Lot 293
Sold for £ 2,400 (US$ 3,416) inc. premium

Lot Details
Papers of the Rev Dr John Sharp, senior trustee of the Lord Crewe's Trust and keeper of Bamburgh Castle, relating to the lighthouses erected, or to be erected, on the adjacent Farne Islands, especially attempts to locate a light on the island of Longstone in opposition to plans being advanced by Captain Blackett (see note below), together with papers of Thomas Adams of Alnwick, the solicitor acting for Sharp, approximately 70 items, upwards of 100 pages, folio and 4to, some dust-staining but overall in fine condition, c.1772-1784; the archive comprising:

(i) Sharp's letter instructing Adams to prepare a survey of Longstone in 1784 ("...I would therefore advise, that you write to Rastrick the Engineer at Morpeth & desire him to fix a day as soon as possible to go over to Bamburgh & take Geo Hall with him to Holy Island; & there to take a Boat & carry W. Anderson with them to Longstone. Where the Engineer will soon determine the point, whether a Lighthouse can be safely erected there; and may also make a sort of Estimate..."), with the draft submissions made under oath by Rastrick, Hall and Anderson ("...John Rastrick of Morpeth... Engineer... examined the Island called Longston... and saith that Longston is indisputably the properest Island on which a Lighthouse should be erected... there is a most admirable Foundation for the Erection of any such Work & if a lighthouse be properly erected & constructed there is not the least Doubt of its permanency, that the Light on these occasions should be as near to the Danger as possible & that Longstone is the most proper Island on which a Lighthouse should be erected in point of Situation...")

(ii) Memoranda by Sharp, including one prepared for his fellow trustees setting out "Some Reasons, why it is more the Interest of Ld Crewe's Trustees to procure the priviledge of erecting Lighthouses than of any other person" and concluding that "Blackett's Plan is intended for his own private benefit, and consequently he will go the nearest way to work. Our plan is meant for the good of the public; will be much better executed; and is intended to include a buoy and Lands marks to shew the way into Holy Island Harbour in a storm"

(iii) Series of petitions submitted to Trinity House, mostly pressing the case for a lighthouse at Longstone by: John Sharp himself (outlining the disadvantages of other sites); the masters of ships trading from Newcastle, Sunderland, Blyth, Hartley and elsewhere; "The Owners and Masters of Ships of the Port of Sunderland", claiming Blackett's scheme to be "not altogether calculated for Publick Utility" ("...the Longston Island laying so near the Naveston or outermost Rock is the most proper Place for a Light as high & best that can be invented to be seen at a proper Distance by Ships sailing in bad weather near that Coast..."), and other interested parties; together with an original petition sent to Charles Wildbore, Secretary of the London Trinity House and evidently forwarded by him to Sharp, by whom it is docketed "Petition of the Tenants of the Draw Kilns", asking for exemption from lighthouse dues ("...Your Petitioners have Kilns Built on Shore right Opposite to the said Islands for Burning of Lime and small Vessels employed in Carrying the same to Several places for the Improvement of Land...")

(iv) Correspondence of John Sharp and Thomas Adams, comprising in the main part letters to Sharp, with some to Adams or third parties (and forwarded to either Sharp or Adams), including series by Thomas Aubone, Secretary of the Newcastle Trinity House (stating in 1772 that "The Master &c intend to apply to Mr Blackett to purchase his right - and to inform the Trade of their design to erect proper Light Houses, on the Fern Islands" and in 1775 that "I am ordered by the Master of this House to inform You that in the late Storm in Decr 1774 several Ships were put to the Northward and wrecked upon the Coast of Northumberland and upon the Fern Islands and the Crews drowned which might have been prevented if proper Lights had been erected for the safe conducting of Ships upon that part of the Coast and having taken the same into consideration, as also upon the request, of the Merchants of Owners and Masters of Ships belonging to the Port of Newcastle upon Tyne whose name are here named, do for the Good of the Northern Navigation propose to erect two Light Houses upon the Fern Islands..."); Thomas Adams himself (reporting in 1778 that "Captn B. is not nearer a Conclusion of his Wishes than he was at the first" and elsewhere that "My agent writes to me thus by last post - 'Poor Blacket lyes at the point of Death: if this Event happens, it will afford us a fair opportunity to apply to the Trinity House for the Licence..."); Charles Burne of Sunderland, passing on intelligence and copies of letters; Dr Peter Bowlby of Durham, attorney, and others; with individual letters by Charles Wildbore of Trinity House, Sharp's brother James, and others

(v) File of papers relating to a wreck and salvaged wood at Monks House Rocks in 1782


  • EARLY ATTEMPTS TO BUILD A LIGHTHOUSE AT LONGSTONE. Plans to build a lighthouse off the hazardous north east coast of England had been long frustrated by the refusal of the Newcastle merchants to pay the requisite dues and problems over leases. However in 1776 Trinity House reached an agreement with Captain John Blackett for him to build two lighthouses at his own expense, one on Farne Island itself and the other on the southern end of Staples Island. Although these were put in commission on 1 December 1778, the Staples Island house was blown down in 1784. No lighthouse was to be built on Longstone itself, the outer Farne island, until 1826, the year after Trinity House bought out the Blackett lease. A decade later, in 1838, the lighthouse was to become internationally renowned when Grace Darling, daughter of the keeper, made her courageous rescue of survivors from the wrecked steamer Forfarshire.

    The present archive describes the efforts made prior to 1826 to build the desperately needed lighthouse at Longstone, a project frustrated for fifty years. The problem is succinctly stated in a draft letter written on 8 April 1778 by Thomas Adams to Charles Sharp of Sunderland, which Adams has forwarded to Sharp: "Captain Blacket you know got a Lease of the Islands from the Dean & Chapter & applied to the Trinity House Depford Strand for a Licence or rather a Lease for a Term of 60 years of the Liberty of erecting a Lighthouse or Lighthouses on the Islands for the Safety of Navigation at a certain yearly rent of 60£, the Trinity House (of which Mr Blacket is a Brother) gave their consent to such a Lease subject as usual to the attorney General's approbation - His approbation has not yet been obtained. However Captain Blacket on the Strength of the concurrence of the Trinity House hath erected two Lights on the 2 Islands... vizt the House Island [Inner Farne] & the Pinnacles [southern end of Staples Island], in the Erection of these he has attended to the Saving of his Money much more than to the Preservation of Ships, for in the House Island there is an old Tower which he has raised a little higher & there he has fixed one Light - and in the Pinnacles...made a small building & fixed another Light there without regarding the Situation of the Islands as to the Safety of Navigation".

    John Sharp (1723-1792), whose papers these predominantly are, was elder brother of the abolitionist Granville Sharp and was for thirty years Archdeacon of Northumberland. In 1772 he took personal charge of Bamburgh Castle as senior trustee of Lord Crewe's Charity (the trust set up by the will of Lord Crewe, Bishop of Durham, who had inherited the castle through his wife and who died childless in 1721). Sharp was responsible for 'improving' the castle, which of itself served as a beacon for shipping, setting up several philanthropic institutions including lodgings for shipwrecked mariners, moving the Quarterly Review to observe that "To sailors on that perilous coast Bamborough Castle is what the Convent of St. Bernard is to travellers in the Alps". His library was bequeathed to the Charity on condition that it remain at the castle, where it remained until deposited at Durham University in 1958. For further details of Sharp's life and career, see the entry by Françoise Deconinck-Brossard in the ODNB.
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