The first written record of the village, then called Torp, was in the Domesday book in 1086, when it consisted of three farms, a church and a mill. However Neolithic, Bronze age and Iron Age remains have all been unearthed within a few miles, so earlier inhabitation is likely.
Romans were also in the vicinity. The Roman road of Rudgate crossed the river at Newton Kyme, a mile downstream, where the crossing was guarded by a Roman fort. The remains of a Roman villa were found at Collingham, about two miles to the west.
After the Norman conquest, the village became part of the lands which passed to Osbern of Arques (a town near Dieppe), and became Thorp D'Archis and eventually Thorp Arch.
Thorp Arch began to take on its present character when the estate and lordship were acquired by William Gossip in 1748. He commissioned the architect John Carr (who later designed Harewood House) to build Thorp Arch Hall, set in parkland to the northwest of the village, which was completed in 1756. Gossip was responsible for the improvement of much of the estate and its housing.
The stone bridge over the Wharfe was built in 1770, to allow easier all weather crossing than the ford just downstream. The roads serving the ford can still be seen in the sunken 'Holgate Lane' running down to the river from St Mary's church in Boston Spa, and up into Thorp Arch from Bridge Farm past the Old Rectory.
Crossing the bridge into Thorp Arch is almost impossible without looking upstream to the weir, and the complex of buildings beside it on the north bank. These comprised the former Thorp Arch Manor Mill, which at times housed several wheels, the last of which turned in 1958. The buildings were then turned into a factory for making electric blankets, before being converted into housing in the 1990's.
The site had been used for milling since before the Domesday Book in 1086, with up to four undershot wheels working. The uses of the mill were very varied: corn and flax milling; paper making; animal feed; sawing; bobbin making.
Just over one mile further upstream is the second water mill in the parish - Flint Mill. This one is much more recent, dating from 1772. Despite starting its life as a corn mill, it is known as Flint Mill, as it spent the period from 1774 to 1806 grinding flint for the Leeds pottery. After that it reverted to grinding grain and crushing oil seeds. It ceased production in 1954.
Boston Spa is Thorp Arch's larger and newer neighbour, at the south end of the bridge. It quickly developed after a saline medicinal spring was discovered in 1744 on the river bank to the east of the bridge, where the Old Spa Baths were built. It was the great age of Spa resorts.
The large village green has the Manor House on its south side. It is the site of the war memorial for the two World Wars, and has the names of 10 soldiers sailors and airmen from the first world war.
The green was the site of two shops, and also the slaughter house. It also has three pairs of semi-detached 'estate cottages', built in the 1850's to replace old thatched housing. These have distinctive clusters of 6 chimneys in ornate design. There are a further 8 pairs of such cottages in 'The Village'.
On the south west side of the green, beyond Hall Farm House, is a single storey building - South Lodge. This was the gate house for the long U-shaped drive to Thorp Arch Hall.
Proceeding north up 'The Village' from the green, the first single-storey building on the left is the old blacksmiths forge. Further up is the Pax pub. The pub was initially a thatched building about 50 metres south of its current location, and originally named 'The Goat's Head' and then 'The Hatfeild Arms', but moved in 1883 to its current position. Note the name Hatfeild, with its unusual spelling, named for Lord Hatfeild who was lord of the manor at the time.
The village ends with North Lodge on the west side, alongside the imposing gates through what was the estate boundary wall. This was the other end of the U-shaped drive serving the Hall. On the east is the Old School House for Lady Elizabeth Hastings school, with the current school beyond it. The school was funded in 1739, with the current buildings erected in 1836 and modernised in 1958. Over the last 20 years it has been significantly improved and extended, including a new larger hall which is used for church and village functions.
Perhaps unusually for a 'dormitory' village, mainly populated by professionals working in the adjacent towns and cities (or now retired but choosing to stay on), Thorp Arch has an active community - kept informed by the church and community magazine, The Causeway.
There are active social groups focused on the church, the Village Society, the tennis club, the school and the Yorkshire Countrywomens' Association. The annual cricket match, church suppers and tennis competition also bring people together, and weekends see the MOB village cyclists group getting underway.
The railway came to Thorp Arch in1847, with the line from Church Fenton to Spofforth opening, and then in1848 being extended to Harrogate. The station was on the road to Walton, just north of the junction with Dowkell Lane.
The line was the first 'Beeching' closure in 1964, and now has a new life as a Sustrans link for non-motorised traffic between Wetherby and the Thorp Arch Trading Estate. This link may eventually be extended over the old railway bridge across the Wharfe to Newton Kyme and Tadcaster.
Thorp Arch Trading Estate
The estate, which lies across the Thorp Arch/Walton parish boundary, started life in 1940 when the Ministry of Supply compulsorily purchased 450 acres of land, including a farmhouse, to build a munitions factory as part of the war effort. Because of the risk from explosions the site was constructed with many small buildings, some separated by blast walls, and with provision for flooding areas with water from raised reservoirs.
Today the estate is used mainly for a range of industrial premises, but also has a small retail park, and is home to the British Library storage and reference facility. Just completed is a new fully automated warehouse - it operates in darkness, and in a reduced oxygen environment, to preserve the books and manuscripts and reduce the risk of fire.
The above information draws heavily on the millennium book about Thorp Arch written by David Cummings.