By Jane Watson
Brentford and Chiswick Local History Journal No 14 (2005)
In 2002 detective work by the St Nicholas Church Archive Group rediscovered the long lost grave of Sir Charles Tilston Bright (see Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal No 12). Now the Group has found the grave of another famous Chiswick resident, the engraver William Sharpe (1749-1824). Sharpe, described as the ‘emperor of engravers’, was known to have been buried in St Nicholas but the records state that ‘by his desire he lies buried near Hogarth, whom he esteemed as the most extraordinary painter that ever existed’. However, searches of the old graveyard failed to reveal any clue as to the whereabouts of his grave. Recently, a member of the Archive Group spotted an etching of Sharpe’s grave in an old book The Thames from its Rise to the Nore, by Walter Armstrong. This shows quite clearly that Sharpe’s grave was not in the old graveyard near Hogarth but near to another famous painter, P J de Loutherbourg (1740-1812), whose tomb was designed by Sir John Soane. Armed with the etching Sharpe’s grave was found in the churchyard extension. Although the inscription was very worn, the name ‘William Sharpe’ could just be deciphered. The inscription once read: ‘To the memory of William Sharpe Esq., Historical Engraver. Member of the Imperial Academy of Vienna and of the Royal Academy of Munich. Died 25 July 1824 aged 74 years’.
It may be that Sharpe and de Loutherbourg knew each other as, apart from being eminent artists, they were both disciples of ‘the prophet brothers’ who believed they were empowered by faith to heal the lame and the blind. Sharpe lived and worked in various London locations, only moving to Chiswick in the last years of his life. He lived in Orford House, Chiswick Mall where he was ‘attacked by dropsy of the chest which terminated his life’.