Old Three Laps - William Sharp
 Whorls Farm, Keighley

 

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Mary Smith and William Sharp had intended to marry but for some reason Robert, Marys father had objected and stopped  Mary from attending the wedding. Banns for the marriage had been read on the 11th, 18th & 25 Jul 1802, a number of publications report the year as 1807, I believe this to be a misprint that's been copied time and time again.

Some reports say that William returned from the church and went stright to bed, most say at age 30 he took to his bed, William would have been 30 in 1807, that means he moped around for 5 years. 

Some reports say that Morgan was the lanlord of the Devonshire Arms where Mary Smith was barmaid and where young William used to go, Morgan did not go to the Devonshire till 1812, so he can't have intervened with the barn door order as suggested in Yorkshire Oddities, Incidents, and Strange Events, Volume 1. Depending on when Three Laps took to his bed the Devonshire was tenanted by Ann Richardson during 1802 & by her son George in 1807. (Landlord information provided by Eddie Kelly)

Mary was the daughter of Robert & Mary Smith of Bottoms Farm, Newsholme Dean. She had a brother Joseph. Prior to 1802 Marys mother also called Mary must have died, because Nov 1801 Robert Smith married Phoebe Sharp daughter of William Sharp of Whorles Farm. One would assume that William would have had to pay some sort of dowry on this marriage. In William Sharps will he says regarding Smith making a claim that he should be refused “if he make any claim for money which I stand indebted to him on his marriage to my daughter Phoebe.” Was there some rift over money at Phebes marrage that caused this resentment in Sharp?
Phebe & Robert produced a child in 1802, Benjamin. Phoebe & Robert lived at the Grange Kildwick leaving Roberts son Joseph running Bottoms Farm. Phoebe & Robert are both burried in Kildwick grave yard.
Joseph Smith married Alice Clough and they had nine children, Robert, William, Michael, Mary, Joseph, John, Joshua, Alice & Emmanuel.


When Mary Smith & William were planning to wed it is understood that Smith had said in reference to dowry "Three Laps’ should ne’er call her bride, should the father not equally portion his son.”
William Smith the son of Mary Smith and William Sharp was born 09 Apr 1802, Mary had him baptised at Keighley 02 Jun 1802. 

William Sharp the elder wrote his will in 1817, by which time all his daughters were married, Mary to Thomas Blenkarn. Elizabeth to James Southwell. Ann to Ferdinando Scarborough. Phoebe to Robert Smith.


William had started life at Mill Bridge using his father Robert place in Low Street for storing wool. William had been classed as an able business man and had amassed enough wealth to buy properties in
Oldfield, Lawkholrne, Long Lee and Halifax. He held shares in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, and an interest in a Keighley to Halifax turnpike road. 
He left one of his farms, Sheep Holes near Two Laws for his grandson William Smith when he reached twenty one. From the census we can see he was not there in 1841, a Robert Foulds was there, William is there in 1851 with his wife Nancy Suttill. William dies between 1859 and 1861 and in the 1861 census we find Joseph Moore at Sheep Holes and Nancy and the children at the White Bear in Eastburn staying with her Brother in Law, the 1871 census finds them at Moss Street.

The father William is portrayed as miserly, yet he made adequate provision for his son and his grandson. William Snr could easily have placed William Jnr in the workhouse and left nothing for his grandson but instead ensured they both would be provided for. This would have had a very draining effect on the income from the properties that should have gone to his siblings. It seems to have been Williams's choice where he slept, when he first went to his bed his father, according to later accounts was expecting the state of melancholy to pass and for things to return to normal. His mother died in 1809, it must have been  troubling for her to see her son in this state. How deep  had Willaim plunged into his deep depression when his father died?
One wonders if William was so deep into his despair that he was even aware of the event. 
The cost of keeping William can't have been small, William was in a small section, this means that his Aunty who was caring for him had the run of the rest of the house. The farm would have needed tending and repairs to do, this is not the action of a miser.

We now turn our attention to the reports that William Snr & William Jnr if out in the fields or moor, should they encounter other people they would drop down behind a wall and hide. This is not the behaviour of a successful business man. We would go so far to say this is the behaviour of someone who wants to avoid the ridicule, questions and scorn of the towns folk. The news of the none attendance of the bride would have spread like wild fire, there would have been much finger pointing and blame laying, I would expect that both Williams did everything in their power to avoid people. Mary Smith now with a young child and the talk of the town would not have been good wife material and would have been subject to much finger pointing. She would have been tied to her father for a roof over her head, it was 1820 when Robert Smith died, Bill Sharp would not have been in a suitable mental state having been in his bed for 13 years now for Mary to consider a reconciliation between her & Bill.

