Isaac & Mary Sharp (nee Likeman) of Brighton, UK
Isaac and Mary Sharp (nee Likeman) of Brighton, UK
ISAAC SHARP was the son of George Sharp who came from Hampshire. He was a Quaker.
Isaac married twice. By each of his wives he had seven children, the same number of boys and girls in each family. He died in January 1837.
He first married MARY LIKEMAN, also a Quaker. Mary was the daughter of John Likeman and Elizabeth Bourne.
Mary died of typhus fever on 10 December 1815 at the age of 39. Many years later their son Isaac wrote in a letter dated 10 December 1894, "Seventy-nine years ago today, I lost a precious mother. I well remember that solemn period and its associations. Our father's grief was intense... Our uncle Ebenezer and my father occupied one room that night, and I slept with them."
Isaac and Mary had three sons and one daughter who survived: Isaac Sharp (jnr) born in Brighton on 4 July 1806; John Sharp born in 1811; George Sharp born in 1812 and Rebecca Sharp born on 4 September 1815. Mary’s sister, Elizabeth Likeman stepped in and played a mother-like role for the motherless children.
Isaac’s second wife was ESTHER THOMSON. Isaac and Esther had three surviving children: Thomson Sharp; Priscilla Sharp (who married Mr J. Dunning) and Isabella Sharp.
Isaac’s oldest son was also named ISAAC SHARP, born in Brighton 4 July 1806. Isaac Sharp (jnr) became a Quaker travelling minister who travelled all over the world. His life is documented in a biography by Frances Anne Budge titled, 'Isaac Sharp, An Apostle of the Nineteenth Century', published by Headley Brothers, London, 1899 (second edition). She had access to his diaries. The Foreword is written by Joseph W. Pease MP who comments on the extent of Isaac’s traveling. "His journeyings were long and arduous - from the Moravian Settlements in the North, to the Cape of Good Hope in the South, and far away up the wide water navigations of central China in the far East - everywhere teaching, preaching, comforting, strengthening, to the cheer and comfort of those who in their very isolated positions stood really in need of encouragement. ... He narrated, with an eloquence and pathos difficult to describe, how he had been marvelously directed and sustained. His mission was essentially to preach the Gospel of the Love of God to mankind..."
The list of chapters in Budge’s biography gives an idea of the extent of his travels: Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Labrador, South Africa, Madagascar, Australasia, United States, Mexico, France, India, Japan, China, Syria. Isaac obtained a total of 45 certificates from the Friends of the Darlington District to undertake travelling ministry service in almost every part of England and on every [inhabited] continent. These certificates required confirmation by the Friends’ Quarterly Meeting and the Yearly Meeting.
Isaac (jnr) attended William Impey's school at Earls Colne, Essex. He left his hometown of Brighton on 26 May 1827 for his first job at 'Day and Robson' in Saffron Walden. He remained at Saffron Walden until he was about 24 when he moved to Darlington in Yorkshire to become the Private Secretary to Joseph Pease. Isaac Sharp took an active part locally in the General Election of 1832 when Joseph Pease was the first Quaker to take a seat in the Parliament.
Joseph Pease (jnr) wrote about Isaac’s (jnr) role in the early development of Darlington, "He was interested in, or a witness of, the various events that laid the foundation of the town [of Darlington]. He saw it commence from the farmhouse, and grow ere his death to one of some 90,000 inhabitants." Frances Budge states, "The year before Isaac Sharp went to Darlington, the 'Middlesborough owners', of whom Joseph Pease was the chief, had bought the five hundred acres of land on which the town now stands. The estate at first contained only a single farm-house, but it is now a large town with 70,000 inhabitants. The development of this estate brought much thought and work to Isaac Sharp, but not to the exclusion of other claims. Isaac spoke in the ministry for the first time in a Friends' meeting at Darlington in 1832. He accepted the post of Secretary to the Auxiliary Bible Society, and to the Friends' Public School at Great Ayton, as well as the lighter labour of the Secretaryship of the Friends' Essay Society at Darlington.”
In 1838 Isaac (jnr) wrote to his friend Joshua Green about his engagement to Hannah Procter, "My thirty-second birthday finds me thoroughly satisfied that I have not waited in vain. The endeared object of my tenderest affection has consented to be mine, and bright are the beams which illuminate my pathway. ... It is about two years since I first paid my addresses, and truly I have abundant cause for rejoicing, in finding my dearest friend, Hannah Procter, more than I could reasonably expect, and all that I could wish. It is inexpressibly comforting to think of the prospect before me."
