History

Granville Sharp

History

Granville Sharp (1735-1813), slavery abolitionist, was born at Durham, the ninth son of the Revd. Thomas Sharp (1693-1758) and his wife Judith (Wheler) (d.1757). Granville's interest in the abolition of slavery may have started when he championed a slave being tended by his brother William for injuries inflicted by his owner. He was one of the twelve founding members of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in London and worked with William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson. He died unmarried on 6 July 1813 and is buried in Fulham churchyard.

A memorial tablet, by the sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey, was erected for him in the south transept of Westminster Abbey. Either side of a portrait relief is a praying slave in chains and a lion with a lamb. The inscription reads:

"Sacred to the memory of Granville Sharp, ninth son of Dr Thomas Sharp, Prebendary of the cathedrals and collegiate churches of York, Durham and Southwell, and grandson of Dr John Sharp, Archbishop of York. Born and educated in the bosom of the Church of England, he ever cherished for her institutions the most unshaken regard, while his whole soul was in harmony with the sacred strain 'Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace good will towards men' on which his life presented one beautiful comment of glowing piety, and unwearied beneficence. Freed by competence from the necessity, and by content from the desire, of lucrative occupation, he was incessant in his labours to improve the condition of mankind. Founding public happiness on public virtue, he aimed to rescue his native country from the guilt and inconsistency of employing the arm of freedom to rivet the fetters of bondage, and established for the Negro race, in the person of Somerset, the long disputed rights of human nature. Having, in this glorious cause, triumphed over the combined resistance of interest, prejudice, and pride, he took his post among the foremost of the honourable band associated to deliver Africa from the rapacity of Europe by the abolition of the slave trade; nor was death permitted to interrupt his career of usefulness till he had witnessed that Act of the British Parliament by which 'The Abolition' was decreed. In his private relations he was equally exemplary, and having exhibited through life a model of disinterested virtue, he resigned his pious spirit into the hands of his Creator in the exercise of charity, and faith, and hope on the sixth day of July, A.D. 1813, in the 78th year of his age. Reader, if, on perusing this tribute to a private individual, thou should'st be disposed to suspect it as partial, or to censure it as diffuse, know that it is not panegyric, but history. Erected by the African Institution of London, A.D. 1816."

Somerset in the inscription refers to the legal judgment of 1772 in the case of James Somerset, that any slave who came to England was immediately made free.

A photo of the memorial can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading for Granville, his father and grandfather:

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

A portrait of the Sharp family is at the National Portrait Gallery, London.