Granville Sharp

A General Plan for Laying Out Towns and Townships, on the New-Acquired Lands in the East Indies, America, or Elsewhere... (London?: n.p., 1794).

Sharp (1735-1813) was a native of Durham, England, the grandson of the archbishop of York. Because his father had limited means to support his large family, Sharp became an apprentice to a linen draper in London following his education at Durham grammar school. He taught himself Greek and Hebrew, and by 1758 found a position in the ordnance department where he worked until resigning as a matter of conscience when the American Revolution began.

He wrote his first tract in 1765, and thereafter authored many more on political issues with a heavy emphasis on the evils of slavery and how it could be abolished. This ultimately brought him to the courts, and it was through his persistence that in 1772 English judges ruled "that as soon as any slave sets his foot upon English territory, he becomes free." In 1783 he broached the idea of founding a colony for freed slaves in Africa, and with his associates launched such a project in 1787. This venture proved more difficult than anticipated, and in 1808 the crown took over its affairs.

Doubtless Sharp drew on this experience in working out the details of the proposed community that he described and illustrated in the tract from which this reading comes. In preparing his town plan Sharp may have relied also on information about the town of Savannah, Georgia, for by the time he wrote Sharp had corresponded with Savannah's founder, James Oglethorpe, who may have passed on to Sharp his own ideas about town planning.

The town (distinguished by being coloured red) is contained in a square, each side of which is 4 furlongs, or half a mile; having a square furlong, or 10 acres, in the centre, appropriated to public offices (viz. a church, town-hall, guard-house, separate penitentiary lots (or prisons) for males and females; also schools for each sex, and a public caravansera for strangers and travellers, under the control of the constable on guard by rotation). The Breadth of the streets and highways is proposed to be the 8th part of a furlong, or 82 feet 6 inches; which will allow room for aqueducts wherever streams of water can be introduced from superior levels, and also room for planting ranges of spreading trees to shelter the footpaths. And as the bounds of each square furlong meet in the centre of the streets, measured from the 4 external edges or sides of the town (coloured red), which are distant, each from its opposite side, 4 complete furlongs, or half a mile (4 inches by the scale), these external edges or lines of the town and the streets must be first laid out, that the remaining space, in each square furlong of the town, may be divided into town-lots in equal proportions, viz. 2 opposite sides of the town are appropriated to large town-lots of nearly one acre each for PLANTERS OR FARMERS; and as these large town- lots commence from the external edge of the town (and not from the centre of the streets, like the small town-lots), their length will be a complete half furlong, or 330 feet: In their breadth there will be some variation: The uppermost and undermost divisions of square furlongs, being measured from the external edges, or red lines, at the top and bottom of the town (as represented in this Plan), have a deduction of 41 feet 3 inches for half the width of the street on one side only: which, subtracted from 660 feet, the breadth of the furlong, leaves a space of 618 feet 9 inches for the breadth of 5 lots: Which space divided by 5 allows the breadth of each PLANTER'S TOWN-LOT in the uppermost and lowermost divisions to be 123 feet 9 inches including the fences; and the PLANTERS town-lots, in the 4 central divisions (as the central divisions have a street on 2 sides), must lose 82 feet 6 inches from the width of each furlong, which being first deducted from the 660 feet leave a breadth of only 577 feet 6 inches to be divided into 5 equal parts, whereby the width of the PLANTERS lots in the 4 central divisions, is reduced to 115 feet 6 inches each, including the fences.

The size of the small town-lots will also unavoidably vary, and be of two different dimensions as to their breadth, though all are of equal length: For as they are measured from the centre of each square furlong to the centre of the streets, a deduction of 41 feet 3 inches (half the width of the streets) must be made from the length of half a furlong, or 330 feet, which reduces the length of each lot to 288 feet 9 inches. And 41 feet 3 inches being also deducted from the breadth of the uppermost and lowest ranges of square furlongs, for half the width of the street, on one side of each furlong, the space for the width of 6 lots is thereby reduced to 618 feet 9 inches, which divided by 6 gives 103 feet 1 inch and half, for the width of each lot, including the fences: And 82 feet 6 inches being deducted from the central divisions, for half the width of the streets on 2 sides of each division, or square furlong, reduce the space for 6 lots to 577 feet 6 inches, which divided by 6 gives only 96 feet 3 inches for the width of the small town-lots in the central divisions, including their respective fences.

N.B. In old settled countries, where land is already of considerable value, it is not to be supposed that the proprietors of land can be induced to give gratis more than the small town-lots of half an acre and a few poles each, which with the roads and streets will amount to about 120 acres to be given gratis out of 2560 acres, or less than 4 1/4 per cent.; and the improved value of the remaining estate, most certainly, will amply repay the donation; as the value of land is generally doubled by the proximity of a town.

And as even this last proposed donation of 120 acres will be much too large a venture for landholders in general to risque in such an experiment; it is necessary to remark, that they may proceed on the half of this plan, quite as effectually, by dividing the town and township in the centre, whereby the land to be given gratis, or granted in freehold to the settlers, will not exceed 60 acres: And even with this large reduction of the plan, space will be reserved for the families of 20 farmers or planters and of 68 artificers or labourers; and as the line of division in this latter mode will pass through the centre square of the present plan, 6 additional small town-lots may be formed in the space of half the square, and half of the public lots around it, which will enable the town, upon the whole, to contain 94 households. And if 6 cottages for labourers be added at the outer gates or avenues of the estate, the community will form a complete hundred of householders, which is a very respectable body of people for maintaining peace and good order according to the common law of England.

Whenever only one half of the plan is adopted, the side where the central line of division is made must be placed next to the water (whether the sea or river, creek or canal), and care must be taken that a sufficient strand, or space of common land, be reserved between the town and the water, that all the inhabitants may have equal access to the water- side. 

Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: jwr2@cornell.edu 
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