by Margaret WebbWhy did two Scotsmen drive from Edinburgh to Towcester through the dreadful rains of November 2009? Because one of them has a fascination for beetles and, with his expert researcher friend, were hoping to find the house in Towcester where another beetle fanatic was born.
That other man was David Sharp, born in Islington Road, Towcester in October 1840. His father William was a currier in a family of tanners. A relative, Samuel Sharp, had bought a tannery in Stony Stratford in 1819 from the Penn family and when David was 10 years old in 1850 his father moved the family to join the company, now called Sharp and Woollard. Despite the success of the company William and family moved again to live in Regents Park, London. David went to St. Bartholomew's Hospital to study medicine for two years and then on to Edinburgh University. He wrote his doctoral thesis on Coleoptera [Beetles], despite its seeming unsuitability, but passed his exams.
He stayed in Scotland not to practise medicine as a doctor but as a well paid carer for an English soldier who was having violent attacks as a result of serving in Ireland. David Sharp stayed from 1869 to 1883 when the soldier died. In his spare time he expanded his entomological collection, both from his own discoveries and also from beetle collectors around the world. He also married Jessie Murdoch from Dumfrieshire.
After 1883 the family, with seven children, moved to England. He became editor of the Zoological Record, President of the Entomological Society of London, curator of Cambridge University Museum, Fellow of the Royal Society and editor of "Fauna Hawaiiensis". This must have been his dream career. When he retired in 1904 they moved to live in Brockenhurst, Hampshire.He died in August 1922 and his beetle collections went to the British Museum Natural History department and to Cambridge University. His library went to the Cawthorn Institute in Nelson, New Zealand.
So our two Scots were trying to locate all David Sharp's homes to have a Blue Plaque placed on at least one of them to honour a great entomologist. Brian Giggins had located a house in Islington road that he feels could have been the Sharp's home.
David Sharp was not the only famous member of the family. One of his daughters Gertrude Sharp, 1892-1958, known as Truda, went to the Royal College of Art to study Embroidery. Whilst there she met and married Mr Adams who was a tutor in pottery and they joined the pottery of Carter, Stabler and Adams in Dorset. Later she married the owner, Mr Carter and became chief designer. Nowadays Truda Carter designed pottery is fetching high prices like that of other famous Art Deco lady designers - Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper. The company itself became the Poole Pottery.
The tannery in Church Street, Stony Stratford was for many years a very successful company sending leather abroad, especially to India, where they later had an office, and to Walsall, the centre for making saddles and harness leather. In 1984 an additional factory was opened in Cosgrove, trading as Samuel Sharp [Curriers] Ltd. The Stony Stratford factory closed in 1990 and eventually the firm was sold in 1998 to Joseph Clayton of Chesterfield.