (12/01/2016)

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