Robert Sharpe (1804-1868)
Robert Sharpe (1804-1868) was a prominent contractor on railway projects.
Robert and his 3 brothers, John, Paul and William were all involved to some extent in Railway contracting. John was in partnership with Robert on the B&ER Whiteball Tunnel, but they took separate contracts on the South Wales Railway. Paul worked as a contractor on the Vale of Neath Railway. He also acted as railway agent to Robert on the South Devon and Cornwall Railway and to Thomas Savin on the Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway.
He was also a noted farmer and stockbreeder on his estate, Hewelsfield Court, in the Forest of Dean, Glos.
1804 September 16th. Born the son of Paul Sharp (1778-1865) and his wife Mary Watson (1778- )
1830 May 23rd. Married at Houghton-le-Spring to Maria Hall
Later his firm was named Robert Sharpe and Sons
1851 Living at Hewelsfield Court, Hewelsfield, Glos: Robert Sharpe (age 46 born Grindon, Durham), Landowner 500 acres and (?) Contractor employing 20 to 30 labourers. With his wife Maria Sharpe (age 41 born Toplitt, Yks.) and their children; Sarah Sharpe (age 19 born Carlton, Durham); Paul Sharpe (age 16 born Wranton, Durham); Maria Sharpe (age 14 born Keynsham); William John Sharpe (age 12 born Bedminster); Charles James Sharpe (age 8 born Somerset); Charlotte Annie Sharpe (age 6); Henry Albert Sharpe (age 4 born Brent, Devon); and Fred Septimus Sharpe (age 3 born Tidham, Glos.). Also his niece Margaret Sharpe (age 18 born Houghton le Spring). Seven servants.
1851 Advertisement: 'FOREST OF DEAN. The South Wales Railway.— The line between Gloucester and Chepstow is now rapidly advancing towards completion. On that part near Lydney, which has not been commenced until this season, may now be seen a large body of men busily engaged. This is the only part where the line is not at present nearly completed. We have no doubt that, under the able management of the contractor, Robert Sharp, Esq., of Hewelsfield Court, this part will speedily be finished.'
1860 'SAN PAULO (BRAZILIAN) RAILWAY ((LIMITED).'.... Reprt from the Directors: '..... The board have also entered into a contract with Messrs. Robert Sharpe and Sons, of Hewelfield Court, Gloucestershire, who have undertaken the construction of the line, the purchase of all necessary land, the supply of rolling stock and plant, and the maintenance of the permanent way in good condition for twelve months succeeding the opening of the line. The contractors are making such arrangements as will enable them to commence the works at an early period, and the senior partner will proceed at once to Brazil to superintend personally their execution. The first shipment of plant is already on its way to Santos.'
1865 Robert Sharpe was living (and breeding cattle) at Courtlands, East Grinstead 
1868 'He began life as hind to Mr. Outhwaite of Bainesse, and married his wife from that service. Then he became a railway gangsman, and gradually a contractor; and tried his hand at breeding shorthorns, of which he was devotedly fond. A large contract in Brazil turned up well, and he bought, in 1862, the Courtlands estate, near East Grinstead, in Sussex, built a house on it, and established another herd. Two of his earliest purchases from Mr. Stratton did not breed, but swept everything before them in the Christmas shows of ’64. The herd was sold in the second year of the plague, and fetched only small prices in consequence; and the money tightness of that year hit him hard as well. Ho had never been the same man since his wife died suddenly, on the very day that his now house at Courtlands was ready, and just when they thought that they had found some rest, after so many hard ups and downs together.'
Sources of Information
- 1851 Census
- Hereford Times, 10th May 1851
- London Daily News, 23rd February 1860
- Royal Cornwall Gazette, 18th September 1863
- Lake's Falmouth Packet and Cornwall Advertiser, 9th July 1864
- Cheltenham Chronicle, 25th July 1865
- Illustrated London News dated 7th November 1868