Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Civic Society to profile Lancaster’s "Renaissance Man", architect and reformer Edmund Sharpe

Edmund Sharpe

Lancaster Civic Society is to host a talk by local historian Jim Price on architect, architectural historian, railway engineer, and sanitary reformer Edmund Sharpe, "Lancaster’s Renaissance Man" in The Storey Lecture Theatre, on Wednesday 14th January 2015.

Born in Knutsford, Cheshire, Sharpe's legacy consists of about 40 extant churches, railway features, including the Conwy Valley Line and bridges on what is now the Lancashire section of the West Coast Main Line.

He established an architectural practice in Lancaster in 1835,  going into partnership with Edward Paley in 1845, one of his pupils. Sharpe's main focus was on churches, and he was a pioneer in the use of terracotta as a structural material in church building, designing what were known as "pot" churches, the first of which was St Stephen and All Martyrs' Church, Lever Bridge.

He was Mayor of Lancaster in 1848 - 1849 and while active in the town, championed the construction of new sewers and a waterworks.

St. Paul's Church, Scotforth. Photo: Alexander P Kapp
He also designed secular buildings, including residential buildings and schools, and worked on the development of railways in North West England, designing bridges and planning new lines. Although he left Lancaster in 1856, spending the remainder of his career mainly as a railway engineer, first in North Wales, then in Switzerland and southern France, he returned to England in 1866 to live in Scotforth, where he designed a final church - St. Paul's, Scotforth - near to his home.

Edmund Sharpe was also a talented musician, and took part in the artistic, literary, and scientific activities in the town. Also an accomplished sportsman, he took an active interest in archery, rowing and cricket.

Sharpe achieved national recognition as an architectural historian, publishing a number of books of detailed architectural drawings such as The Seven Periods of English Arhitecture, and wrote a number of articles on architecture. He also devised a scheme for the classification of English Gothic architectural styles, and in 1875 was awarded the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

He died in Italy in 1877 after being taken ill and is buried in Lancaster Cemetery.

Edmund Sharpe: Lancaster’s Renaissance Man - A Talk by Jim Price 7.30-9pm, The Storey Lecture Theatre, Wednesday 14th January 2015. All welcome. Members free; visitors £2. Web: www.lancastercivicsociety.org

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