Thorpe, William

Thorpe, William
(fl. 1407)
   William Thorpe was a LOLLARD priest who was arrested on April 17, 1407, for preaching Lollard ideology. Thorpe wrote an account of his resulting examination by Archbishop Thomas Arundel, chancellor to Henry IV. Thorpe’s description of the events gives a unique insight into the proceedings of Lollard interrogation.
   Little is known about the life of William Thorpe. He was educated at Oxford and influenced by the teachings of John WYCLIFFE and his followers. It was probably through mutual Oxford contacts that he met John Pollyrbache, the man with whom Thorpe was arrested. Pollyrbache is an alias and there is reason to believe he was also known as John Pulverbatch, John Pollerpage, and John Pullerbach (Jurkowski 2002). Thorpe’s account is interesting in part because of the political environment in which it occurred. Arundel was hostile toward the Lollards and influential in the 1402 statute that allowed the burning of heretics. Thorpe and Pollyrbach were arrested in Shrewsbury, a town in no position to oppose the will of the powerful chancellor. Although Thorpe and Pollyrbach had been given permission to preach at the church, Shrewsbury was in a precarious situation with the civil authorities.Affected by the Welsh Revolt, the Battle of Shrewsbury, and flooding, which led to erosion of the town’s walls, the town had requested full tax exemption until the end of the war.When the opportunity to oblige Arundel in his heretic hunt arose, they quickly turned over Thorpe and Pollyrbache to the authorities under the 1406 anti-Lollard statute (Jukowski 2002).
   The account itself is important as a religious tract because it gives additional written information on the various beliefs of Lollardy. Thorpe willingly admitted he preached the following: loat loe sacrament of loe auter aftir loe consecracioun was material breed; and loat ymagis schulden in noo wyse be worschippid; and loat men schulden not goon in pilgrimage; and loat preestis haue now no titil to tilois; and loat it is not leeful to swere in ony maner (Hudson 1993)
   That the Sacrament of the Altar after the consecration was material bread; and that images should in no wise be worshipped; and that men should not go on pilgrimage; and that priests have now no title to tithes; and that it is not lawful to swear in any manner. Although Arundel threatened Thorpe with burning, Thorpe not only refused to recant his beliefs, but he also said the people who had done so did it at the peril of their souls and reputations. William Thorpe’s account of his examination under Archbishop Arundel is beneficial in its elucidating the atmosphere of Shrewsbury during this time of political turmoil, and, particularly, in its presentation of a Lollard trial. As such, it also helps illuminate Margery KEMPE’s depiction of her own examination for Lollardy in her autobiography. No one knows the details of Thorpe’s death, but he is purported to have fled to Bohemia to join the Hussites, since there are two Latin manuscripts of his Testimony that were produced in Bohemia ca. 1420.
   ■ Jurkowski,Maureen.“The Arrest ofWilliam Thorpe in Shrewsbury and the Anti-Lollard Statute of 1406,” Historical Research: The Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 75 (August 2002): 273–295.
   ■ Hudson,Anne, ed. Two Wycliffite Texts: The Sermon of William Taylor 1406; The Testimony of William Thorpe 1407. EETS 301. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
   Malene A. Little

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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