Sharpe, John (1820-1895)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1872

Early years

John was born on 25 December 1820 at Distington, Cumberland. The son of Primitive Methodist parents, John was converted at a camp meeting at the age of 18.


John was appointed to New South Wales, arriving in Sydney on 23 Mar 1854. He revived a feeble Primitive Methodist cause founded in the colony in 1845, and for the next 20 years he provided effective leadership. He encouraged the growth of churches in Sydney, Parramatta, Newcastle and country centres in the colony, and in Melbourne and Launceston. He was a man of deep piety, an able preacher whose preaching was expository, a splendid administrator and an indefatigable worker. He was a disciplinarian, possessing a strong will, and yet courteous in all his bearing. Concerned about people living in Sydney’s slums and the spiritual destitution of people in remote places, Sharpe worked to provide them with a Christian ministry.

Sharpe helped to establish temperance societies in many centres. He criticised the Drunkards Punishment Act (1866), and identified with the New South Wales Alliance for the Suppression of Intemperance formed in 1857 for the ‘social, moral and intellectual elevation of the people’. A pungent writer, he wrote articles to the Protestant Standard opposing Roman Catholic teaching, and articles and letters in the daily press criticising the white man’s treatment of aborigines, and strongly opposing capital punishment. He founded and edited the New South Wales Primitive Methodist Messenger, and in 1871 published The Young Minister Counselled.

Through his ministry many were converted, the church progressed, and by 1874 Primitive Methodists had fifteen circuits in NSW.

Ritson records that John travelled 1,200 miles to attend his District meeting.

His obituary records that he was remembered as one of the most popular of the pioneers of Primitive Methodism in Australia. In the pulpit his great gift was exegesis. His preaching was invariably of the expository type, and was always instructive and edifying.


John married Elizabeth Herridge (1820-1895) in 1849 at Reading, Berkshire. Census returns identify one child. Elizabeth’s obituary mentions a second daughter who died at Lowick, Northumberland aged 21.

  • Mary Margaret (1864-1915) – married Daniel Alexander Henderson, a Congregational Minister, in 1910

John died on 27 May 1895 at Hensingham, Whitehaven, Cumberland.


  • 1844 Reading
  • 1846 Salisbury
  • 1848 Redruth
  • 1850 Falmouth
  • 1852 St Ives
  • 1854 Sydney (Australia)
  • 1859 Melbourne
  • 1861 Launceston
  • 1864 Sydney
  • 1869 Newcastle
  • 1871 Parramatta
  • 1874 Exeter (Devon)
  • 1875 Whitehaven
  • 1879 Barnard Castle
  • 1883 Alston
  • 1886 Douglas ll
  • 1888 Pudsey
  • 1890 Whitehaven (S)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1872 (portrait); 1895/785; 1895/786 (Elizabeth)

PM Minutes 1895/21

J Petty, The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1880, p530

H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 2, p437

B A Barber, A Methodist Pageant, 1932, p173

Joseph Ritson, The Romance of Primitive Methodism , 1909, p292

Eric G Clancy,

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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