Isaac (jnr) married HANNAH PROCTER in February 1839. She was 30 years old, the daughter of Joseph Procter and Elizabeth Procter from North Shields. Isaac and Hannah set up home in West Terrace, Darlington. In her diary, Hannah Sharp wrote of her wedding, "We are sweetly and preciously united, and have often been favoured to feel the overshadowing of divine power".
Isaac and Hannah had two daughters:
PRISCILLA SHARP (known as ‘Polly’) born at Darlington in 1840
ELIZABETH SHARP born in 1841
Hannah died in July 1843 in the fourth summer after her marriage. She said one day to her husband, Isaac, "I think I cannot continue long. Thou wilt have the two little darlings". Isaac describes her saying goodbye to their two little daughters, "Soon after twelve she took leave of our precious lambs, and having kept up remarkably well till this trying moment, she was exceedingly overcome, and it was as much as I could well bear to carry them in one at a time, to receive the last fond kiss and the last sweet smile from their dear mamma. She gave Polly one of her roses, gazed on them till they left the room, and then a flood of tears came".
Isaac was grief-stricken. His sister, Rebecca took charge of his household for some time. His daughter Elizabeth wrote later in life, "My father was, indeed, very kind to his motherless little ones. We used to go to his room in the mornings as soon as we were dressed". Isaac wrote to his girls from the Shetland and Orkney Isles of the comfort he found in thinking of the line, "There is an eye that never sleeps - an eye watching over his dear child and her sister".
Isaac Sharp (jnr) died 1897 at 90 years of age.
JOHN SHARP was born 1811 and became head teacher at the Friends’ school at Croydon. In 1837 he married Hannah Irwin, Governess of Wigton School.
GEORGE SHARP was born 1812 and became a commercial traveller. He died of “atrophy” in March 1843 at 31 years of age and is buried in the Friends’ burial ground at the Darlington Friends’ Meeting House.
REBECCA SHARP was born in Brighton on 4 September 1815. Rebecca has left a diary written in 1888 which describes her life, ‘Recollections etc of My Life’, which she subtitled, “Short sketches of some of the main incidents of my life thinking my dear children might be interested in their perusal”.
Rebecca’s mother died when Rebecca was only three months old. Rebecca was placed with a wet nurse/foster mother for the first 3-4 years of her life.
At the age of 8 she was attended the Friends’ school at Islington. After 2 years the school moved to out to Croydon which was countryside at that time. She would like to have become a teacher like her brother John but she suffered from an undiagnosed nervous disorder that made her drop her ambition.
In 1832 at the age of 16 Rebecca’s brother Isaac “undertook charge” of her. She travelled from Brighton to Scarboro with Isaac where she was apprenticed to a Friends’ millinery business for a year. In 1833 Isaac came for her and took her with him to Darlington where he lived. They travelled to Stockton by stage coach and stayed a night at Whitby, visiting the Abbey. From Stockton to Darlington they went by rail. This was the first time she had seen a railway. Indeed this railway line was the first one in the world and only commenced a passenger service in 1827. She described it as, “…not a very comfortable experience either – but the novelty was exhilarating and with my ‘Lion’ of a brother I remember no sense of fear when he was with me, tho we were likely to be jerked off our seats very suddenly on to the seats of passengers opposite.”
In Darlington Rebecca was placed with a widow, Mary Thistlethwaite, to help her run a drapery business. After a year or two she became Isaac’s housekeeper. Rebecca describes herself when she first came to the North, “…I was as shy as a partridge”
After Isaac got married in 1839 Rebecca moved to Bradford where she started a baby linen business and Friends’ millinery combined. In 1841 she returned to Darlington to help her sister-in-law Hannah Sharp whose health was declining. During her sojourn at Bradford Rebecca met William Swann. He was a widower with two daughters and one son. In her diary Rebecca recounts her reaction to his offer of marriage, “I can honestly say when he first asked me I was not a little astonished and gave him a very decided answer never thinking at the time I should give any other… before I left Bradford he renewed the offer and altho’ under protest, yet I allowed his company and did not refuse him with the decision I did in the first instance. We continued to correspond and he visited me more than once at Darlington.”
Rebecca married WILLIAM SWANN in Darlington Registrar’s Office on 26 June 1843. William was born in 1803, the son of William Swann and Sarah Blake. At the time they married William was living at Bowling, Bradford. He is described as a warehouseman.
Rebecca’s diary continues, “…I have no doubt, to most of our friends and relatives, there looked little prospect of happiness, for “…to leave a good home and marry a man who, though very gentlemanly and well read, had but a small income and a family to commence with, looked folly indeed. Certainly there was not much romance about it.”
