Thorp, who first appeared on the show in 1982, was filming until recently and fans saw him in Thursday's episode.
"Richard''s death is a sad loss to Emmerdale, of which he was at the heart for so many wonderful years," series producer Kate Oates said. "Richard had a brilliant sense of humor and he will be missed by every single member of our production team whose lives he touched."
Thorp's career, which included roles in film and TV, including starring as squadron leader Henry Maudslay in 1955 film The Dam Busters. Before joining EMMERDALE, Thorp appeared in a number of TV shows including EMERGENCY WARD 10, CROSSROADS and TO THE MANOR BORN.
Often described by tabloids as “the nation’s heart-throb”, he was a regular on EMERGENCY WARD 10 for 10 years and became so popular with its mainly female audience that its producers employed two secretaries purely to deal with his fan mail.