Harry Sharr: St Paul's Works Department
Harry Sharr working on the exterior of the Dome at St Paul's, c. 1950s. Image courtesy of David Morse
Alfred Henry “Harry” Sharr held the impressive resume of being a member of the Cathedral’s Works Department, a member of the St Paul’s Watch, as well as a Founding Member of the Friends.
Born 23rd December 1900 to James and Sarah Sharr, Harry grew up in Bermondsey, South London.
After joining the London Territorial Battalion in 1916 at the age of 15, Harry was transferred to France in April 1918, eventually joining the 1/4th Battalion Kings Shropshire Light Infantry. On 6th June 1918, he took part in the Battle of Montagne de Bligny near Reims, during which he not only lost his left eye due to shrapnel, but was buried alive for two days when a trench collapsed in on him.
Having survived the war, Harry was released from the army in June 1919. A year later he married his wife Alice, with whom he went on to have four daughters.
A lengthy career at the Cathedral
In 1927 Harry joined the Works staff of St Paul’s, thus beginning a long and happy association with the Cathedral. During the 1920s he was involved with the major project to restore the fabric of the building and strengthen the structure, in particular the insertion of a new steel ‘chain’ around the base of the Dome, to prevent further movement. This work gave him knowledge of the Cathedral’s architecture that would prove invaluable during his time on the St Paul’s Watch.
Harry’s dedication to the Cathedral during this time was unsurpassed; his youngest daughter would later recall how during the worst of the Blitz, his wife Alice would travel to St Paul’s with a fresh change of clothes as Harry would frequently be on duty all day and all night. Despite the constant exhaustion and danger of this period, Harry would state that in comparison to his time in the trenches, he would always feel ‘safe’ at St Paul’s.
Harry also had a love for the Cathedral’s music. The Cathedral organ was damaged during the war so Harry would travel in early on Sundays to hand operate the pump so that the organ could still be played during services.
Harry Sharr and other members of the Cathedral Works team working on the Ball and Cross on the top of the dome of the Cathedral. Image courtesy of David Morse
Photograph of the Chapel of the Order of the British Empire in the Cathedral Crypt, also known as the Chapel of St Faith's.
After the Second World War ended Harry continued to work hard for the Cathedral, helping to clean and maintain the heavily damaged building, as well as supporting the reparation with his Friends subscription.
Sadly, by 1962, the hardships of his wartime experiences had caught up with him, and he died in November of that year. Much loved and respected by the Cathedral community, a memorial service was held for Harry in the Chapel of St Faith in the Crypt, 15th November 1962.