This is a precis of articles written by the late Rolf Vernon and members of Coddington History Group.

Fred Reed 18th August 2006


James Thorpe

28th August 1823 – 13th July 1902 

For nearly 60 years, the Thorpe Family were major benefactors in Coddington, and made a significant input into the development of the village, after James Thorpe purchased Beaconfield House and surrounding Estate in about 1840. In the 1870?s it became known as Coddington Hall. The Hough family in the 1960?s were given the contract to demolish Coddington Hall. The House/Hall was situated in what is now Beaconfield Drive with the Thorpe Oak Estate built on part of the Parkland, which surrounded the house.

James Thorpe the 3rd, the only son of James and Ann Thorpe, was born 28th August 1823 at Newark. On the 1841 census James snr lived in Mill Gate, Newark; his occupation being corn merchant and maltster. Also living in the house was his wife Anne and their son James jnr. The family moved to Beaconfield House, Coddington shortly before James snr died in 1843. Before he died, James snr made extensive alterations and improvements to this stately home; he also planted the “Yew Wood” in c1841. The estate in Coddington was very large, and included 234 acres of farm and Parkland; houses and a public house. James snr had built up a very prosperous business in Mill Gate, Newark as a wharfinger, maltster and coal merchant. James jnr was only 19 when his father died, and quickly had to accustom himself to being the owner of a large country house, as well as becoming a responsible businessman.

Like his father he was talented and energetic. He and his uncle formed a partnership, and their business became known as “John and James Thorpe”. They were Maltsters, Corn Merchants and Millers (Newark Water & Steam Mills).

James joined the Sherwood Rangers in about 1849, passing through various grades of Cornet, Lieutenant, Captain, and Major and becoming Lieutenant Colonel in 1881. He retired with the rank of Honorary Colonel in 1882.

In about 1850, James, aged 26, married Mary Ann Spence, aged 22, from Tidworth, Yorks. He had a new house built for his recently widowed mother, Anne, near the church; and named it “Coddington House”.
Gradually he assumed a major role as a local landowner and, by now, he became known as “The Squire”.

On the 1851 census, he lived in Coddington, and his occupation was listed as “merchant”. Also living in the house was his wife Mary Ann, three visitors and six servants. On the 1861 census, his occupation was listed as “corn merchant and maltster”. Also living in the house was his wife Mary Ann and six servants. In the 1863 valuation list, the firm owned in Newark a tan yard, sheds, house, shop, offices, flour warehouse, coal yard, coach house, stables etc. and several maltings.

In 1864, he spent £2000 virtually rebuilding Coddington church, employing the London architect Bodley who employed the young William Morris and Firm to decorate the interior.

Unfortunately his wife Mary remained childless, and became an invalid before dying in Buxton on the 28th August 1868, after a long and severe illness. She was buried in a family tomb in Coddington churchyard.

By the1871 census, James 47, had married (in 1869) Annie McDougal, 24, who was born in Argyllshire. They had a son, James IV, born in August 1870 at St. Georges, London. Sadly he died in 1873. They soon had another son, John Sommerled Thorpe, followed by another 8 children: Harold, William, Gervase, Muriel, Cicely, Helen Mary, Archibald James and Elspeth Margaret. (A picture of many of his children can be seen on Harold Thorpe’s page.) 

By 1872, James was a County Magistrate, High Sheriff, a JP and D.L in Argyllshire. He was greatly interested in farming and forestry; had a fine herd of Lincoln Red Shorthorns, and was also interested in Horticulture and Floriculture.

James’s mother, Ann, died on the 22nd June 1877, aged 86, and was also buried in the family tomb in Coddington churchyard. Eventually Coddington House was sold to the Tallents family. Around this time, James changed the name of his stately home from “Beaconfield House” to “Coddington Hall”. James’s unmarried uncle, John, died at his home, Elston Hall, on the 15th August 1881. His personal estate was ?500,000 and James Thorpe was the sole Executor. John left bequests to his sisters and many family relatives.

On the 1881 census, his occupation was listed as Maltster and Landowner Farmer of 320 acres, employing 9 men and 3 boys. Also living in Coddington Hall was his wife, Annie, 34, and their children John L 8, Harold 6, William 4, Gervase 3, Muriel 2 and Cicely 10 months, Richmond McDougal (mother in law), Mary Stewart (Niece), Stewart Macrae (cousin) a governess and 13 servants.

From 1881 until at least 1886, James was Chairman of The Newark Hospital Governors. In June 1882, and for several years afterwards, he was President of Coddington Cricket Club.

In March 1885, James began building a Working Men?s Reading room on the paddock next to the school. The building was officially opened on the 12th November 1885. (This room is now the kitchen in the village hall).

James was a wealthy businessman with a large estate in Coddington and Ardbrecknish House, Loch Awe, Argyll. His town house was 59, Eaton Place, London; and his club the Junior Carlton.

Photos of his family at Ardbrecknish can be seen on the MacDougal of Lunga site:

In 1886, he sold the Flour Mill to Thomas Farnham; and, by now, the Malting business had branches in Louth, Market Rasen, Peterborough and Newark, and was one of the largest in the Midlands.

James Thorpe was always interested in the “Anglican National School” in Coddington, being for many years a school manager. He was present at the school managers meeting on the 23rd March 1883 when a new 23-year-old Headmaster, Joseph Chauntry Hunt, was appointed. The Thorpe family treated the school children and their mothers to a half-day out every year, and provided prizes at school events.

In 1891, James financed the building of a church on a hill on the south side of Loch Awe, as a private chapel.

On the 1891 census, he was living at Coddington Hall with his sons: – John19, Harold 15, William 14, Gervase 13, Archibald 9 daughters:- Helen 6, Elspeth 3 a governess and 7 servants. His wife, Annie, was at their London home with daughters: – Richmond E 12, Cicely 10, 3 visitors and 9 servants.

James Thorpe JP, on the 1901 census, was living at Coddington Hall with his son, Harold 25, and 5 servants. His wife, Annie, was at their London home with her children Archibald 19, Cicely 20, Elspeth 13, Helen 16, Richmond 22 along with 10 servants.

On the 13th July 1902, Col. James Thorpe died at Coddington Hall. His obituary in the “Newark Advertiser” occupied one and a half columns, and contained the words ?He was a fine type of English gentleman, honourable and upright?. His wife, Annie, and his son, Captain John Somerled Thorpe, were his executors. His will gave his fortune as £213,582-19-7, with personnel estate ?162,856-6-1. He left his son Harold one third of the profit and goodwill of the business as a Maltster; and the other two thirds and the capital to his son John Somerled; his son, Gervase, was to have £5,000; and £32,000 was put in trust for his four daughters. The lease of the London House 59, Eaton Place and furniture went to his widow; and his Scottish estate to his “right heir”.