Sparke, Joseph (DNB00)

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SPARKE or SPARKES, JOSEPH (1683–1740), antiquary, born in 1683, was son of John Sparke or Sparkes of Peterborough. Having been educated in his native city under a Mr. Warren, he was admitted a pensioner at St. John's College, Cambridge, on 11 July 1699, and graduated B.A. in 1704. Returning to Peterborough, he became registrar of the cathedral. He devoted much time to antiquarian studies. In 1719, in a letter of Maurice Johnson [q. v.] to Dr. Stukeley, he is mentioned as having lately arranged on a new method Lord Cardigan's library at Dean in Northamptonshire. He was also entrusted with the care of White Kennett's valuable collection of early historical and theological documents now in the cathedral library, which he was to supply daily and augment. Kennett's biographer describes Sparke as ‘of very good literature and very able to assist in that good design’ (Newton, Life of Kennett, 1730, p. 149). Together with his friend Timothy Neve (1694–1757) [q. v.], Sparke was the founder of the Gentleman's Society of Peterborough, and prevailed on Bishop Clavering to allow it to meet in ‘a room over the Saxon gate-house’ (Britton, Peterborough Cathedral, pp. 46–7). In October 1722 he had become a member of the well-known society at Spalding, on which it was modelled. In 1723 he edited two folio volumes entitled ‘Historiæ Anglicanæ Scriptores varii, e codicibus manuscriptis,’ of which both large and small paper editions were published. They contained the ‘Chronicon Angliæ Petriburgense’ attributed to John, abbot of Peterborough (fl. 1380) [q. v.] This was printed by Sparke from a transcript furnished to him by John Bridges of Lincoln's Inn, and, not having been collated with the original (now among the Cotton. MSS. in the British Museum), contains errors. It was re-edited in 1845 for the Caxton Society by Dr. J. A. Giles, and in 1849 for the Camden Society by Thomas Stapleton (1805–1849) [q. v.] The ‘Historiæ Anglicanæ Scriptores’ included also Fitzstephen's ‘Life of St. Thomas Becket,’ the ‘History of Peterborough Abbey’ by Hugo Albus, Hemingford's ‘Vita Eduardi,’ and the chronicles of Ralph Coggeshall, Benedict of Peterborough, and others. Another volume contemplated by Sparke was to contain Whittleseye's ‘Hereward of Peterborough.’ In 1772 Gough purchased for Michael Tyson [q. v.] ‘Sparke's Peterborough Monkish Historians.’ Sparke died on 20 July 1740, and was buried in Peterborough Cathedral, where there is a monument to him in the retro-choir. His wife Rebecca died on 27 March 1747, aged 56.

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 185, 255–7, ii. 4, 49, 113, viii. 576–7; Dr. Giles's Pref. to Chron. Petriburgense, 1845; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. iii. 367, where Nichols's misprint of date of death is pointed out.]

G. Le G. N.