Tag Archives: Thomas Forster

Thomas Forster

A certain amount of mystery and confusion surrounds the Rev. Thomas Forster (?—1785), Rector of Halesworth in Suffolk. Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses has him born around 1708, coming from Durham, attending Queens’ College, ordained priest in 1735, and “perhaps” Vicar of Tunstead and Rector of Halesworth. The CCED is more cautious, listing two Thomas Forster’s as Rector of Halesworth, but noting that they are possibly not the same. In fact, the Durham Thomas Forster was the son of Rev. Joseph Forster of Norton in County Durham and died in 1743 at the age of 35.

Our Thomas Forster must be the other one (CCED #125060), about whom less is known. Although the CCED doesn’t give a Venn reference for this chap, he is presumably the Thomas born around 1722 who was son of George Forster (or Foster) of Barbados and one of three sons sent to Cambridge. This 1722 Thomas was ordained priest in 1746 and promptly appointed Vicar of Tunstead and, later the same year, Rector of Halesworth.

Thomas held Tunstead for thirty years before turning it over to his son Samuel, and was Rector of Halesworth until he died. I think. One complication is an advertisement in the Ipswich Journal for 10 August 1765 for an auction of “All the entire Houshold Furniture, and other valuable Effects of the Rev. Mr. Forster, at the Rectory in Halesworth…” We shall cheerfully assume he sold off all his belongings, including “a vertical Harpsicord of curious Construction, a reflecting and refracting Telescope, a Wilson microscope” etc. on a whim and press on.

Thomas Forster married Elizabeth Thompson of Southwold and they had at least four children who survived to adulthood. The eldest, Thompson Forster was an “eminent surgeon”. Samuel was the second son and went on to be Headmaster of Norwich Grammar School as well as Rector of Shotley. The third son, John, was also a clergyman. A daughter, Elizabeth, married Edward Berry in 1766 in London. Berry was apparently a merchant who generated a large family and then promptly died leaving a poor widow and numerous progeny. Their son, Edward Berry, joined the Navy and rose to become an admiral, being captain of Nelson’s flagship, the Vanguard, at the Battle of the Nile. Beforehand, he had recently married his cousin Louisa, daughter of Samuel Forster.

Thomas Forster wrote a couple of tracts on religious doctrine and had a collection of sermons published. In 1766, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the citation reading,

Thomas Forster Clerk, Rector of Halesworth in the County of Suffolk, being desirous of the Honor of Election into the Royal Society: We the underwritten recommend him on our personal knowledge, as a Gentleman well versed in several Branches of Literature, likely to be a useful member of the Society, & deserving that Honor,

although he does not appear to have done anything very noteworthy at the Society. In 1767, he was one of the proposers for Joshua Kirby’s election.

Gregory Sharpe

The Rev. Gregory Sharpe (1713—1771), FRS was a prolific author on religious and philological subjects. Originally from Yorkshire, he went to Cambridge and was ordained deacon in 1737 and priest in 1739. He was chaplain to Frederick, the Prince of Wales until his death in 1751, and later was chaplain to George III. It is presumably through the latter role that he came to know Joshua Kirby.

Sharpe was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1754, his citation reading:

The Revd Gregory Sharpe LLD of Poland Street a Gentleman of great Merit & Learning, well versed in Philosophy & Mathematicks, being desirous of being a Member of the Royal Society is proposed as a Candidate by us, upon our personal knowledge; and we believe if he have the honour to be elected, that he will make a usefull & valuable Member

In the 1760s, Sharpe became a prolific proposer of candidates to Fellowship of the Royal Society, supporting

  • Henry Stebbing (1764)
  • Thomas Forster (1766)
  • Joshua Kirby (1767)
  • George Steevens (1767)
  • Daniel Minet (1767)
  • Charles Moore (1767)
  • James Horsfall (1768)
  • John Lodge Cowley (1768)
  • Andreas Planta (1769)
  • Jean-Nicolas Jouin (1770)
  • and John Philip de Limbourg (1770)

The only likeness of Sharpe that I know is a mezzotint by Valentine Green made in 1770 from a painting by Richard Crosse.

As well as a noted author, Sharpe was a great book collector, and after his death his extensive library was sold off in an auction that ran for 11 days. Lot 1439 was a copy of Joshua Kirby’s Perspective of Architecture.

See Also: Sharpe’s DNB entry.

Joshua Kirby, F.R.S.

Joshua Kirby was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on 26 March 1767. His election card is now, as the Royal Society says on its web page, barely legible, but they do manage a transcription of his citation:

Joshua Kirby of Kew in the County of Surry [sic] Esq. Designer in Perspective to their Majesties, & Author of Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective made easy, &c & of other considerable Improvements in that Science, being very desirous of the honor of Election into the Royal Society; We whose names are underwritten, recommend him on our personal Knowledge, as a Gentleman likely to prove a useful Member

How useful a member he was is unclear, as he seems to have had little to do with the Society, although he did sponsor two Fellows, Andrew Joseph Planta, and John Lodge Cowley. Kirby himself was proposed by: