SHARP, GRANVILLE (1735-1813), philanthropist, pamphleteer, and scholar, born at Durham on 10 Nov. 1735 (old style), was ninth and youngest son of Thomas Sharp (1693-1758) q. v. and grandson of John Sharp q. v. archbishop of York. He was educated at Durham grammar school, but his father, though archdeacon of Northumberland, was possessed of small means and a large family, and in May 1750 Granville was apprenticed to one Halsey, a quaker linendraper of Tower Hill, London. He served successively under a quaker, a Presbyterian, an Irish Roman catholic, and an atheist. During his scanty leisure he taught himself Greek and Hebrew, and in August 1757 he became a freeman of the city of London as a member of the Fishmongers’ Company. In June 1758 he obtained a post in the ordnance department, and in 1764 was appointed a clerk in ordinary, being removed to the minuting branch. In the following year he published ‘Remarks’ on Benjamin Kennicott’s ‘Catalogue of the Sacred Vessels restored by Cyrus,’ etc., defending ‘the present text of the old Testament’ against the charge of corruption in the matter of proper names and numbers; a second edition of Sharp’s work was published in 1775. This was followed in 1767 by a ‘Short Treatise on the English Tongue’ (two editions), and in 1768 by ‘Remarks on several very important Prophecies, in five parts’ (2nd ed. 1775). In 1767 his uncle, Granville Wheler, offered him the living of Great Leek, Nottinghamshire, but Sharp refused to take orders.
Meanwhile he had become involved in the struggle for the liberation of slaves in England. In 1766 he befriended a negro, Jonathan Strong, whom he found in a destitute condition in the streets, where he had been abandoned by his master, one David Lisle. Two years later Lisle threw Strong into prison as a runaway slave, but Sharp procured his release and prosecuted Lisle for assault and battery.
During the last years of his life Sharp took a prominent part in founding the British and Foreign Bible Society. He helped to found the African institution in 1807 – founded upon the passing of the Anti-Slavery Act of 1807 championed by William Wilberforce.
Excerpts taken from the Dictionary of National Biography Volume 17 – 1907