 

Interesting incidents in the singular life of William Sharp 

Yorkshire Oddities, Incidents, and Strange Events, Volume 1



An extract from Keighley Past & Present:

Taken from Keighley News 22nd May 1880
At a farm house called Whorls, breathed, slept, and died, William Sharp, alias ‘Old Three-laps,’ who went to bed in the year 1807, and lay there in the enjoyment of good health till 1856, a period of 49 years! He was the son of a farmer in good circumstances, and from an early age showed singular habits of character, frequently rang¬ing the adjoining moors with his gun, and spending whole nights alone in the open air. At the age of 30 he obtained the consent of a young woman to become united to him in wedlock. The wedding day was fixed, on the morning of which Sharp, in company with a friend, wended his way down to the parish church, and there in anxious suspense waited for the arrival of the bride elect, but the father of the damsel disapproving of the match, kept her confined at home.
This great slip between the cup and the lip preyed heavily on the susceptible mind of the ardent lover. He returned home, consigned himself to a small room measuring about nine feet each way, with the determination to spend the rest of his existence between the blankets; and the infatuated man kept his resolution to the last.
The floor of this room was covered with stone flags; in one corner was a fireplace which could only be used when the wind blew from one or two points of the compass; the window was well fastened down, and where some of the squares had been broken, was carefully patched up with wood. At the time of his death this window had not been opened for 38 years!
The furniture comprised an old oak clock, minus weights and pendulum, almost covered with a thick net-work of cobwebs, a small round table of dark oak, and a plain, unvarnished, four post bed, without hangings. In this dreary cell, whose only inlet for fresh air during 38 years was the door way, occasionally left open, did this strange being immure himself.
He obstinately refused to speak to any one, and if spoken to, never answered even those who were his constant attendants. His father, by will, made provision for his temporal wants, and he seemed unconscious of any other. He ate his meals latterly in a curious way, for in process of time his legs became contracted and drawn up towards his body, and when about to eat his food he used to roll himself over, and so take his meals in a kneeling posture, and to prevent any crumbs from getting into the blanket on which he lay, he turned the under blanket over and eat them off the bed-tick.
In a physical point of view he did great credit to his food, for his flesh was firm, fair, and unwrinkled, save with fat, and the estimate of his weight was about 240 pounds. During the whole period of this self-imposed confinement he never had any serious illness till the last week of his life, when his appetite failed, and his limbs became partially benumbed, and death terminated his morbid existence on Monday, the 3rd of March, 1856. Just before he expired he was heard to exclaim “Poor Bill, poor Bill, poor Bill Sharp!“ the most connected sentence he had been known to utter for many years.
As might be expected, the curious came far and wide to see this eccentric person, and whenever a stranger was ushered into his den, he immediately buried his head in the bed - clothes, and on one occasion he contrived to make a hole in the bed¬tick and hide himself among the feathers.
Thousands assembled in Keighley church and grave - yard, where he was buried, to pay their last tribute of wonder at his obsequies. The coffin excited much attention from its extraordinary size, being more like a great oak chest than a coffin; it was two feet four inches in depth, and so heavy that it required eight men with strong ropes to lower it into the grave. The weight of the coffin and its contents was estimated at 480 lbs.

Bills father was notorious for his niggardly ways, and from some documented accounts I think we can assume that Bill was suffering from some kind of mental illness long before he was jilted, and this might have been why on that fateful day in 1807 his intended father in law locked his daughter, Mary Smith of Newholme Dean, in the house so that she could not be married.
This had not been the first time Bill had taken to his bed, Ian Dewhirst tell us that an account in the Preston Chronicle how Bill had saved up three guineas, which his father took from him, Bill took to his bed saying he would never work again.

Note: It is said that the name 3 laps was given to his father, who on taking a piece of cloth to the tailor to make a jacket, he was told there was not enough fabric to make the traditional 4 laps (pleats), the tailor was told there was no more fabric and to make the coat with 3 laps.


There is an excellent article in Ian Dewhirst't Victorian Keighley Characters.