Rebecca’s marriage to William caused her to forfeit her membership of the Society of Friends because he was a Quaker by conviction and not a member by birthright. However, they remained close to their Quaker friends in Bradford.
Rebecca became stepmother to William’s three children aged 15, 13 and 4:
FRANCES CARSON, known as ‘Fanny’ was born at Bungay, Suffolk on 15 March 1827.
JOSHUA WILLIAM was born in St Martin at Palace, Norwich on 20 February 1829.
RACHEL was born at 15 Friars St, South Lynn on 2 April 1838.
William and Rebecca had 5 daughters and 3 sons: “Lillie, Willie, Priscie, Polly, Bema, Alfred, Fred and Edie”. They were:
ELIZABETH SWANN was born at Broomfields, Bowling, Bradford on 17 April 1844;
WILLIAM SWANN at Broomfields, Bowling, Bradford on 10 December 1845;
PRISCILLA SWANN at Broomfields Terrace, Bowling, Bradford on 28 April 1847;
MARY HANNAH SWANN at 8 Horton Rd, Horton, Bradford on 31 December 1848;
SARAH MARINA SWANN at 13, St James Square, Horton, Bradford on 8 May 1852;
ALFRED SWANN at St James Square, Horton, Bradford, 16 May 1854;
FREDERIC SWANN at 40 Salem St, Bradford, 27 May 1860;
EDITH SWANN at 40 Salem St, Bradford, 26 January 1862.
In 1847 Rebecca’s husband lost his job with Millet & Co and waited a long time to find another job. Isaac Sharp came to Rebecca’s rescue. He paid her twenty pounds a year plus a clothing allowance to look after their half sister Isabella Sharp who was “rather weak-minded”.
Rebecca was a wonderful needlewoman before sewing machines were invented. She made every piece of clothing her children wore, even the boys’ suits, often propping herself up in bed as soon as it was daylight.
William set up a shop selling gentleman's boots and shoes in Bank St. However this proved a failure and in 1849 he obtained a position at Leeds and the family moved there. Rebecca's brother, Isaac Sharp, had entered into a partnership in a machine business at Kirkstall. As he was not able to look after all of the business himself, he asked William to assist him. This only lasted a couple of years and then around 1851 William obtained a position back at Bradford working for Mr Richard Fawcett, son-in-law to Mr Thomas Willett and also a wool stapler. He was young in the business and William was an efficient bookkeeper. A few months elapsed before the family could move back, as obtaining suitable accommodation was very difficult. The business grew apace and Mr Fawcett became one of the foremost woolstaplers in Bradford. It was located at the top of Cheapside, Bradford.
In the 1851 census the family were living at 13 St James Square. William is described as a merchant in the wool trade, aged 47. By the time of the 1861 census they had moved to 40 Salem St and William is recorded as a clerk and traveller in oils (presumably a salesman). William worked in the employment of Mr Fawcett for 17 years until 1868 when his services were no longer required. Again the family was under severe financial pressure. William went to stay with his brother, Joshua in Norwich, then obtained an agency at 120 pounds a year. But even with the income from the school (where his daughters taught) life was difficult.
In the 1871 census it shows the family at 3 Park Place, Bradford. William is recorded as a Commission Agent (salesman) in olive oil, aged 67.
Joshua Swann, Rebecca’s brother-in-law died at Norwich in December 1876 leaving Rebecca a bequest of 500 pounds and the income from half his considerable estate during her lifetime.
In the 1881 census the family was living at 37 Athol Rd, Manningham, Bradford. Living with Rebecca and William were Mary Hannah aged 32; Alfred aged 26, a doctor; and a servant. They moved down the road to 49 Athol Rd. William died there on 16 February 1889 at 86 years of age.
Rebecca moved to Dulwich in London and was living at Townley Park Villas.
She had a small pamphlet published titled, 'A Few Lines of Thought on Some Momentous Subjects by an Aged Christian', published by Kegan Paul, London, January 1890 (copy in Friends' House, Euston, London). She was still living at the same address in the 1891 census with Mary Hannah and two other people.
Rebecca died on 25 August 1898 at 300 Lordship Lane, Dulwich, at 82 years of age. She is buried with her husband and their son Alfred in the Friends' section of Undercliffe Cemetery Bradford, Yorkshire.
In 1943 Rebecca’s daughter Edith added some of her own comments to her mother’s diary, including:
“Dear Mother certainly embraced poverty as her mission when she married father – a widower with 3 children and a mere pittance of an income.”