Two hundred years ago …

Friday 19th August 2022

YPS Founder #1

Anthony Thorpe was a respected solicitor. Born in Lincolnshire, where he served his time as an articled clerk, he appears to have moved to York in the 1790s, by 1800 becoming a partner to Jonathan Gray: the firm became ‘Thorpe and Gray’ around that year. Jonathan Gray was also to become a prominent member of the fledgling Philosophical Society. The firm operated from 75 Petergate, and Thorpe had a house in Bootham.  His interests tended towards the literary rather than scientific: he was one of six gentlemen who in 1794 founded the York Book Society, and, later, its Library – which was, in effect, York’s first public library. This had a rather different perspective from the present-day York Explore: in January 1820 the Book Society solemnly purchased a copy of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, which was then ceremonially burnt by the Librarian as seditious and blasphemous.  The Book Society, and its President, Anthony Thorpe, were not perhaps on the radical wing of British politics. (Tom Paine would probably have been wryly amused at the Society having to pay hard cash for the pleasure of cremation).

Otherwise, Anthony Thorpe seems to have led a relatively quiet life although recognised as ‘a man of great public usefulness’.  His obituaries reveal that he was known as an amateur scientist with an interest in geology; and he certainly accumulated his own collection of Kirkdale fossils, although there is no record of him having actually visited the cave.

Peter Hogarth

More on our founding members next time but if you’d like to know more about events 200 years ago, see our August Newsletter here.  (Members should already have received this by email or will have it shortly by post.)