Sharpe, Edmund (DNB00)

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SHARPE, EDMUND (1809–1877), architect, only son of Francis Sharpe, of Heathfield, Knutsford, Cheshire, was born there on 31 Oct. 1809. He was educated at Dr. Burney's school at Greenwich and at Sedbergh, whence he proceeded to St. John's College, Cambridge, graduating B.A. in 1833 and M.A. in 1836 (Graduati Cantabr. 1880–1884, p. 467). In 1832 he was elected travelling bachelor of arts for the university, and, selecting architecture as his thesis, devoted three years to the study of the subject in France and Germany. He then became a pupil of John Rickman [q. v.], and in 1836 established himself at Lancaster, where he practised as an architect for fifteen years, erecting during that time about forty churches, chiefly in the romanesque style, besides mansions and other buildings. During his residence at Lancaster, Sharpe took a leading part in the execution of various projects for improving the sanitary condition of the town, of which he was elected mayor in 1848. In 1851 he withdrew from the practice of architecture, having taken up engineering work, especially the construction of railways, in which he was largely engaged for many years. In 1857 he went to reside on a property he had purchased near Bettws-y-coed, North Wales. In 1859 he was appointed J.P. for Lancashire, and also for Denbighshire. From 1863 to 1866 Sharpe resided on the continent, being occupied with the construction of tramways at Geneva and a railway at Perpignan; in 1867 he returned to Lancaster, where he afterwards chiefly resided.

Throughout his life Sharpe was an enthusiastic and profound student of mediæval architecture, and he published several highly valuable works on the subject, of which the first and most important was ‘Architectural Parallels, or the Progress of Ecclesiastical Architecture in England during the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries,’ 1848; this was followed by ‘Decorated Windows, a series of Illustrations of the Window Tracing of the decorated Style,’ 1849; ‘The Seven Periods of Architecture,’ 1851, in which he advocated a new system of nomenclature for the successive styles of mediæval work; ‘The Mouldings of the Six Periods of British Architecture,’ 1874; ‘The Architecture of the Cistercians,’ 1874; and several others. His minor publications were numerous. In 1875 Sharpe received the gold medal of the Institute of British Architects, of which he had been elected a fellow in 1848; he was also a fellow of the Archæological Institute, and contributed many papers to the proceedings of both societies. In 1869 he joined the Architectural Association, which, during the next few years at his suggestion and under his guidance, made annual excursions for the study of Gothic architecture in England and France. An account of the last of these, ‘A Visit to the Domed Churches of Charente in 1875,’ with a memoir of Sharpe and a complete list of his publications, was drawn up and printed by the association after his death, as a memorial to him. Sharpe died at Milan, after a brief illness, on 8 May 1877, and was buried at Lancaster. By his wife, Elizabeth Fletcher, to whom he was married in 1843, and who died in 1876, he had three sons and two daughters. A woodcut portrait of him appeared in the ‘Builder’ for 1870, p. 1026.

[A Visit to the Domed Churches of Charente; Builder, 1877, pp. 491, 562; Dict. of Architecture.]

F. M. O'D.