North Watford History Group

Ralph Thorpe


Ralph Alfred Thorpe was born in Lincolnshire in 1855, [1] a son of Richard Wells Thorpe and Rebecca Simonds [2] Richard Thorpe was a farmer of a farm that had been steadily growing in size (60 acres in 1861 [3] and 200 acres in 1871) [4] before he died, aged 57, in 1876. [5] In 1881 The farm, by now increased in size again to 600 acres, was being run by his sons Ralph and John. [6]

It appears that after their mother's death Ralph and John went their separate ways, and by 1889 Ralph was settling down in Watford having purchased land in St Albans Road. [7] Ralph had originally purchased land between the St Albans Road Police station (on the corner of Penn Road and St Albans Road) and that of Paget Prize Plate, however as he felt the land occupied by Paget Prize Plate was better suited to his needs owing to it being more level, and he negotiated an exchange of sites. [8]

1890 witnessed the opening of Ralph Thorpe's newly built brewery, in St Albans Road. The brewery was known variously as Wells Brewery, Wells Watford Brewery Ltd., Wells & Co., Red Lion, and Lion Brewery. [9] [10] The trading name at this time was Wells & Co. [11] It has been suggested that the name Wells Brewery originated from the deep wells that had been sunk into the chalk subsoil in order to provide water for the production process. [12] Certainly there was an artesian well on the site, drawing water from deep within the chalk land. It may also be suggested that as Wells was a family name (used as middle name by his father and others before him) the naming of his business was also in recognition of his own background.

Ralph Thorpe had great interest in sport, politics and local amenities. On moving into North Watford, he was a keen cricket player and associated himself with the West Herts. Club. He was a keen supporter of the football section here from the beginning. His financial support of what was to become Watford Football Club amounted to the considerable sum of nearly £2,000. [13] This has led to the recognition by the club of Ralph Thorpe being the first significant benefactor. [14] He was elected into the position of chairman of Watford Football Club Committee.

In 1904 Ralph Thorpe was elected as councillor on the Urban District Council. He was re-elected into this post 4 times between 1904 and 1919. Following this post he was elected by the council into the position of Alderman. In 1923 He was appointed civic Mayor of Watford, a post he held for 2 years. [15]

During his time in Watford, Ralph Thorpe also took on roles such as chair of the Watford Joint Hospital Board, governor of Watford Grammar Schools and was appointed Justice of the Peace. He was captain of the Watford Volunteer Fire Brigade from 1902 until 1920, earning himself the National Fire Brigade Association medal for long service. [16]

Having served the Borough of Watford in a range of elected and non-elected roles Ralph Thorpe was, by an enthusiastic unanimity, admitted to the Borough of Watford as an Honorary Freeman of the Borough on 22nd June 1927.

In 1929 Ralph Thorpe passed away at his home "Lindum", in Park Road, Watford. [17] Here his house name taking us back to his roots – Lindum being the Roman name for the city of Lincoln.


Research: Jill Waterson and Rebecca; North Watford History Group.
Author: Rebecca; North Watford History Group.


  1. BMD
  2. 1861 census and BMD
  3. 1861 census
  4. 1871 census
  5. BMD
  6. 1881 census
  7. Nunn, J.B.; The Book of Watford, 2003
  8. Nunn, J.B.; The Book of Watford, 1987
  9. Barber, N.; Where have all the Breweries Gone, 1981
  10. Nunn, J.B.; The Book of Watford, 2003
  11. Barber, N.; Where have all the Breweries Gone, 1981
  12. Nunn, J.B.; The Book of Watford, 2003
  13. Nunn, J.B.; The Book of Watford, 1987
  14. Watford Football Club website
  15. Nunn, J.B.; The Book of Watford, 1987
  16. Nunn, J.B.; The Book of Watford, 1987
  17. BMD

[Added by Glen: 10:48pm 14 Sep 2008]
[Updated by Glen: 9:58pm 5 Jan 2009]
[Updated by Glen: 5:09pm 29 Mar 2009]

This page was last updated on 18 May 2009.